Leadership development course begins January

By Todd Bennington

A six-month-long leadership development course for up-and-comers within the local business and professional communities begins Jan. 4.

Slots are now full for the annual class, which runs from January to June, and this year features 21 course participants.

The course has long been administered by Greater Grays Harbor Inc., an entity which provides economic development services locally, but last year marked the beginning of a partnership with Grays Harbor College, which now conducts the course on Greater Grays Harbor's behalf.

Greater Grays Harbor Finance Director Candie Gleason explained the college was brought in to implement the class because it was felt the course had grown and developed beyond the capacity of Greater Grays Harbor's small staff to teach effectively.

Participants, Gleason indicated, meet on a monthly basis for all-day classes conducted at different spots throughout the county, and classes often involve tours of local businesses or related organizations or entities.

Gleason said course participants come from groups as varied as local banks, the Quinault Nation, and a few non-profits.

"They come from all over the county. The businesses run the gamut," Gleason stated, further mentioning participants from WorkSource, Quinault Beach Resort and Casino, PUD, and Grays Harbor Community Hospital.

The $900 tuition fee is borne by the business or organization from which the participant comes, she indicated. A 50 percent tuition reduction is available for those coming from non-profits, though typically only three or four non-profit slots are available on an annual basis.

"What it does is hone in on those skills to make them a better leader," Gleason explained of what participants take away from the course. "They learn all kinds of different things: getting along with people, working as teams, team-building."

"What the participants learn is leadership skills," added Nancy Estergard, coordinator for business and community education at Grays Harbor College. "How to become a leader, how to be a good leader, how to work with difficult people."

Among the eight total sessions held over the course of the class, Estergard explained, is a two-day retreat at Lake Quinault that focuses on subjects like leadership styles and theories, management and behavioral traits, situational leadership, and group theories in development.

"This was an effort to get a little more meat into the leadership piece of it, so we have a really in-depth, heavy emphasis on leadership development," Estergard said of the college taking up the reigns of the course.

Estergard teaches the leadership portions of the course herself, along with Gray Harbor College instructor Aaron Tuttle, but local experts in various fields are brought in as well to supplement the instruction participants are given.

Course participants aren't burdened with a huge amount of homework Estergard said, but the course does involve some projects. A timeline assignment involves researching aspects of a given local historical period, such as the important events, industries, and demographics of that period, and creating a presentation.

A service project is also involved, and this year the class will focus their efforts in the areas of Quinault, Taholah, and Pacific Beach, with area representatives having been invited to talk with the group about local needs. Past service projects have included things like food drives and fun runs, Estergard said.

"It's a fundraising effort to help address a need of that community," she stated, describing the service project's goal.

"It's a really in-depth training program," Estergard continued in summation of the program and its benefit to developing community leaders. "Some of the participants are new to the area and don't know much about the area, so it gives them a chance to network with others and really find out what services are available here."