11/20/06 — Mount Olive Chamber looking for leadership class

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Mount Olive Chamber looking for leadership class

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on November 20, 2006 1:45 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce is looking for a few good men and women willing to be part of setting the town's course for the future.

But, chamber president Gena Knode said, they don't expect those volunteers to take charge immediately -- they're willing to train them.

"We are interested in developing people who are vested in our community, want to stay in our community and want to grow with our community," she said. "We are focused on developing community leaders."

Not because there's a lack of them in Mount Olive, fellow organizer David Rendall said, but because there's a need for new and more leaders.

"It's a proactive way of developing leaders rather than just waiting for them to emerge," he said.

"It's about personal development," Ms. Knode continued. "It is my opinion that a good leader is a visionary leader. They are not self-serving. They are able to motivate their people. People want to feel they fit in a team. When they do, they're more likely to go the extra mile."

To that end, the chamber is kicking off a six-month leadership development program -- Leadership Mount Olive -- on Jan. 10.

It will be focused on the Mount Olive area, Ms. Knode explained, but it's open to any 12 interested people.

"You can go to a leadership program anywhere," she said. "This is not a new idea, but we want ours to be different.

"It's the developing of leaders who want to be in a community where they still connect. When you look at leadership in smaller communities, it varies from larger communities because we have much more interaction with each other. That's not an idea exclusive to Mount Olive, but it is exclusive to small communities. I think when you look at small communities, we all struggle with the same issues. Attracting and retaining good people in the community is difficult, so we have to cultivate the people we have and the people coming into our area."

The programs, which will be held in full-day sessions once a month for six months, will focus on such issues as government and law enforcement, business and economic development, human services and volunteerism, education and quality of life. Each session will be at a different local location and will be facilitated by community, government and business leaders. The fee, which includes lunch and the graduation ceremony, is $300.

"We came up with that list because we felt those were very important topics. Our goal is not only to educate in those areas, but to broaden general knowledge," Ms. Knode said. "I think that if we can understand where each other is coming from, it can help us in our relationships."

And by educating people in those areas and improving those relationships, Rendall said, potential leaders are much more likely to take active roles in their communities and are more likely to be effective in those roles.

"Programs like this one are done in all kinds of communities. They really seem to work. People who go through them can be found coaching Little League, serving on planning committees, starting non-profits -- working within the community. We just give them the tools they need."

It's a program that's been several years in the making and Ms. Knode is excited they are finally ready to begin.

"Before taking the position as chamber president I was one of the people working to get this project off the ground. It's been a long time coming," she said.

And now that they are beginning the program she expects it will continue to grow and evolve in the coming years.

"I have no doubt it'll grow," Ms. Knode said. "If you miss this first six months, we plan to continue with this. There will be another, but it won't be a cookie-cutter experience. It will be our unique program."

For more information or to register for the program, call Ms. Knode at 658-3113 or Rendall at 658-7868.