by Ellery Blasch, Engagement Manager, ITS Solutions
What a privilege it is to be in a space committed to serving your community, hearing from leaders and advocates in the community, networking with other emerging leaders and growing as a leader yourself truly is. Being a part of the Grand Rapids Chamber Emerging Leaders program allows for just that!
Wednesday, October 27th the Emerging Leaders Program visited West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT) located on the West Side of Grand Rapids. Here we heard about their vital mission and all they are doing to support and grow our community and local workforce while also being able to have sessions with some impressive leaders amongst our community!
We began by hearing from Brandon Erhart, a member of the 2020 Emerging Leaders Cohort who works at Blue Cross Blue Shield. He prompted us all with the leadership challenge of “just doing”. Whether or not we feel we are ready, we must just act. Taking action for things we believe in, growth we are looking for or anything else weighing on our mind. Sometimes we must just move, even if it is wrong. This is the way we learn and grow as new leaders. He also spoke about how our careers don’t have to be a one-time choice, we have opportunity to change and tweak what we are doing until it becomes our vocation. Powerful leaders are those whose passions and career collide!
Next, we had the opportunity to do a walking tour of the West Side of Grand Rapids to learn about our community, the changes that have been made throughout history and how we became the community that we are. This was eye opening as someone who was born and raised in the greater Grand Rapids area, there was still so much I was completely unaware of! This tour transitioned us beautifully into our session with the incredible Maleika Brown regarding Implicit Bias.
We are challenged every day to make decisions and address our wonderings, because wonderings become biases if we aren’t willing to address them. A part of addressing them is assessing how diverse our universe is. Assessing how diverse the community you spend most of your time in, opens your eyes to where you may be holding biases in your everyday life. Things like your worship community, the TV you watch or actress you love, your family, your friends, your colleagues, your school, and so much more play into the diversity of your surroundings. And not only racial diversity; but ethnicity, socio economic status, gender identity, religion, languages, sexual orientations, political affiliation, age, ability, and more all play into this. We must make a conscious decision around whether the information we receive regarding bias is something we carry with us in our suitcase as we journey through life, or we leave in a bucket to be dumped periodically. Not all bias is bad, but acknowledging whatever bias you have is the key to growing as a community leader. You can’t serve the community without knowing where you may have the bias.
Finally, we closed out the day with a Harvest Activity where we experienced first-hand the value of working for the greater good of the community rather than within segregated groups within the community. We are much stronger together, and the positive impact we can have expands to a much broader scope when we unite as one.
Leaving this session, I felt empowered to get involved and into action to serve my community as a community trustee! It is a true honor to be a part of this amazing group looking to expand our leadership capabilities.
Learn more about the Emerging Leaders Series.