Do you and your brand have a seat at the table?

Leadership development not only builds brands but communities.

By Holly Prather

While reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, (Knopf, 2013) I was struck by one of the early chapters titled, “Sit at the Table” that talked about the importance of women taking a seat among decisionmakers. Not only did this hit home as a professional woman, but it also made me think about the work that we do at the Leadership Louisville Center. In our community, the businesses and leaders seated at the table are the ones responsible for defining our future and creating the services and opportunities that benefit everyone. Through the Center’s programs and activities, we work to ensure that businesses and civic leaders are knowledgeable about the community, well-networked and passionate about the success of our region. Essentially, through leadership development programming, we’re growing the number of people and organizations taking a seat at the decision-making table for the community.

Where Do You Sit?
To be a mover, shaker and deal maker, it is crucial to be personally knowledgeable about the issues and inter-workings of the community. There are numerous ways to get to know the region and its leaders, but organizations like the Leadership Louisville Center often provide a fast-track for recent transplants, professionals and up-and-coming civic leaders.

A recent Leadership Louisville graduate, Marta Miranda, president and CEO of The Center for Women and Families, said, “As a newcomer to the city, the program gave me an edge. I was able to learn more about Louisville and make new connections that have yielded interest in our mission and sparked potential collaborations.”

Another graduate, Rich Vollmer, regional vice president for Humana, credited his program experience for a stronger professional network and preparing him for career advancement and nonprofit board experience.

On the whole, graduates describe how they’ve been able to achieve more professionally and personally in the community through their newfound “seat at the table,” resulting from a broader understanding, new relationships and opportunity to be part of something larger than themselves.

How Does Your Brand Benefit?

In a recent conversation with Russ Cox, president and CEO for Norton Healthcare, he shared the importance of Norton’s investment in leadership development. As the longtime presenting sponsor of the Leadership Louisville Center’s Ignite Louisville program for mid-level professionals, I was interested in hearing his reasons for investing in the program.

“Norton Healthcare’s engagement in the development of tomorrow’s leaders is a strategic investment in Louisville’s future,” said Cox. “Considering the fact that we are the third largest private employer in Greater Louisville with more than 12,000 employees from every community in the region, our support of Ignite Louisville is just one way we are increasing the quantity and quality of our future leaders.”

His point of view demonstrates what studies show about the return on investment for leadership development. Companies that invest in leadership development not only have a seat at the table in their respective communities; in addition, they are able to drive sustained success in four ways:

Four Ways to Drive Success
1. Improve bottom-line financial performance. Companies that rate highly for their investments in human capital deliver stock market returns five times higher than those of companies with less emphasis on human capital. Leadership development builds capacity to reduce costs, drive new lines of revenue and improve customer satisfaction.

2. Attract and retain talent. Leadership development boos ts employee engagement, increases the organization’s ability to deal with gaps in the talent pipeline and reduces the headaches and costs associated with turnover.

3. Create organizational alignment. Effective leadership development isn’t development for its own sake. Organizations need a leadership strategy that closely connects with the business strategy and equips employees with the leadership skills needed to implement it. Leadership development allows organizations to shape the culture and strategy of the business.

4. Increase organizational agility. Leadership development increases people’s ability to respond rapidly in unpredictable business environments. When organizations look beyond developing senior executives and high potentials to unlock the full potential of their talent pools, agility is magnified.

Brands and leaders in the Louisville region don’t have to rely on chance or good fortune when it comes to having a seat at the decision-making table. Whether you’re interested in cultivating strong leaders or creating economic growth and a quality of life, leadership development investment can help you achieve your goals. Make sure to take your seat.

Holly Prather is vice president of marketing at the Leadership Louisville Center.


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