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Krawczak: Grow yourself, strengthen community

November 5, 2012
Jackie Krawczak , The Alpena News

A new leadership program in the area just came to a conclusion. The LEAD (Leadership Education for Action and Development) program, developed by Alpena Community College, consisted of a series of three workshops designed to develop leadership skills and enable participants to develop into more effective leaders in the workplace and community. I had the pleasure of attending one of the sessions, and the honor of acting as moderator for another.

Admirably, the participants are clearly interested in personal and professional development. I say it's admirable because taking time out of a busy schedule to invest in yourself is difficult. Even more admirable are the participants who will choose to take action based on what they heard and apply it to their own lives.

I pay close attention to what others are doing. Not in a busy body way. I pay attention to the behaviors of others when I respect what they do, how they live, and where their lives have taken them because I want to learn from them. A common theme I see is that they never stop investing in their own personal and professional development. They read, study and put into practice what they learn. One successful business owner told me the best thing he ever did was set aside a specific time every day to read about leadership and other similar topics. When I was seeking advice from another community leader I received a great piece of hiring advice. She told me to always ask the question, "What do you do on a daily basis to improve yourself?" This advice sounds a lot like the key ingredient the other business owner mentioned, doesn't it?

There must be something to it if so many successful (in one person's definition of success) people take the same approach in life. So why don't we see more people engage in the opportunities for personal development? What would it mean to our community if more of us made a commitment to personal development? I know not every situation is applicable to everyone. For example it would be naive to think everyone is career oriented or that everyone wants to be a stay at home parent or everyone wants to own a business. But a comment a LEAD participant made addressed those differences. As the participants were listening to two local and very successful entrepreneurs share similar stories about their continuous education and personal investment, one of the participants said, "This can be applied to everything in our lives. Even my family life."

That observation couldn't have been more accurate. Like those who participated in LEAD did, we can each find ways to invest in our own personal development as it applies to our own situations. But the cool thing is that it reaches beyond our own happiness and strengthens the community as well. The strength of a community is determined by the sum of all parts. As each part is strengthened, as each person grows in strength and knowledge, we add greater value to our community.

The LEAD program is just one of many opportunities for self investment. There are many other options. Like books (some of my favorites are by Seth Godin and Patrick Lencioni), apps (my current favorite is SmartBrief), seminars (like LEAD or Leadercast in May 2013), and so many other resources.

When is the last time you did something for personal development, growth, or improvement? Do you do something every day? The decision to improve yourself has a much wider reach than just your life. It's a decision to strengthen your community as well. Who doesn't want a stronger and healthier community? And why wouldn't you want to be part of creating one?

Jackie Krawczak is the executive director of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays.



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