Inside Leadership Academy's 44th Class
Inside Leadership Academy's 44th Class
Leadership Academy is designed to prepare a select group of qualified candidates for future leadership roles in the Aurora Area. With over 800 graduates of the program since it’s inception in 1979, Leadership Academy has a track-record of helping to grow leaders for the Aurora region and the companies within it.
This year, we’re going to get a closer look at this year’s Leadership Academy Class with Oscar Gonzalez, who is the Member Engagement & Marketing Specialist at the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce, and a participant of the 44th class.
August was orientation for the 44th class of Leadership Academy, and the room is surrounded by people of all ages, job roles, backgrounds. Orientation started with a networking session to meet our new classmates and at first the room was mostly quiet, but as soon as possible started making connections, the room grew louder and louder until everyone felt comfortable with one another. Instantly, all 22 participants of the 2022 Leadership Academy class had created a close bond and are excited and eager to go through the process together.
Then, the class met the Facilitator of Leadership Academy, Dr. Bill Marzano. Dr. Bill is a retired higher education administrator from Waubonsee Community College, and he is a gentleman that is filled with energy and could not wait to share his knowledge of servant leadership. Dr. Bill would share his experiences of servant leadership through his decorative career as a retired professor and is well known throughout the Aurora Area. After orientation, the class participants knew we would be in for an experience of a lifetime.
In September we took four trips to four distinctly different locations that each had their own story to teach. In the first four weeks, we visited the Aurora Public Library, the Fox Metro Water Reclamation District, Waubonsee Community College, and Rush Copley Hospital. At the Aurora Public Library, we received an in-depth tour of the Santori Library and learned about the countless benefits they offer. Without a doubt, we learned the Santori Library is beneficial to both the community, and to business owners in Aurora. After the tour, Dr. Bill helped participants identify their current leadership, motivational and management style. Dr. Bill also taught the class on how to adjust principles and practices to achieve a “balanced blend” of the three styles for optimal effectiveness. We did not know it then, but we would learn how every business we visited in the next 9 weeks adjusted their leadership to create their own “balanced blend.”
In the following week, we learned how Fox Metro Water Reclamation District’s had to change their leadership style, that was previously that everyone was individual-goal oriented to committing to regular improvements in the workplace, both physically and socially. Fox metro changed their leadership to where everyone had a voice and everyone had an equal chance to grow individually, and grow as a company. It was amazing to see the changes they had created, and to see everyone enjoying their work and seeing the business grow exponentially. In the next two weeks we would learn about the importance of diversity in the workplace at Waubonsee and how local healthcare services can have an economic impact at Rush Copley. In conclusion, the first four weeks of Leadership Academy set up the blueprint of what to expect in the final six weeks of Leadership Academy
Carrying on, in October, we took visits to Old Second Bank, Aurora City Hall, Amazon MDW 9, and to the Aurora Police Department to learn about Social Services, Local Government, Logistics & Workforce Development, and Civil Services, respectively.
While at Old Second Bank, we met the two biggest foundations in Aurora and how they impact the business community and how beneficial they can be. We learned how the Dunham Foundation, the Community Foundation of Fox River Valley, and how Nonprofits are important to the community and how they can have an ever-lasting impact. Additionally, when we took our visit to Aurora City Hall, we learned more about the inner functions of local government and how sometimes local government impacts local businesses more than the federal government. However, what really stood out on that visit, was when Marissa Amoni, from Aurora Downtown, provided the group an amazing tour of downtown Aurora. We learned about how the people of Aurora impacted the city’s arts, culture, and business landscape. Overall, the tour was such an impactful tour, that no one will ever forget.
The following week, we took a visit to Amazon MDW 9 and we met Dave, a member of their management team who really exemplified how Amazon’s leadership principles and practices have changed throughout the years. And on the same visit to Amazon, there was a workforce panel filled with businesses who work so hard on workforce development in the community. We learned how West Aurora School District, Waubonsee Community College, and Invst Aurora are implementing different programs every year to help businesses with what they need in the workforce. Finally, we took a visit to the Aurora Police Department and their discussion of civil service and their impact on the community was completely insightful. Chief of Police, Keith Cross, led an amazing conversation on how his leadership and his management’s team leadership helped impact the Aurora Police Department and try to improve themselves year by year, day by day. Following the tour, we received a “deluxe” tour of the whole Aurora Police Department and the officers would explain what each section of the station is in charge of and how it benefits the police station and the community as a whole.
Finally, we have reached our last two weeks of Leadership Academy, but even though Leadership Academy was only 10 weeks, it felt like we have been in it for a whole year with the close bonds we created with one another, and with the new leadership principles and practices we learned.
First, the visit to Scientel Solutions was completely different from all of the other visits, because Joe Mayor, Chief Operating Officer at Scientel Solutions, decided to talk less on Scientel Solutions and focus more on his experience with leadership. Previously, we had seen speakers give an in depth profile of their business and then explain their leadership principles and practices, while Joe on the other hand, provided a brief overview of Scientel and dove deeper into his leadership philosophy and practices and explained his “Seven Values of Highly Effective Leaders.” The group consensus was that it was one of the best presentations so far of Leadership Academy.
Finally, we reach the final week of Leadership Academy and our visit to the Fox Valley Park District. During this visit, we met Tim Rater, President & CEO of Paramount Theatre, and Jim Pilmer, Executive Director at the Fox Valley Park District. These two accomplished gentlemen shared their leadership experiences, whether it was as a leader at their respected business, or if it was when they were younger, working their way up to leadership. The combined presentations of these two speakers was spectacular as they shared how they work hard through any situation and important it is to surround yourself with individuals who can challenge any idea you might have, but are also willing to work through any problems with your ideas.
Throughout these past couple of months, everyone learned so much and is eager to implement these new principles and help take their business to the text step, and to help themselves to become a better leader. However, before we can start implementing these new principles, we have plenty of questions to ask ourselves:
What leadership practice will work best for my business?
How will this impact my future and my business's future?
What impact will it have on the community?
How can I learn from others while still being a leader?
Will it be worth it?
These are only a couple of questions that we can ask ourselves, and while we might not have the answers to those questions right away, it is okay. Leadership principles and practices will not be an overnight change. It will take time to practice the principles and enough convincing to get people to buy in. Leadership is a long and grueling process and it takes time to see changes. While leadership can be a hard topic at times and there are multiple ways to be a leader, I keep in mind an impactful quote by Nelson Mandela:
“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”
About the Author
Oscar Gonzalez is the Member Engagement and Marketing Specialist at the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce. Oscar works diligently to connect Chamber members to benefits and services to maximize their memberships. He oversees several benefit programs including the Chamber's affinity programs and networking programs. Oscar is also a go-to resource for marketing of members and the Chamber.