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Where Maryland’s leaders find strength

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By Mary Duggan

(July 18, 2017 – ANNAPOLIS, Md.) -- In 1992, trailblazers in local leadership programs around Maryland got together with a common goal in mind: to create a program, at the state-level, that regional business leaders could aspire to. They approached the Maryland Chamber of Commerce for support. 

Soon after, Leadership Maryland formed its first class, housed within the Maryland Chamber as an independent 501(c)3. 

“We are primarily an education organization, providing an opportunity for a cohort of individuals each year to go through a leadership program that will introduce them to the challenges that our state has around particular issues,” Leadership Maryland CEO and President Renee Winsky explained. “Not only are they diving in and learning about leadership, they are also visiting regions, programs and locations across the state to broaden their knowledge about Maryland.” 

Twenty-five years and 1,000 graduates later, Leadership Maryland is now an independent nonprofit. It remains the only state-wide leadership organization in Maryland. Each class, made up of 52 accomplished and diverse leaders, is skillfully selected to participate in the thought-provoking eight-month program.

“For eight months, the private sector can sit down and learn how a nonprofit strives and struggles, and a nonprofit can gain a greater appreciation for the corporate world,” Winsky said. “There’s an openness and candidness that you’re allowed to have that those industry sectors can’t necessarily have on a day-to-day basis.”

In addition to education about the state and the businesses within it, there is a component of leadership development that allows individuals to learn about themselves.

“Throughout the year, by virtue of the program, they will hone their own leadership styles and observe other leaders,” Winsky said. “The program allows self-reflection and it allows you to look at the leadership styles amongst your cohort.”

Classmates may find themselves outdoors, under a tent in Western Maryland, or at a university classroom in Baltimore City. While the location of instruction varies throughout five regions of the state, the learning remains constant. Speaking from experience, Winsky, class of 2005, believes that Leadership Maryland has given her the confidence she needed to grow throughout her career.

“When I went through the program in 2005, I learned more about myself than I thought I would,” Winsky confessed. “You have the opportunity throughout the program to actively pause and reflect on the way you take in information, the way you learn. I learned a lot about my own style and my own strengths and weaknesses as a young professional. During the normal course of a day, no professional has time to do that.”

Equipped with newfound insight, passion and a network of leaders, alumni of Leadership Maryland are prepped to use their resources as a way to give back to the Maryland we know and love.

“You have to give back somewhere on your path, whether at your church, your community or your professional organization,” Winsky said. “The hope is that what you learn about other industries, professions and regions within your state, will only help you do your job better, which will help the state do better.”