Thursday, 18 May 2017 23:14

From the Chamber... Effective Leaders Walk Beside You

By Todd Shimkus, President of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce | Business
Todd Shimkus. Todd Shimkus.

Walt Adams, of AIM Services, was invited to deliver the graduation address for the Leadership Saratoga Class of 2017, at ceremonies we hosted on May 10, at Anne’s Washington Inn.

This was the 30th class of Leadership Saratoga to graduate.

Walt focused on the fact that helearned that effective leaders are collaborators. Leaders build relationships that allow people to collectively create a strong community.

And then he delivered what I thought was the line of the night: “Effective Leaders Walk Beside You.”

Now please allow me to reintroduce Linda Toohey.

Linda Toohey created Leadership Saratoga in 1985.

She walked beside hundreds of Leadership Saratoga participants during the program and continued to do so once they graduated.

Leadership Saratoga is regarded by its 500 plus alumni as one of the most important experiences in their personal and professional lives. Alumni are positioned as volunteer leaders in dozens of organizations across Saratoga County.

When I first arrived at the Chamber in July 2010, I met with Linda Toohey. I suggested to her that one of the best ways for me to learn how to play a greater leadership role in this community would be for me to participate in Leadership Saratoga.

She agreed this was an excellent idea, but I quickly learned that Leadership Saratoga is not like most leadership programs.

Here, there is an application process with forms that must be filed on time. The candidates complete four to five interviews. A volunteer Advisory Board then acts as the selection committee, and not everyone who applies gets into the program.

Because it was July 2010, my application was late. It didn’t matter who I knew or what position I held. The integrity of the program was important and the rules were not going to change for anyone.

The 24 participants are chosen to represent a diverse cross-section of business, professional, educational, governmental, community, and non-profit organizations from across Saratoga County. The Advisory Board looks for applicants who have demonstrated a strong motivation to seek leadership roles in the community as well as the commitment to volunteer for years to come.

Leadership Saratoga makes Saratoga County the classroom. Sessions include presentations by leaders and newsmakers, interactive discussions, role plays, tours and group projects. The sessions examine: team dynamics, authentic leadership, creative problem solving, effective board governance, ethical dilemmas, raising money, strategic planning, and communications. There is an opening two-day retreat and a one-day closing retreat.

Each class must complete a group project. The Class of 2017 divided into four groups and worked to help Wellspring, the Saratoga YMCA, Grants Cottage and the Prevention Council.

Today, Leadership Saratoga is led by Kathleen Fyfe, our VP for Community Development.

She graduated from the program herself in 2009. She has continued many of the traditions begun by Linda Toohey while expanding the topics covered to ensure that when tomorrow arrives the graduates will be ready. She too walks beside participants and graduates of Leadership Saratoga because, as Walt said, that is what effective leaders do.

For details, visit www.leadershipsaratoga.org. The application deadline is May 31st ....Don’t be late! 

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