Leadership Wilmington Retreat: Our People, Shared Purpose, and The Process
It would be cliché to open a blog designed to reflect on the 2021-2022 annual Leadership Wilmington retreat, claiming it was the most transformational leadership training I have ever attended. But it was. The trainers and Wilmington Chamber of Commerce staff were fantastic, the participants even more so. This year’s class membership includes private business owners, public sector stewards, and k-12 and higher education practitioners. With time of the essence, this experience was booked solid with content and bonding time. This process pays off. Bonds of collegiality and friendships started that will span the duration of people’s careers and potentially their lives. To be concise in my thoughts about the retreat, I would like to propose the following structure: People, Purpose, Process.
Within the first hours of participating in the retreat, it became apparent that this group of highly motivated leaders had one thing in common; a desire to bond. After nearly two years of navigating a global pandemic with many sharing they have had extensive changes in their professional and home lives, everyone had stories they needed to share. Not only did many want to share, but it was also apparent that we all wanted to listen. From the memento sharing session on the way to Fort Caswell to the drive back to the Chamber where groups of new friends discussed their thoughts and recommendations for the future retreat, it was a retreat full of self-reflection and bonding.
There were always profound and intentional conversations during the in-session table discussions, the between-session conversations, and the unstructured time for participants to manage their personal or professional needs. In one specifically profound session about leadership philosophy, it became evident that even the most senior leaders held concerns about their leadership. The group met our colleagues’ concerns with support and encouragement. During the same session, I had a conversation I will remember for my career as I spoke to a colleague who has joined the Wilmington community in the last three years. After we discussed our leadership philosophy, she shared that she was not sure that her team was aware of her leadership expectations and needs. Her willingness to confide her new personal reflection with me allowed me to confide similar to her. We continued our conversations for a while, and when we walked away, we both had a plan to help our home teams understand our leadership. These small moments were so powerful, as they were honest, vulnerable, and developmental. Ultimately, the people made this training so valuable.
If it is not clear, I could spend the entirety of this post praising my new colleagues; however, what made these colleagues so wonderful was the common purpose that brought us all together for this retreat. Our collective why: To be better leaders.
As was discussed at length in nearly every training session, the execution of leadership must originate from a leader’s values. Leading from anywhere then an authentic and reflective place ultimately results in compromised leadership practice. During the training sessions, each brought a unique view on the essential elements of leadership. Some shared leadership was about relationships between the leader and followers and the process of maximizing these relationships to achieve your goals. Others focused on the importance of articulating and living your leadership philosophy. At the same time, others still focused on the importance of achieving goals. All of these perspectives on leadership assist us in developing how we achieve our goals. The question I was left with was, “Without purpose, why are we leading?”
Leadership foundations are built on personal values; however, as outlined throughout day two of the retreat, we also need an effective leadership process. The process of leading emerged from contexts of creating successful teams. More specifically, a process by which we examine the resources, people, and purpose to achieve a common goal. Goal attainments are critical to successful teams, and we were able to put this process into action with our Work on Wilmington (WOW) projects teams. I joined the fundraising team with five other exceptional professionals here in the Wilmington community. We are diverse professionals dedicated to our shared purpose of helping the Cape Fear region be the best community for all. Our team has ambitious goals and has hit the ground running to raise the most funds WOW has ever had. More to come on this.
I am proud to be a member of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce Leadership Wilmington class of 2022. This retreat is just the beginning of a lifelong journey to engaging with our community and helping to continue to improve our community. The bonds of friendship built and the support received over our two days were unmatched. The knowledge shared and gained by the trainers and learners was full of breadth and depth. The time we spent in the community with other passionate leaders will remain one of the highlights of my professional career. Our retreat was just the beginning of our year in Leadership Wilmington, and I know that it’s going to be fantastic. We do this with our community (People), through Work on Wilmington (Process), to show how our love for where we live (Purpose).
Thank you for you bringing your best self!
Adam W. Hall Ed.D