Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

Great leaders know when to follow

Russell Press compressedSince 1997, the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce has facilitated a leadership program which has graduated just over 300 alumni. While many of those who participate in the group may already be emerging as business and community leaders, Leadership Lake Norman further cultivates their business and professional skills as well as enhances their community awareness.

During an overnight retreat held at Bethelwoods (York County, SC) last fall, the group participated in team building exercises which required creative solutions to the challenges facing the group. For the last 16 years, I have been fortunate to serve as an observer as Class XVI took part in an exercise called the “Helium Stick.”

The task seemed deceptively simple as our group lined up in two rows facing each other and had to work together to lower a stick to the ground.  In this case a thin tent pole using only their fingers.  The catch was each person’s finger had to be in contact with the “helium stick” at all times.Leadership Team Building compressed

All this sounds very easy, but particularly in the early stages of the exercise, the stick has the strange habit of mysteriously rising up rather than the intended task of be lowered.

After the exercise is over, the participants are asked to share their experience and observations, specifically what happened? Why did it happen?  What changes did the group have to make to accomplish the task, and what was the take away from the activity?

I listened in as our leadership participants talked about the factors which led their eventual success: focus, patience, adjusting to each other’s strengths, heights, and most of all communicating with each other.  In this particular exercise, the group quickly learned that even the most concise and simple tasks can quickly go awry. In the workplace (and life!) great leaders must understand the proper place and time to step aside and let others lead.

I listened intently as members of last year’s program discussed what they were feeling and their own realization that, “the best leaders know when to follow and they never give up.  Perhaps most importantly, they encourage those in the group to develop their skills and lead. “Our facilitator pointed out that sometimes, the end results of our own personal and business relationships are the opposite of what we were intending.

Helium 2 cThe key is to find the balance in common goals.  The fact that everyone on your team has a clear vision of the objective is not enough, you must be able to react to a situation, using each other’s strengths, and in some cases step back and let others lead to achieve your goal.

Rev. Halford E. Luccock reminded us, “No one can whistle a symphony. It takes an orchestra to play it.”

Applications for the 20013-2014 session of Leadership Lake Norman will be available via the Chamber’s website and by calling the Lake Norman Chamber at 704-892-1922 June 15.


June 5, 2013 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Lessons | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leadership Class lends a helping hand to the Solomon House

Solomon 2Leadership Lake Norman Class XVI repaired a ceiling, painted a room, repaired and painted exterior features, and spruced up the landscaping of The Solomon House on Saturday, April 20, 2013. The work at The Solomon House was their end-of-the-year project, one aimed at making a difference in the community. Members of the group raised money to purchase the needed supplies and provided the labor to complete the work. Lowe’s Home Improvement, Artisan Signs and Graphics, ServePro, Soil Supply and Tree Service, Joy’s Stump Grinding and Tree Service provided supplies and assistance with the project.

Leadership Lake Norman is an annual program of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce. Community leaders meet once a month from September to May. Their programs include exposure to a wide variety of business and services that are located in the Lake Norman area.  Bill Russell, president of the Chamber praised the involvement of the group.  “Our leadership participants used their collective resources and talents to raise awareness of the Solomon House, an outstanding community outreach program.  In addition, they raised funds and worked to improve the physical facility making the important work of the Solomon House possible.”

The Solomon House, affiliated with Novant Health Huntersville Medical Center, provides free health education and crisis referrals to those who might not have full access to health and human services in the Huntersville / Lake Norman area. “We are so grateful to the members of the Leadership Lake Norman class for their support of The Solomon House”, says Joyce Brooks, Director of organization. “We can not provide the services that we do without the support of the community” Brooks says.

Members of the Leadership Lake Norman Class (2012-2013) work on the grounds of the Solomon House in Huntersville.

Members of the Leadership Lake Norman Class (2012-2013) work on the grounds of the Solomon House in Huntersville.

In 2012, The Solomon House provided crisis referrals that impacted nearly 6,000 individuals, forty-five percent of whom were children. Health education programs touched over 300 uninsured, low income adults including people with diabetes and other chronic health conditions, young pregnant women and their babies. Serving the Lake Norman area including Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson and Mooresville, all programs are provided in both English and Spanish. For more information about The Solomon House, please call 704-316-3872.

May 8, 2013 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Leadership Experience – Leadership Lake Norman

ImageThe poet Archibald MacLeish once said, “There’s only one thing more painful than learning from experience, and that’s not learning from experience.”  How many times have we seen people who have made mistakes in the past, turn around and make the same ones again.

This past month, the Chamber graduated one of its largest Leadership Lake Norman classes.  Created in 1996, with the first class in 1997, Scott Lawrence and his Board saw the need to create and nurture future community, elected, and business leaders of our region.  The program was developed to expose these individuals to the resource agencies, history, and community infrastructure of our communities, county, and state.  The program has seen graduates emerge as town elected officials, a North Carolina State House representative, Civic Club presidents (Rotary and Kiwanis), and Chamber Board Chairs as well as members of the Board of Directors.  Several of our key town staff including two town managers, assistant mangers, police chiefs, parks and recreation, and planning staff  have graduated.  Not to mention the many business leaders in both corporate and small business.

If Leadership Lake Norman focuses on one thing, it is to learn from your experiences.  Those experiences begin with the team building exercises, continue with the sessions, and culminate in graduation.  Those who make it a practice to reflect on personal experience, evaluate those experiences, and learn from them, distinguishes those who lead and those who will follow.   It reminds me of the parable of the fox, the wolf, and the bear.  One day they all went hunting together, and after each caught a deer, they discussed how they would divide their spoils.

The bear asked the wolf how he thought it should be done.  The wolf said everyone should get one deer.  Suddenly the bear ate the wolf.  Then the bear turned to the fox and asked him how he proposed to divide the rewards.  The wise fox offered the bear his deer and said the bear should also take both his own and the wolf’s deer as well.

“Where did you get such wisdom?” asked the bear.  “From the wolf,” replied the fox.

After facilitating fifteen leadership classes there are a few take aways that I have:  First, an effective leadership class has members who complement each other and leaders always emerge in every group.   At every leadership retreat a leader will appear, sometimes several, with a couple of common characteristics: they know exactly where they are going and they persuade others to follow.


Children from Ramah Christian Classical School make a presentation at Leadership Lake Norman.

A great leader earns your trust and inspires confidence in their followers  It’s been said, a good leader inspires their followers to have confidence in them.  But an outstanding leader inspires their followers to have confidence in themselves.   At this past graduation, a friend attending a later reception of current and past graduates noted the enthusiasm and chemistry of the class members. This particular person, a chamber member themselves remarked, “it must make you feel really proud.”

Yes it does, …intensely.  Knowing that in 1997 a group of people developed a program based on a vision of the community we could become – and in the process – 287 people have participated and today each play a vital role in leading our communities and its businesses.  Yes, I’m very proud!

Download the Leadership Lake Norman application from the Chamber’s website.

July 9, 2012 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Lessons | , , , , | Leave a comment