Discovering Leadership Wood Buffalo

Our former Vice President of Instruction at Keyano College, Marylea Jarvis called me up to her office in the summer of 2006 to ask me if I'd be interested in being a part of the first cohort of a new program called Leadership Wood Buffalo (LWB).  After listening to the elevator pitch and hearing that I would have the full support of the College if I accepted, I jumped at the opportunity.

I had heard about the desire for the program in a number of previous conversations with Debbie Robert, a passionate community leader who, along with several other influentials, saw the leadership gap we were about to experience.  Debbie and her husband Leo have since retired and moved to BC, but they remain connected to what's happening here in Wood Buffalo, both virtually and physically, returning from time to time for major events.

In the summer of 2006, the program was still being frantically assembled, so I didn't benefit from an information session per se.  But the night of hearing from staff, board members and alums began the following year and has become an annual tradition.  This year's information night is tomorrow at 7 pm at The Merit at Franklin and King.

So why should you consider Leadership Wood Buffalo and what are the key things you need to think about before taking the leap?  There are a million points I could make here, but let me narrow it down to five.

1.  If you have a passion for community and a desire to be a stronger, more effective, more connected leader, this program is perfect.

2.  LWB needs to align with your day job.  What I mean by that is that you have to have full support from your employer to get maximum benefit from this program.  On your learning days, work truly needs to take a distant back seat to the process of learning that you will be completely immersed in.  If you allow work to interrupt, it reduces the value of the experience to you and your community.

3.  This program is graduating leaders who are changing the shape of our community.  The incoming LWB class of 2012-2013 will be the 7th since the program began.  The names on the distinguished list of alumni are peppered through the community, on boards and in leadership positions.  If you are successful in being accepted into this community leadership development program you will join a network of over 100 like-minded individuals.  That's powerful.

4.  This is a rich program that will challenge, excite, scare, frustrate, exhilarate.  You have to be prepared and willing to embrace the wide range of emotions that LWB is going to inspire.  In that richness of feelings will emerge a life-changing experience.

5.  If you come into this program with an open mind and heart, it will make the maximum impact.  If you come in resistant to change or convinced that you already know everything, you will hate it.  I can't put it any more bluntly than that I guess.

I came into Leadership Wood Buffalo as what I considered myself to be a seasoned community leader.  At that point I had been at the helm of interPLAY for a full decade.  In my mind, I had a pre-determined set of personal outcomes that I expected to get out of the program.  Not one of those outcomes came to be realized, rather a long list of concepts, connections, light bulb moments, and memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I got so much more out of the program than I possibly could have imagined.

Almost seven year later, I am a proud alum of Leadership Wood Buffalo and the Regional Council representative on the board of directors.  My belief, support and passion for the program has never been stronger.  And as I watch the momentum building for the upcoming TEDxFortMcMurray conference, an event that is one of the case studies being executed by the current class of LWB, I smile and reflect on the vision that people like Debbie, Marylea, Linda, Sana, Ed and Helen had all those years ago.  They deserve to be very proud.


  1. I couldn't agree more Russell. This program has shaped who I am on so many levels and cannot ever be more appreciative or grateful for the experience. Everyone should jump at the chance to experience all that Leadership Wood Buffalo has to offer. Since leaving our home in Fort McMurray, LWB has opened so many doors for me in Central Alberta as I joined the board at the Leadership Center and was welcomed as an alum there. Good luck with the info night!!


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