Guest post from new EMERGE 2012 graduate Rand Zumwalt.
Everyone who participates in the Leadership Austin EMERGE Program does so for a different reason. For some, it is a way to network with like-minded professionals. For others, it is to seek guidance as to which philanthropic efforts best match their skills. For me, it was mainly to sharpen my leadership skills and, perhaps, expand the reach of my business along the way.
What I discovered through my time with the group, however, is that Leadership Austin is about so much more than one might assume at first glance. From day one, it becomes obvious that the EMERGE staff cares deeply about each individual in the program and carefully crafts every session with a cohesive intentionality focused on self-discovery and equipping people to make a societal impact.
Heather, our group’s fearless leader, announced during our first session that her goal was to get us out of our comfort zone. Well, she certainly did! From impromptu speeches to the group summarizing our lives in a handful of words to competitions that involved constructing “satellites” out of children’s toys, I think it is safe to say that every person in this year’s class found themselves challenged beyond their usual capacity on a regular basis.
Each session of the Emerge program builds on its predecessor, but is flush with fresh material and organized in a distinct manner uniquely selected to best present the topic at hand. The ever-changing format kept me on my toes and excited about what was coming next. This is not your typical lecture-based, sleep-inducing program. That said, the meetings are heavy on content and time spent outside of class unpacking lessons learned is encouraged.
One of the greatest pleasures for me, as a class participant, was getting the opportunity to meet talented and bright individuals that I would not necessarily have come across in my daily life. The Leadership Austin folks clearly prioritize diversity of experience and perspective in choosing program members. At the same time, however, the standards for entry are high. Distinct points of view were a welcome feature of our class, but the integrity and shared trusteeship we all felt for the Austin community was a key factor that bound our group from the start.
Though I entered the EMERGE program with a desire to build my leadership skills – which I accomplished – I left the program with a new understanding of myself and a strong desire to dig deeper. My journey as a Leadership Austin class participant may have come to a close, but my voyage into self-discovery and empowerment have only begun. For those considering applying to the EMERGE program, all I can say is make haste and prepare for life-changing insights that will serve you well for years to come in both your professional and personal life!
Rand Zumwalt is an attorney and Principal at Zumwalt Law Group, PLLC