"Turn to the person next to you and share with them your idea of what community leadership means to you," said Ed Kamps to a room full of Leadership Wood Buffalo hopefuls and a few scattered participants and alumni. The voice of one turned into the voices of many as conversations exploded around the banquet room, filled to capacity.
Each year, the Leadership Wood Buffalo info night attracts a diverse crowd of citizens interested in making a difference, and each year the crowd gets bigger and more diverse.
What began in 2006 as a community leadership program focused on developing the next generation of community leaders has grown into a powerful network of over 60 people after four successful years of programming. And as the years pass and the community evolves, so too does Leadership Wood Buffalo. I was delighted to be approached by two relative newcomers to our region, Mary Thomas, a writer for the Fort McMurray Today from Bombay, and Zafar Iqbal, the Fort McMurray Bureau Chief for Express Media Network. They both expressed a strong desire to be drivers for the change they seek, and recognized the potential of this program for helping them achieve success.
Mary was very interested in hearing individual examples of how the alumni of Leadership Wood Buffalo has positively impacted our community. Zafar is looking for a mechanism to bring cultural groups together, initially brothers and sisters from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and eventually new residents from far flung places like Somalia, Ethiopia, Philippines, China, Iraq and Iran.
Two of my favourite sayings popped out of my mouth tonight. First, that "we can do some much more, when we do things together." And, "the seeds of success are sown in soil rich with failure."
These are two of the abiding principles that guide my community leadership journey: never be afraid to try things and to fail, and always try to find ways of building partnerships.
If the energy, enthusiasm and response from tonight's contingent is representative of next year's class, our community leadership future has never looked so bright.
March 4, 2010 - 190.4 pounds, 26.9% body fat