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Earlier this month I attended the NCLA Leadership Institute in Black Mountain, NC, from November 7-10. I applied to participate, and was selected by the planning committee back in May. The four-day program included a total of 24 library professionals from across the state who were chosen for the 2018 cohort.

The 2018 cohort primarily includes those who work for public libraries and community college libraries, but also includes college and university librarians, and a public school librarian. The program also included presenters, planning committee members and group mentors.

The mentors are also graduates of previous NCLA leadership institutes. Each mentor is assigned to 4 or so of the participants. This relationship will extend throughout the course of a year. We will meet periodically during this time for one-on-one consultations and mentoring.

As for the November gathering, it is described as being “a transformational experience.” I agree. Self assessment was a very strong piece of the Institute’s programming. This was reflected by the activities we participated in related to emotional intelligence and self awareness, communication and listening, conflict management, and visualization. We also created a personal mission statement that we began drafting on the first day of the Institute, and completed and shared with each other on the last day. For myself, the most fun exercise was the volleyball-esk game we played in the parking lot intended to promote group bonding.

A significant amount of the exercises and presentations on these topics were facilitated by Sharon Eisner. She is a teacher at both Elon University and Duke University, and specializes in interpersonal communication, business communication and personal leadership.

There were several other presenters who spoke and facilitated exercises. In addition to the planning committee and mentors, they included Mike Crumpton, assistant dean at UNCG; Forest Foster, assistant director of public services at Winston-Salem State, Noah Lenstra, an MLIS assistant professor at UNCG; Richard Moniz, former director of library services at Johnson & Wales, and currently head librarian at Horry Georgetown Technical College; and Rob Shackleford, president of Randolph Community College.

Shackleford’s presentation, “Notable Traits of a Great Organization,” provided compelling accounts of how he turned around the once struggling Randolph Community College after becoming president in 2007. He noted that in order for a organization to be great, it has to “get the right people on the bus” and “make sure they are in the right seats.” He also talked about the idea of providing “radical hospitality” versus customer service. One definition describes radical hospitality as “providing extraordinary effort and emphasis on making people feel welcome.” Shackleford first learned about the concept from a pastor who invited him to her church, and decided to implement it at RCC following his experience there.

Within the next six months, the Institute will hold a one-day session in part to check on personal progress and the status of our individual projects that we are working on throughout the year. On the one-year anniversary, we are slated to participate in the 2019 NCLA Biennial Conference here in Winston-Salem.