Leadership Winston-Salem’s Flagship Program Open Minds with an Eye on the Future

With a solid mission to connect and inspire a diverse group of leaders across the county, Leadership Winston-Salem’s Flagship Program is an exciting process that strengthens community relations and creatively shapes the future of Winston-Salem.

Being accepted into each year’s prestigious “class” of participants is an honor within the business community, and involves a nine-month commitment to learning ways to improve all aspects of life around our city.

Program director Katherine Perry explains that candidates are chosen from a diverse group of applicants within the community, many of whom are nominated by their employers or other organizations, while many are self-nominated.

“A panel of Leadership Winston-Salem alumni and staff pour over the applications we receive, looking for participants who are currently invested and involved in Winston-Salem, and who want to deepen and expand that connection,” says Katherine. “Each class needs to resemble the diverse face of our community in order to bring about the most impactful learning experiences for the group.”

Class members – who represent middle to upper-level management in a variety of professional sectors, both profit and non-profit, as well as enthusiastic community volunteers – dedicate long hours to working in small groups to resolve challenges and present strategies for success to partner agencies throughout the community. In addition, alumni of the group would tell you they also learn a great deal from one another’s individual perspectives and experiences.

“The class needs to reflect the age, racial and gender make-up of our community as well,” notes Katherine. “We like to have rising leaders in the community from all walks of life who will contribute to a more robust experience for the class as a whole.”

Organized to encompass one “program day” per month for nine months, each program day lasts from 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., and is focused on one community topic. Topics to be explored by the group might include Our Community — Past, Present & Future, Government, Criminal Justice & Public Safety, Human Relations, Health Care, Arts in the Community, Education, and Social Services. Each program day is as diverse in structure as it is in topic, where one day might entail taking a bus tour of Winston-Salem, led by a city council member, and the following class might be focused on taking part in a poverty simulator.

The results of the work of this unique program have been significant, and alumni offer heartfelt reviews of their time spent.

“The Leadership Winston-Salem Flagship Program truly expanded my knowledge about the community,” says Audrey Johnson, Vice President Planned Giving Advisory Team for Wells Fargo. “I have a deeper appreciation for all of the services and resources we have here while, at the same time, an understanding of the existing challenges. Through Leadership Winston-Salem, I have built relationships with dynamic leaders and been exposed to amazing opportunities that I would not have otherwise experienced. My experience with LWS promoted awareness, advocacy and involvement.”

Participants must live or work in Forsyth County, range in age from 20s to 70s, and all share a common quest: the search for powerful ways to give back. A willingness to accept perspectives other than your own and a commitment to be personally involved in shaping the future of Winston-Salem is a requirement, along with the time commitment of nine hours per month dedicated to specific program days, and eight to 12 hours per month of pre-work assignments and action learning team project work. Leadership Winston-Salem has been in place since 1985, but the addition of the action learning projects is a more recent one and has provided class members direct involvement with 60 agencies such as the Clemmons Food Pantry, the Ronald McDonald House Family Room, Goodwill Industries, and Habitat for Humanity.

Taking pride in the future of Winston-Salem and sharing a passion for working together in harmony to achieve success sets this group apart, and the most recent class of Leadership Winston-Salem culminated its journey with a celebration in early June. For more information on the application process and ongoing projects, visit them online at Leadershipws.org or contact Katherine Perry, Program Director, at 336-723-1002, or programdir@leadershipws.org.