Lead Virginia's program offers an annual sequence of seven monthly program sessions, each located in a different region of the state. One class of approximately 50 participants goes through the entire program together each year, beginning with a comprehensive opening session in April and concluding with graduation in November.
The program is designed to challenge preconceived notions and invite reflection and evaluation through a focus on present realities in each of the regions. Participants increase their knowledge and understanding of leadership challenges and build the social capital necessary to Lead Virginia forward. The program broadens the perspectives of participants, thereby expanding their capacity to collaborate, manage conflict and lead in changing environments.
Lead Virginia class participants explore and grapple with major issues, challenges and opportunities facing the Commonwealth. The program features a vibrant curriculum with lively presentations, engaging case studies and analyses, in-depth dialogues and debates on timely issues, on-site field studies, and experiential activities.
Sessions are developed by regional curriculum committees under the guidance of John P. Thomas, DPA, director of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia and Program/Curriculum Committee chair for Lead Virginia's board of directors. Regional Program/Curriculum co-chairs work with committees representing academic, business, civic and diverse interests from each region. Each session targets specific topics from a range of key issues.
Themes and Perspectives
An overarching curriculum theme is “the Old Dominion to new Virginia,” with fresh insights on the changing face of Virginia. Effective leadership requires knowledge and perspective — knowledge incubates fresh ideas and new solutions, while perspective informs problem solving and decision-making.
Leaders must have a broad perspective. They must understand how events in the past have shaped the commonwealth and recognize how emerging trends and realities will shape future challenges and opportunities.
Foundational to the class program are three curriculum themes: Economy, Education and Health. These themes are examined from six primary perspectives: technology, economic development, transportation, demographics, growth management and quality of life.
Lead Virginia's program is grounded in the theory of social capital, as described below by Kenneth Ruscio, Ph.D., president of Washington and Lee University and member of Lead Virginia's inaugural board of directors.
“The social theorist James S. Coleman explains, ‘Social capital … is created when the relations among persons change in ways that facilitate action. A group whose members manifest trustworthiness and place extensive trust in one another will be able to accomplish much more than a comparable group lacking that trustworthiness and trust." Lead Virginia is one approach to developing trust among leaders — not necessarily agreement, for there will always be differences, but at least a deeper appreciation of what others consider important and why.
Lead Virginia seeks to build social capital — that intangible resource in modern society that enables people to come together in an environment of trust in order to promote the common good. In today’s world, it is difficult to achieve change, to make our communities better and to solve the problems we have in common. By enabling the commonwealth’s leaders to discuss their perspectives with each other, by providing a venue for them to educate each other about the issues in their communities and by raising the level of understanding about the challenges facing our regions, Lead Virginia will strengthen our capacity to work together. We hope to build trust. We hope to create the kind of social capital that will lower the ‘transaction costs’ of finding solutions to the problems facing the commonwealth.
If true leadership is the ability to understand the needs and interests of those we serve, then there must be opportunities for leaders to acquire that broader perspective. Lead Virginia is one of those opportunities.