The word alone invokes visions of helping, heroism, and humanity. Be it a community volunteer, a brave firefighter, or an organizer of a local march, leadership comes in many shapes and forms. To me leadership, and my impression of it, has evolved greatly over the last two years. Prior to my exposure to Leadership Tallahassee I was a lifelong leader. I coached youth sports, volunteered with a handful of organizations since high school, and was Vice-President of a well-known local business. Throw in being a Dad, a fierce athletic competitor and an ego that convinced me I was never wrong and I thought I was at the pinnacle.
One beautiful day changed that for me. That day was the first time I had been invited to an LT function, in fact it was the LT Preview Party. Don’t get me wrong, the beer and wine was nice, hors d’oeuvres were plentiful and a speech about an unlikely friendship was comical and inspiring. It wasn’t the mixture of these finer points of life that changed me though. It was the first time that as a “pinnacle” leader I was nervous by being surrounded by greater leaders. I met a banker, a lawyer, a Reverend and a painter. What in heaven’s carnation made these people leaders where I wasn’t? I was accomplished, surely I shouldn’t be nervous! Then it hit me. These folks weren’t here to get better at leading in their own world, they were here because they had gotten better at leading outside of their own world.
My goal in LT was quickly established. I needed to gain more experience in leading outside of my comfort zone. I can run sales meetings, present to customers, or work a room. But until I spent a year in the LT program I could not define how I was leading in my community. I knew that by participating in philanthropic endeavors I was getting a brand in my portfolio in front of a targeted group of consumers. But I hadn’t ridden a public bus since college, pushed a wheel chair up a hill in the middle of summer, or delivered a meal to a citizen who couldn’t see or go shopping. It was the culmination of 12 months of being challenged in these areas and more that helped define more clearly what leadership is. I now know that leadership isn’t what you do when it comes naturally. Leadership is how you react when it’s not natural.
To an outsider, Leadership Tallahassee may sound like some grand networking scheme. A way to “build your circle” around some super people. It may seem like a way to practice presenting to a group, or preparing a sales pitch. Fortunately, it’s none of those. As a graduate of LT it is your, our, responsibility to spread this message to potential community leaders. Finding individuals who can commit the time to the program, whose work or family obligations will allow, or whose desire to lead is stronger than their confidence in how they lead today is not an easy task. My ask of you is to look around the corner. Don’t reach out to the obvious. We all know them. Reach out to the surprised. Tell them how LT is so much more than what they have heard. Share your experience with them, and how it helped you to not only grow as a leader but as a citizen and a neighbor. Find a diamond in the rough and encourage them to go outside of their comfort zone. We all know so many people who did and will never look back again.
Leadership Tallahassee will only grow and flourish if those who participate are different. It is the combination of these differences that makes a community what it is. LT is a phenomenal avenue to share your voice with so many leaders, both established and growing. Being an LT alum carries weight. It also carries responsibility to continue the momentum that was started in Tallahassee 32 years ago. Class 32 is now being considered, and is next in-line to carry the message forward. Are you able to practice your leadership once again by recommending the program to someone you know? Have you already left your mark, or will you continue to build your impressions?
—Mike LePorin (LT 30 – “XXX: The Hottest Class Ever”)