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A new class of leaders: local leadership lyceum programs are inspiring and educating future association volunteer leaders.

With the National Apartment Association's Leadership Lyceum program completing its third year, local NAA apartment affiliates are realizing the benefits of bringing this concept to their memberships.

By providing lyceums at the local level, apartment businesses and associations can give their future leaders a jump-start in leadership management by teaching them the kinds of things they need to know to help them better understand how the industry and apartment associations operate.

At the Apartment Association of Tarrant County (AATC) in Fort Worth, Texas, leadership saw a need to identify future leaders so that it could infuse new, diverse talent into its structure. AATC graduated its second leadership class this summer. "I think you get to a point at which the same names will recycle through again and again if you're not actively looking for new blood," said AATC Executive Director John Mitchell.

Mitchell, who helped to launch the NAA Lyceum, pitched the idea of a local leadership project to his executive committee, which embraced it whole-heartedly. In a matter of only six months, AATC created a special task force, identified candidates, planned a curriculum and launched its first program, with the help of the template created by the NAA Lyceum Committee.

How to Set Up a Program

Whether at an association or in a corporate office, a leadership development program can be created by finding a core group of successful leaders who are interested in helping future leaders to succeed. Together, they form the lyceum's initial task force.

Determine a purpose. AATC wanted to create a pool of informed leaders that could fill positions on committees, the board and eventually serve as its president. Having a purpose will drive what the lyceum teaches, including the elements of the curriculum.

Candidate selection process. Before deciding which candidates will participate, the lyceum task force must determine what professional industry experience level is required to participate.

At AATC, senior corporate executives with existing leadership qualities were targeted because the lyceum's purpose was to give industry leaders the tools and information they need to better run the association. Alternatively, a company or association might want to train young professionals to inspire and encourage their growth with the company or association.

Leadership programs outside the apartment industry--for example, chambers of commerce--can also give direction on how to approach candidate selection. Some have nomination processes and others require applications from candidates.

Before choosing candidates, if an organization wants its committees and boards to be more diverse, task force members should remind each other of this before the selection process.

Following are some of the sources from which to identify and pull candidates.

* AATC found success by looking at individuals who the executive committee members, board members and staff believed would be ideal candidates based on past interactions they had with them.

* The task force considered companies with outstanding reputations to see if they could provide additional candidates.

* The task force also considered those who are pursuing national designations, such as the Certified Apartment Property Supervisor (CAPS) or Certified Apartment Manager (CAM).

"The approach was very personal and very direct," Mitchell said. "The candidates were handpicked and I expect to see every one of our lyceum graduates end up in the president's role of our association someday."

Logistical factors. Determine how many candidates the organization wants to graduate in each cycle. Leadership groups created through chambers of commerce sometimes have as many as 20 or 30 candidates for a year-long program.

AATC's goal was to create a highly personalized approach so that the number of people participating in the graduating classes was about six candidates. For a larger class, think through the implications this will have on meeting space and transportation. Be mindful that candidates will most likely have busy schedules and, as a result, the organization might experience attrition through the process.

Setting the Curriculum

Now that a task force, a focus and a candidate selection process am in place, a curriculum must be determined. During its first year, AATC decided to focus on four main concepts: the ABGs of association management; government advocacy; servant leadership; and the community.

Although four days could be filled with pertinent information, AATC's task force decided in its second year to streamline the curriculum to fit into three full days by combining servant leadership with the ABCs of association management.

In each installment, candidates were immersed in role-play scenarios, discussions and situations that emulated what they might encounter while serving a leadership role at an association.

"Lyceum gives candidates access to people, places and concepts that am out of their normal routine," said Darnell Harris, Regional Property Manager, Lincoln Property Co., and a NAA Lyceum graduate and former chair of the AATC Lyceum committee. "We had the opportunity to meet and interact with the NAA leadership in a classroom as well as on a personal level. This interaction gave me greater insight on the workings of the individual committees."

When deciding the curriculum, one method to take is to have a task force member assume ownership of one aspect of the curriculum and then plan the day's activities on that subject.

For the political advocacy day, candidates met with a Congressional aide and two state Senators' aides and learned about the role multifamily housing plays within the community and on a national basis.

"It completely opened my eyes for the need for our involvement and awareness through our PAC efforts, as well as the need for relationship building with our local officials," said Michael Walker, CPM, Vice President for Capstone Real Estate Services, and a recent AATC lyceum graduate.

