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Honing their strengths to learn to lead

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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Members of the Leadership Lehigh Valley Class of 2017, at Northampton Community College’s Fowler Center in Bethlehem, make soup and cookies in December for the nonprofit, Bethlehem-based New Bethany Ministries – which helps the hungry and homeless.
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Members of the Leadership Lehigh Valley Class of 2017, at Northampton Community College’s Fowler Center in Bethlehem, make soup and cookies in December for the nonprofit, Bethlehem-based New Bethany Ministries – which helps the hungry and homeless.

Stephen Boone credits Leadership Lehigh Valley for teaching him to sharpen his strengths to be a better leader.

“I have a much clearer understanding of myself and my relationship to those around me, both professionally and personally,” said Boone, project manager of Borton-Lawson in Hanover Township, Northampton County. “The majority of us [focus on] our weaknesses. … Honing our strengths is just as important in order to understand ourselves and effectively engage others in the collective leadership experience.”

Boone and 21 others this summer graduated from Leadership Lehigh Valley, the leadership development program run by the Leadership Development Institute of the Center for Business & Industry at Northampton Community College.

Each class member – an employee of a for-profit business or nonprofit organization – is placed on a team and given a group project in one of five areas that drive the Valley economy. They are challenged to learn how to be leaders on the job and in the community.

The focus areas of this year’s projects were health care, government, education, quality of life and the social sectors.

It made sense to have the class members uncover the critical topics and identify resources for the entire class through small excursions to sites in the Lehigh Valley, said Ann Raines, associate director of leadership development for Leadership Leader Valley. The structure has worked well for the program, said Raines, a member of the 1988 Class of Leadership Bethlehem, predecessor to Leadership Lehigh Valley.

IMPACT OF GOOD LEADERSHIP

The class kicked off last fall with participants taking part in a three-day retreat entitled “Practices of Successful Leaders” conducted by Donna Goss and Don Robertson, co-directors of the Leadership Institute, at NCC’s Fowler Center.

At the retreat, students were taught team-building exercises and an overview of the impact that good leaders have on the Lehigh Valley. They are encouraged to pick a group project out of their comfort zone, Raines said.

Christina Lincoln, director of education at NCC and a graduate of the 2017 class, said the three-day retreat was one of the most memorable events of the program and a way for class members to get to know each other better.

“It set the stage for the year and allowed time for self-reflection, group discussion, problem-solving and goal-setting,” Lincoln said.

COMMUNICATION CHALLENGE

Boone said a key team-building exercise at the retreat was to gather the group together, blindfold everyone and give them a 100-foot rope to share. Their task was to work together to form a square, relying on limited senses and each other’s instructions.

He said the end result was surprising – “a shape that vaguely resembled a square, a success given the constraints.”

Boone saw a two-part purpose to the activity. It was a way to show how to face obstacles or problems without the immediate tools available to overcome them and how to maintain the momentum of a group working together toward a common goal.

The root of the exercise was “a communication challenge that was done effectively to yield great results,” he said.

PROVIDING THE RESOURCES

Raines remembers one group outing in particular that was well-orchestrated by a class member and gave the class insight into the Lehigh Valley. It was a trek to a J.G. Petrucci Co. construction site in Forks Township.

Petrucci was building a bakery and distribution center, and the group learned about many aspects of the project, including zoning, permits and clearances necessary for the facility to come to life.

Class member Patrice Kane, marketing director for J.G. Petrucci, helped to facilitate that venture.

“I have witnessed firsthand the amazing economic development and revitalization that has taken place in that time,” Kane said of the last two decades in the Valley. “Our community is filled with individuals who are dedicated to providing the resources that are key to successful businesses. This program introduces you to ways you can be a part of that.”

‘IN OUR BACKYARD’

Kane was a member of the education focus team that took students to a school where the class learned about the Bethlehem Area School District’s “Leader in Me” program that she said is built on the premise of Stephen Covey’s book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”

Other half-day trips that the class took included the government focus group’s visit to the Northampton County Courthouse and the health care team’s tour of PBS Channel 39 to learn about the television station’s series on hospice.

John Bojko, vice president of operations at BerkOne and a graduate this year, said the program taught him much about the changing environment of the Lehigh Valley and how people living and working in the area can prepare for those changes instead of only reacting to them.

“The LLV program is so unique because it’s right in our backyard. You are building relationships with your peers in the Lehigh Valley,” Bojko said. “We are already planning our first reunion.”

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