New direction

By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Leadership Winston-Salem has named Jo Ellen Carson, a training consultant and former Wachovia trainer who works with local companies, as executive director.

The 20-year old leadership-development group, which has not operated for a year, also plans to resume classes this fall and to adopt a more hands-on approach to tackling local issues, says Pat Taylor, its board chair and general manager of The Winston-Salem Journal.

The program typically involves 45 leaders who meet one day a month for nine months, plus orientation, and in the past has consisted of expert speakers addressing participants on topics such as education, law enforcement or the arts.

Starting this fall, Taylor says, instead of a city official speaking to the leadership class about the city budget, for example, participants would be given the budget and asked to study it and recommend possible budget cuts or tax increases.

“What we would like to do in the future is to give them more information up-front, the month before the program, and let them absorb some of the information and let them dig into a piece or two of the dilemmas,” he says. “We want to make them about real issues.”

But the goal, he says, has not changed.

“We hope to come out with the same result — deeper, richer knowledge about the community,” he says, “and a desire to have people connect with and serve the community.”

While the organization always has focused on connecting corporate leaders from different walks of life, he says, it plans to “reach out to younger, emerging leaders, as well as established leaders.”

Doug Easterling, an associate professor of public health sciences at Wake Forest University School of Medicine who has studied local leadership issues, says the shift in focus at Leadership Winston-Salem reflects a larger effort in the community to adopt a “more inclusive leadership model.”

The traditional local model, he says, consisted of programs that trained corporate executives and connected them to the community.

The emerging model, he says, recognizes a broader base of leaders.

Other leadership-development groups that have emerged in recent years include the Coalition of Young Leaders, a networking group for young professionals, and Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods, which is training more neighborhood leaders and connecting them to traditional decision-makers.

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