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Leaders Lab Reflections

Leaders Lab Class of 2024 at The Haven
Leaders Lab Class of 2024 at The Haven

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Reflections from a Leaders Lab participant

When I applied to the Leaders Lab of Greater Charlottesville about a year ago, I felt… overwhelmed by the complexity of changing a school system that failed to teach children to read; motivated to do something to improve the Charlottesville area, but puzzled about the complex history; and, craving connection to dive in to solve problems.

Today, as an almost-graduate of the Leaders Lab 2024 cohort, I’ve been reflecting on the experience. What has been most valuable?

Community – Each month, we’ve done a deep-dive into a thorny challenge facing the Charlottesville area… affordable housing & homelessness, for example. I utterly treasured visiting The Haven & questioning Piedmont Housing Alliance leaders about their partnership with Woodard Properties. Visiting the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers meant both tears and deep understanding of the long-lasting impact of slavery locally.

Leadership – The Leaders Lab experience ties each local issue to specific competencies for community leaders. For example, I have been forever-changed by Frank Dukes’ roadmap to equitable collaboration and consensus building. The process of community engagement that led to the UVA Memorial to Enslaved Laborers design holds tremendous promise for my own work in equitable outcomes for schools. Personally, it’s been over 20 years since completing my MBA, and Leaders Lab has been a genuinely useful professional development opportunity.

Collaboration – Our cohort includes “emerging leaders” who are young and early in their careers, individuals in rising positions within established organizations like UVA Health and Albemarle County government, plus leaders like myself who are amidst a career transition. Each month, I’ve valued connecting with our diverse-in-all-ways group. I’ve learned as much from my fellow Leaders as from the experts brought in by the Chamber… and am looking forward to staying connected as we work together to advance our community’s well-being.

Through the Leaders Lab, I’ve become more knowledgeable about our community’s opportunities, and better connected to a set of inspiring individuals who are together finding solutions. I’ve gained professional skills and reflected on my own strengths as a leader.

Heidi Gilman Bennett
Leaders Lab Class of 2024
Chair, Family Council for ACPS