Last year, I had the privilege of participating in Leadership Whatcom, an 11-month program put on by the Bellingham Chamber of Commerce. Through the program, I gained a lot of insight into the way our community works, and honed in the type of leader I want to be. Here are a few things I learned through the experience.
NOTE—This year, Veritas is sponsoring 2 scholarships to Leadership Whatcom. Information about how to apply is at the end of this article.
Relationships and networking
One of the greatest benefits of Leadership Whatcom is the professional network you develop with your cohort, and the guest speakers you come into contact with each session. Each month of the program, you get together and spend an entire day with each other. Part of this time is spent in a classroom/discussion environment and the rest of the day is spent traveling to different locations in the county.
The in-class time is extremely valuable and provides a safe place for pushing yourself to learn. There are opportunities to talk about your experience as a leader and some of the challenges you’re working through. The conversations and feedback you get are always helpful in applying to my own leadership style.
The second part of the day is learning from leaders in the community—many of them Leadership Whatcom Alumni. The Chamber tries to find leaders in our community that pair well with the given topic of the day, so that we see the “textbook principles” learned in class lived out in the real world. Rather than reading about servant leadership, ethical frameworks or styles of leadership, we get to hear from people who embody these qualities.
Finally, now that I have been through the Leadership Whatcom program, I have access to an alumni network that is committed and invested in my community. If I ever need help in the future on a project or challenge I am working on, I now have a dedicated group of people that I can approach knowing that we have a shared experience in common.
One of the biggest takeaways for me was exploring some of the challenging issues and conflicts facing our community and the nation. Each session, the fourteen members of our cohort would explore these issues through the lens of the topic of leadership we were discussing. Often, this led to new insights and perspectives that I hadn’t considered before.
Studying these “wicked problems,” as we called them, taught us all to start seeing the world in tones of gray—rather than a polarizing black and white. I came away from multiple sessions having more understanding and empathy for other points of view, and felt empowered to facilitate discussions on hard topics. Effective leadership requires an open mind, and the ability to listen to others who have a different view of the world than you do.
Some of the issues we addressed as a cohort were related to property rights, water rights, and homelessness in Bellingham—all heavy, emotional issues with no clear and easy solution.
Places I’d never been
Over the course of the program, our cohort went all over the county: Everson, Blaine, Downtown Bellingham, and Ferndale. Each stop along the way introduced me to new businesses, non-profits, or community programs that I hadn’t known about before.
There were many “ah-ha” moments that resulted in a new understanding of our county. I really enjoyed getting to visit the Whatcom Transportation Authorities’ maintenance facility, as well as the Goodwill Job Training and Education Center.
The 2017 Leadership Whatcom class touring the Whatcom Transportation Authority. Photo credit: John Nobile
Leadership Whatcom Scholarships for 2018
If you’re interested in learning more about our community, and pressing into becoming a more informed and educated leader, I strongly encourage you to apply for Leadership Whatcom. Not only will you learn a lot, but you will develop friendships and expand your professional network.
Veritas Media is a proud Chamber member and has partnered with them for the last several years to produce the videos for their Annual Awards Dinners. This year, we’re excited to be sponsoring two scholarships to Leadership Whatcom. If you, or someone you know could benefit from this experience, please fill out an application on the Chamber’s website, and check the box “I’m interested in the Veritas Media scholarship.”