The second cohort of the California Academy for Regional Leaders program (affectionately known as CARL) has started. They will meet five more times over the next six months. They will also be responsible for a group project and additional reading between the class sessions. Each training session lasts two days and is packed with professional training aimed at encouraging their personal growth as a leader.
This class includes twenty-six mid-to-high level executives from our member agencies. And, in an exciting development this year two representatives from transit agencies, two Caltrans representatives from district offices, and one person from the Federal Highways Administration have also been admitted.
The goal of each class is to get a broad mix of people together who are interested in developing their leadership skills in the field. As a result, each class has a mix based on agency size (large and small), agency mission (MPO, RTPA, COG and transit provider), geography (north, south, inland and coastal), and professional expertise (programming, planning, communications, and advocacy).
The primary focus of the Leadership Academy is to jumpstart the development of “soft” leadership skills related to communication and working with others. These are the kind of skills that most of us never find the time to focus, but know we should: how to work with different types of people, understanding how to lead, political astuteness, and bias awareness are just some of the sessions that are offered.
“One of the other intangibles participants get from the program is a network of people involved in regional government,” says Sarkes Kharchek, of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments and a member of the first class. “It’s difficult to develop relationships with your professional peers when you all work in different corners of the state.”
The larger goal, of course, is to help develop the next generation of leadership. The effect of the “silver tsunami” is being felt among regional agencies as well as every other profession and industry, as demonstrated by several executive director retirements this year (see Dow and Dao, Dondero, and Heminger). But key retirements are happening at all levels of the organization.
To be sure, executives in the coming years will need a different knowledge base as it relates to new laws, technology, and mobility options. But the most effective executives will have the core skills of leading, engaging, and navigating their public agency to a toward an improved vision of service.