By Amy Kent
Herald Staff Writer
Strong leadership is an important aspect to sustaining a growing community and in an attempt to build the next generation, the annual Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce Leadership Institute begins Tuesday.
Along with so many respected city figures before them, 25 of Clinton’s up-and-coming business professionals will take part in the five-month program that will teach participants how to improve their leadership skills, hone in on their strengths, adapt their weaknesses and prepare themselves for their futures as community leaders.
“I learned about it right when they were starting to talk about it and I knew right away that I wanted to be a part of it,” Jenelle Kreiling, Clinton Regional Development Corp. economic development specialist, said. “I have friends that have participated in similar programs in other areas and I think it’s a very interesting and fun way to get involved and learn about the community.”
Since 1985 the leadership institute has developed and strengthened the community through the bi-weekly educational sessions that will challenge participants to think outside of the box and find new ways to motivate those around them.
This year’s potential leaders will have a little different approach compared to those before them as the leadership institute committee is stripping down the program and getting back to the essential lessons it is meant to teach.
“For many and numerous years they were really all the same, but myself and other committee members really made an effort to put the focus on leadership in general,” leadership committee chairman Nate Kreinbrink said.
In order to bring that focus back, the leadership committee made the decision to remove the project portion of the institute to not only realign what leadership means, but to also generate a little more intake from participants.
According to Kreinbrink, the number of participants has continually declined over the years and he believes that is in part because of the time commitment needed to complete those community projects.
“The project was such a time commitment that I think it did scare some people away,” Kreinbrink said. “There have been some great projects done and in no way do we want to discredit any of those projects but were trying to return the focus back to leadership. Now, were giving them the resources and giving them the tools and letting them take ownership on their own but not making it a requirement of the class.”
In addition to no longer requiring the community project, the Leadership Institute has teamed up with a few new partners for this year’s class.
Along with the Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce, Ashford University, Clinton Community College and the Iowa State Extension Office will also join the Leadership Institute, giving the program a little more background in educating those future leaders.
“This year is particularly exciting because the Chamber has partnered with Iowa State, Ashford and CCC to really enhance the credible education of the leadership institute,” Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Nathan Sondegroth said. “This year we’ve really tried to stretch the partnerships.”
In doing so, participants will now get hands-on training from local educators during the program and will also have an opportunity to network with influential members of the Clinton community.
For Kreiling, getting down to the basics of leadership is one of the things she is looking forward to, but also having that opportunity to meet like-minded people in Clinton is anther important advantage that she will take with her as a future community leader.
“I think that we will start off learning how to communicate with others and what our strengths are and build off that,” Kreiling said. “But, even beyond that, just to meet other people in the community who are excited to learn about Clinton and become future leaders. I’m hoping to make good friends from it. Getting to know people who are invested in this community is going to be a really important thing.”