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Submitted Photo Tobias Spanier (left), Extension Educator, will facilitate a new cohort of leadership program candidates in Worthington beginning Sept. 28. He is seen here with two 2011 Integrative Community Leadership Program participants.

Exploring leadership

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Exploring leadership
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- Got leadership?

Making sure there are enough leaders to go around, with perspectives reflecting Worthington's unique demographic composition, is the mission of four partner organizations that are teaming up to sponsor the 2012 Worthington Integrative Community Leadership Program (WICL).

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Scheduled for seven Fridays (beginning Sept. 28 and ending Dec. 14) from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., WICL aims to educate and groom potential community leaders, as well as strengthen the skills of those who have already taken the leadership plunge.

"We are seeking emerging leaders, the next group of people to serve on community boards, to run for local offices, things like that," said Sharon Johnson, District 518 Community Education director. "This is a multiple-month commitment people make, investing time to develop leadership skills and better understand opportunities that may be available for them within the community in the future."

District 518 Community Education, along with the University of Minnesota's Extension Service, the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce and the Nobles County Integration Collaborative, established WICL in 2010.

The program's goal is to improve leadership and civic engagement of community members, while also increasing the representation of diverse elected and appointed officials.

The first WICL cohort consisted of 25 people, said Tobias Spanier, a Marshall-based Extension Educator with the University of Minnesota's Center for Community Vitality. The 2011 group had about 18, and Spanier is shooting for anywhere from 15 to 30 for the 2012 effort.

"This is not a come-to-class, sit down, listen-to-a-lecture type of experience," cautioned Spanier. "Content is shared, and we encourage participants to share their wisdom and experiences.

"That's what makes the program rich; I as facilitator don't have all the answers but seek to facilitate the learning of leadership from those who are there."

While Spanier serves as facilitator, each session includes a visit from a local public leader who talks about his or her own leadership style and the type of work that goes on at the entity they lead.

Session topics range from the initial "Understanding Community Leadership" to "Valuing Community Diversity," "Group Dynamics," "Conducting Successful Meetings" and "Group Problem Solving and Decision Making."

"This isn't just for those who want to become leaders. In my case, I was able to hone the leadership skills I already have," expressed Robert Demuth Jr., a 2010 WICL attendee who returned in 2011 to share in some of the discussions with a second cohort.

"I felt this [WICL] helped me become a better leader today than I was before I attended the sessions," Demuth added.

Demuth, a retired insurance agent who is now the executive director of the Worthington Regional Healthcare Foundation Inc. as well as a Nobles County commissioner, said WICL gave him "many useful tools to help run a better board of directors meeting."

Local leaders who are scheduled to attend one of the seven upcoming WICL sessions include District 518 Superintendent John Landgaard, Worthington City Administrator Craig Clark, Nobles County Integration Collaborative director Lakeyta Potter and Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Darlene Macklin.

The previous two WICL sessions have been conducted during the afternoons and evenings; this will be the first time WICL will run from late morning through the noon hour.

"We wanted to try it at a different time, with the idea that some people who work later in the day may be able to attend," clarified Spanier. "Darlene Macklin has done a wonderful job of explaining to local employers that this is a professional development opportunity for staff, so we're hoping that some people may get release time from their employer to participate.

"The skills we teach and share are applicable, very much so, to the work environment, and we trust employers will see the value of this both in the community and in the workplace," Spanier added.

A mix of leadership experience and of ethnic backgrounds is desirable for the WICL cohort, Spanier noted, and he will match the program's content to those participating.

"We would like the cohort to mirror Worthington's demographics, because as time goes forward, community solutions need to be intercultural and integrated," said Spanier. "In a diverse community, you need multiple perspectives so solutions can work for the common good."

The key individual for WICL, according to Spanier, is "someone who is emerging -- maybe they haven't done a lot of leadership yet, but they have a level of readiness and are preparing to give something back to the community and want to learn the skills necessary and make more connections in that process.

"We are looking for someone who is ready to say 'yes' to a public leadership role," Spanier said.

For more information about the 2012 Worthington Integrative Community Leadership Program, or to register for the sessions, which begin Sept. 28, contact the District 518 Community Education office at 117 11th Ave., Worthington, 376-6105, www.isd518.net/commed.

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