By: Fresno Chamber Vice President/COO, Anna Borgeas
This much we know is true: Leadership and the development of leaders is a crucial component of any community’s future. Without strong visionaries who can remain focused while jumping through hurdles and overcoming obstacles, nothing would get done.
Nearly three decades ago your Chamber of Commerce, understood the need to groom strong, informed leaders. The Chamber brought together civic stewards and advocates to develop one of our community’s most cherished and long-standing programs – Leadership Fresno. In the course of the program, participants learn about the various facets of Fresno, including government, criminal justice and education. Additionally, each class is charged with determining a need in the community and establishing a way to COLLECTIVELY work together and provide a meaningful solution through the development and implementation of an action plan. From community gardens to playgrounds, Leadership Fresno has left its mark of stewardship throughout the City. Over the years, hundreds of Fresnans have graduated from this program with a sense of collegiality and civic pride – not only for their community, but for their accomplishment in making it better.
With the process in place to develop an informed and engaged citizenry, your Chamber also saw the need to have a formal process to develop knowledgeable elected officials (no, that is not an oxymoron). Almost a decade ago, your Chamber, with other partners including the Fresno Farm Bureau, developed the San Joaquin Political Academy, an intensive training program for future elected officials that highlights ethics in politics, regional problems and solutions and the effect that government has on business. This intense and concentrated program has graduated nearly 100 people into our community that have a foundational understanding of what it takes to be a good elected official.
I mention these programs because these are the types of experiences that facilitate true leadership development. Leadership Fresno and the San Joaquin Political Academy is no walk in the park (although Leadership Fresno has been known to walked through a sewer treatment plant – pretty close, right?). After sharing anecdotes of the fun times in their respective class, graduates will likely go on to tell you about the frustrations associated with accomplishing the final project, how finding funding was a challenge, how a heated discussion on politics made everyone uncomfortable. But, these trials are essential to becoming the type of individual capable of bringing out the best of others and being prepared to overcome obstacles. True leadership development can be described in many ways, but few who really know would probably use the word pleasant.
Leadership development – for a while there, that was my own personal “four-letter word”. My former boss would invoke this phrase every time I would go to him frustrated about (fill in the blank). I hated the phrase. In fact, it made me even madder. But, as time went on and my leadership skills developed, I realized the true value of that phrase. Now, in the most Zen manner, when one of my team comes to me with a frustration or a complaint – – – I smile and say, “Consider this a lesson in leadership development”.