July 21, 2020
Last month marked the end of Leadership Detroit, a transformational leadership program for existing and emerging regional leaders, and now I am officially a LD Class XLI graduate.
What does that mean?
My classmates and I—who represent a diverse group of professionals that are actively engaged in improving the quality of life locally—spent the last 10 months working together to better understand key issues that affect the Detroit region and the role we play as leaders. We took deep dives into difficult conversations, challenged systems, and created a space where new ideas and partnerships could emerge.
Not only is Leadership Detroit a once in a lifetime opportunity but my class went through it during a once in a lifetime global pandemic paired with national racial unrest.
Once COVID-19 disrupted our daily lives, a unique opportunity presented itself—to take Leadership Detroit virtual for the first time in the program’s 41 year history. With change to virtual sessions—sometimes as a full class and sometimes as a smaller working group — the dynamics of how the program worked for the second half changed immensely. As a participant, I had to be more disciplined in my learnings by being proactive in reaching out to have independent conversations as to not allow the virtual barrier to stunt my growth and learning. And as a class, we definitely couldn’t let it impede on our ability to work through the tough topics surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement and other areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion locally.
No other Leadership Detroit class has been through as much as Class XLI and seen so much of the program’s curriculum play out on such a large scale. And because of that, we are all better for having worked through these few months together.
But everyone gets something different out of LD. As a young leader, the Leadership Detroit experience was more than I ever thought it would be. From day one, I found myself sitting amongst 69 of the region’s leaders with varying backgrounds, areas of focus, and passions. Being in the room with these individuals was nothing less than inspiring.
I’ve learned from some of the best on how to have difficult conversations with grace, how to lead others with integrity and passion, and how we are all an integral piece into the prosperity of the Detroit region. I know I have many years of my career ahead of me but this experience and these people will continue to be a well-rounded foundation for everything I do.
During our virtual “graduation” ceremony, my classmates awarded each other with superlative awards like “Most Likely to be the Next Mayor of Detroit,“ “Class Clown,” and “Most Likely to Speak their Mind.” I was awarded with the “Millennial Ambassador” and although it sounds silly, I take it to heart and I’m proud to represent my class in that way.
As that Ambassador, I want to pass along some advice…
Millennials, it is our time to step up. We continue to be the fastest-growing segment of the workforce and those on the ground doing profound work in and around Detroit. It is our job to continue to create impactful and recognizable changes in our communities. So whether or not it is a formal program like Leadership Detroit, build yourself a tribe.
It’s time to foster a group of individuals that are diverse in race, ethnicity, beliefs, age, career, and interests and learn from them. It is time to have those difficult conversations, listen to and challenge each other, and grow together. It’s time to create new systems based on the needs of the community but you cannot do it alone.
We are only as strong as the sum of our parts and together we can lead and advance a better Detroit.
Written by Leadership Detroit XLI Alumni Katelyn Davis.