Perry Pillow. AATC's Director of Government Affairs, said some people could feel uncomfortable about calling legislators to set up meetings with them. But when a lyceum task force member assists in arranging the meeting, any anxieties can be relieved.

"By introducing our candidates to political players in the area, they understand that they can and should be meeting with their elected officials," Pillow said. "It's these relationships that will later help our industry during the legislative process."

One community-service-oriented activity involved spending a day touring the local homeless shelter or Red Cross emergency division or Salvation Army. AATC candidates visited the association's charity of choice, Union Gospel Mission. In addition to a tour, the candidates ate the shelter food for lunch and played Bingo with the children staying at the shelter.

A recent lyceum graduate, Mike Clark, a Principal with Alpha-Barnes Real Estate Services, helped the children with their Bingo cards. Clark smiled and said, "Every Friday should he like this."

Before deciding on topics for the leadership lyceum, consider what the organization wants its leaders to know that will assist them when leading the business, association or industry, and then make sure the day of activities and meetings planned addresses the topics at hand.

For example, if an organization wants its lyceum candidates to understand how media relations and on-camera interviews are coveted skills for association leaders, surprise them by bringing in a television reporter who is relentless in asking the candidates the tough questions. In one scenario, ARTC recruited a lyceum graduate who previously worked as a TV reporter and had him press the lyceum candidates for answers following a mock meeting with school board officials. The reporter and her camerawoman captured the reactions and off-the-cuff comments from the candidates on film, and the tape was played back for analysis and discussion. That way, lyceum candidates could see what their message looked like had it been aired on the news.

Walker said that the lyceum experience added a deeper appreciation of servant leadership to his base of skills. "I feel much more prepared, and my confidence of my ability to provide servant leadership has increased dramatically," he said. "For one of the first activities we did we were asked to use our available resources to find answers to questions that we would not have been prepared to answer."

Mitchell said the key is to create experiences and memories tot the candidates so that they can then pass them on to others. "With these exercises, you want the candidates to have to mull things over and think ahead," Mitchell said, "and you want it to be a fun, positive experience, too."

Another valuable aspect of the lyceum curriculum is to bring m high-level community leaders who share and discuss key aspects of effective leadership. Many effective leaders will make themselves available to speak with candidates because they believe in the value of passing on their wisdom to the future leaders. Task forces should not shy away from seeking the highest level of community leadership to address its candidates. The worst thing that can happen when an invitation is extended to a speaker is that the speaker declines.

Volunteers within the organization, including past lyceum participants, provide another source of qualified guest speakers.

"I don't believe I would have had the opportunity to meet and interact with the types of people we met during our lyceum classes," said Renetta Quintana, Regional Property Manager for ConAm Management. "AATC opened its doors for me to people they had developed a long-term relationship with so us candidates could have the same opportunity as they did."

An organization's lyceum program should be scheduled to end before that group begins its nomination process for the next group of leaders. By doing this, this latest pool of potential leaders is created and the volunteers and staff have had time to get to know the candidates and their passions and can consider them for open positions of volunteer leadership within the organization "AATC is proud to report that the majority of our lyceum candidates has already assumed association leadership positions."

AATC President Cindi Scoggins, Executive Vice President, West-dale Asset Management, said. "We look forward to seeing those professionals move into state-- and national-level seats of leadership one day."

Where to Look for Inspiration

Perform an Interact search for "Leadership [Your City's Name]" to see if it has a leadership program offered through a chamber of commerce or other civic organization. From these Web sites, glean ideas for topics that are specific to the area.

The organizers of these programs can be great resources for learning best practices used by these groups on delivering a lyceum program. Also, apartment managers can ask their local apartment associations to see if it has plans for a leadership lyceum.

"This was the best experience," Quintana said. "You have the opportunity to see how the association operates on a daily basis, understand issues it is faced with to better protect our industry and you get to meet wonderful people."

The NAA Lyceum Committee created a template for local arid state affiliates to use. To view this information, contact NAA's Vice President of Governance Karen Goggin at karen@naahq.org.

Sarah Maben is the Director of Communications for the Apartment Association of Tarrant County. She can be reached at 817/284-1121.
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Author:Maben, Sarah
Publication:Units
Date:Nov 1, 2006
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