A Legacy Begins
Leadership Lynchburg’s roots date back to February 1977, when the Lynchburg Chamber had 25 people take part in 10 weekly sessions that introduced them to Central Virginia government, education, culture and business. The program started with a simple rationale: The announcement seeking applicants for the first class said, in part, “Training of our future leaders should not be left to chance.”
Classes in the early years were populated with a diverse mix of business: real estate agents and bankers, educators, retailers and large bedrock organizations. Most of these organizations continue to send their up and coming leaders to Leadership Lynchburg. During the 10-week program, they covered the basics of teamwork, professional dress, television interviewing, and communication to name a few. Also weaved in were industrial and community tours. This format and curriculum continued for many years.
A New Direction
In 2000, the program had an overhaul. A Council was formed of alumni to re-shape the curriculum and ensure that the program was meeting the leadership development needs of organizations. Participants, initially admitted on a first-come, first-served basis, began going through a formal application and acceptance process. In-depth leadership training was added and weekly two-hour classes grew into monthly, half-day immersion sessions resulting in the earning of CEU credits for continuing education. And, perhaps most important of all, Leadership Lynchburg quickly connected leadership development with the idea of giving back to the community.
A National Pacesetter
Today, Leadership Lynchburg has become a model for midsized regional leadership programs across the country. In 2008, Leadership Lynchburg’s director was presented with the national preceptor award from the Community Leadership Association (now the Association of Leadership Programs). The award recognizes programs that have gone above and beyond – who have achieved a new standard of excellence by establishing new directions, initiatives and goals for a leadership program and its graduates.
“Training of our future leaders should not be left to chance.”
Through the years, Leadership Lynchburg has grown into a valuable asset to the community and Central Virginia’s future leaders. As one speaker told a Leadership Lynchburg graduating class, “The Chamber wins because through its program it can recruit volunteers to serve on various task forces. The community wins because of increased citizen involvement in facing community issues, and, ultimately, you win from coming out of the program a better informed, more well-rounded individual.”
Through the years.
Former President, Scott Insurance, LL01
Walker Sydnor grew up in Lynchburg. After a few years working for insurance companies elsewhere, Sydnor returned to Lynchburg to join Scott Insurance and began to reconnect to his hometown as an adult. “My boss at Scott suggested that I should be involved with the Chamber,” Sydnor said. “And I was happy to reconnect with Lynchburg.” Like the Leadership Lynchburg program today, the first class broke into groups to work on projects—although in the early years, those projects were less ambitious, the kind you could put together in a meeting or two. Sydnor’s group met in his den and was fortunate to include an engineer, Bob Green, who worked for what was then known as Wiley and Wilson. Sydnor stayed in touch was several of his classmates, and it wasn’t too long before Green was president of Wiley|Wilson and Sydnor was president of Scott, a position he holds today. Sydnor and his classmates visited with many of the departments that keep the city running: fire, police, water. “We became familiar with parts of the city’s infrastructure that even if you live here, you take for granted,” he said. “We had the chance to meet the people running the show and learn from them. I got a real education on the city that I had no idea was waiting for me.”
President, Wiley|Wilson, LL11
Over twenty-five years ago Tim Groover was new to the region. Participating in the Leadership Lynchburg program introduced him to leaders in the community and area businesses. The program was helpful for him as an outsider to figure out what makes our community tick. Now he is President and Chief Operating Officer of Wiley|Wilson, an employee-owned architectural, engineering, and planning firm. “The value of Leadership Lynchburg for our company is to see how an employee, when given the opportunity, responds to the challenge of getting beyond the company,” he said. “Leadership can be about the team at Wiley|Wilson, and Leadership Lynchburg is facilitating ways for employees to be a better part of the team.” Groover described their participants as owner/managers in positions of responsibility who are encouraged to get out in the community. “The program offers an accelerated way to get information about our region in one year that may take three or more years on your own.” The company’s core values statement specifically lists service to the community. “Education gained and connections made through Leadership Lynchburg have helped our employees discover what impact we can each have on our community. Naturally, that reflects well on the company.” Though he completed the program many years ago, Groover remains a regular participant as a speaker and mentor. He continues to inspire current classes with his session on navigating the challenges of life’s paths. “Preparations for that session taught me to be mindful of the value I should bring to the time others are investing with me. It pressed me to be meaningful and to be ready to do my best. I continue to benefit from that preparation experience.”
City Manager, City of Lynchburg LL28
City Manager Bonnie Svrcek enrolled in Leadership Lynchburg soon after she joined the City of Lynchburg staff. She discovered that the curriculum dovetailed with two of her core principles: relationships are fundamental and the foundation of the work we do, and timing is everything. “If you are new to the city, if your role is a supervisor, or you have been promoted to a leadership position—even if you are from here or have been here a long time—Leadership Lynchburg helps individuals be intentional about taking advantage of what the region has to offer.” The program raises awareness of the arts, culture, education and leisure activities in the region as well as the community issues that local government and agencies grapple with on a daily basis. Svrcek admits that the program is a huge time commitment, but what you will learn about the region and the closeness of the group work will form relationships that will serve you far into the future. The program also presented several opportunities for her to understand the difference between management and leadership. She says, “management is transactional, leadership is transformational. Change is uncomfortable, so I encourage everyone to celebrate the small successes.” The leadership laboratory she experienced as a part of the program mirrors the way she coaches co-workers and citizens. “If you are passionate about moving forward with an idea and you think it will advance us to a better place, use the relationships you have formed to connect people and work out solutions strategically so that Lynchburg will always be a great place to live, work, play and visit.”
Fire Department, City of Lynchburg, LL39
“In the Fire Department we have a team mentality because we rely on each other to get the job done we are paid to do,” said Firefighter Anthony Andrews. “But I learned in Leadership Lynchburg that working as a team, encouraging and relying on each other, is really a leadership quality. It is not about politics, it is about evolving your thinking about how to get the job done.” Other than the Master Firefighter promotional process, Andrews admits that he has never been challenged to stretch outside his comfort zone and reach for a goal like he did in the Leadership Lynchburg program. “We learned about diversity—not just the obvious types of diversity—but how recognizing diversity helps understand others’ attitudes and work styles. As a Leadership Lynchburg alumni, Andrews is taking a lead role in Leadership Lynchburg launching an entrepreneurship training program for middle and high school students called the Young Entrepreneur’s Academy. “I did not know many people who work in the companies in the region. Since Leadership Lynchburg, I now recognize and can have a conversation with government and business leaders. It is my personal responsibility to be active in an organization or cause so the chance to network with others through the program is one of the greatest benefits.” “I used to be intimidated by corporate business types, but I learned that I know and care about topics that can develop me and others around me. Whatever life or business you are in, Leadership Lynchburg can enhance it.”
First class begins and two 10-week programs are held each year.
Leadership Council is formed.
Program goes from 10 weeks to a nine-month in-depth immersion into leadership development.
Alumni Association formed.
Alumni take on first community project- the restoration of the Miller Claytor Home.
Alumni begin Salvation Army Kettle Bell Ringing.
Program honored with National Preceptor Award from Community Leadership Association (now the Association of Leadership Programs).
Alumni Adopt Langhorne Road as part of city’s Adopt-A-Street Program.
Program awarded U.S. Chamber grant to launch Young Entrepreneurs Academy.
Program celebrates the graduation of its 40th Class.
Leading Off Campus program for local college students is launched.