Honing better leaders: Davis says ALF `best experience I’ve ever had.’
Although Rick Davis has already been a leader in Glenwood Springs for several years, he says the lessons he learned at the American Leadership Forum gave him the knowledge to be better.
The forum, he explained, is a way for people in different segments of the community to learn about and expand their leadership potential. Davis graduated from ALF in May. Since then, he said he’s been applying lessons learned there to his personal, professional and political life.
“It’s been incredible,” said Davis, a Glenwood Springs city councilman and candidate for state representative.
“The whole entire experience I would rank – as a leadership thing – as the single best thing I have ever experienced. Outside my family, it was the best experience I’ve ever had,” he said.
ALF was founded in 1980 by Joseph Jaworski, who left his law practice to address what he saw as a serious national problem: a crisis in the country’s leadership. After a year of meeting with leaders from across the United States, he came up with the vision for a national organization dedicated to bringing together leaders from various sectors in communities across the country, developing their leadership skills and strengthening their commitment to work together on public issues.
“Joe got concerned at a grassroots level about problems with leadership,” Davis said.
Each chapter of ALF annually selects around 20 leaders within its sphere of influence and provides them with a yearlong intensive leadership development program. These leaders are drawn from every sector so each class represents a cross section of the local community’s leadership, the forum said.
“At council, I already have experienced times when I’ve used it,” Davis said of his training. “I try to look at both sides.”
Davis said the program gave him the confidence to run for the District 61 state House seat against incumbent Gregg Rippy, a Glenwood Springs Republican.
“It’s given me a real broad tool on how to look at things,” Davis said. “It was enriching. I’m a better leader for it.”
The program begins in early summer with several readings – everything from leadership literature to quantum physics. Then, in the fall, it’s time for the first challenge.
“You go through a weeklong Outward Bound program. You really learn to be a group at that point,” Davis said.
That orientation and wilderness experience program took place at Colorado Outward Bound’s Leadville Mountain Center. The Center is nestled against the two highest peaks in Colorado and borders thousands of acres of national forest.
This five-day challenge consisted of teambuilding exercises, ropes course activities, rock climbing and rappelling, and an overnight camp prior to the peak climb combined with an overnight solo reflection.
Leadership in Contemplation followed in November to explore the inner path of the leader, focusing on social change, spirituality and the philosophy of servant leadership.
People from throughout the Colorado mountains were involved in the program with Davis.
“The chapter here is from CMC,” Davis said. “There are chapters all over America.”
Besides the Rocky Mountain region of Colorado, ALF has chapters in Texas, Connecticut, Oregon, California and Washington.
“It’s to build a base of people who are devoted to each other. It’s a real cross-section of people,” Davis said.
After the Outward Bound experience, the group got together three more times to discuss other leadership issues. One session was called the cultural bridge tour.
“We talked about Latino issues and we spent a couple of days down in Ignacio with the Southern Utes,” Davis said.
“The last one was about conflict resolution. We spent days talking about how you deal with conflict resolution.”
Issues ranged from local problems to international dilemmas, he said.
After the class graduated in May, they immediately began to apply what they learned on a class project.
“We’re working on doing community assessments,” he said. “We’re trying to devise the similarities and differences in our communities.”
Some of the similarities include growth pressures, economics – since much of the region depends on tourism for its economic base – drought, wildfires and water.
“We’re going to become a planning tool by creating public forums.”
The next local leader to go through ALF will be Dave Merritt. The Glenwood Springs City Council recently appropriated $2,500 for Merritt to partake in the program.
Other locals who have graduated the program are former Glenwood Springs City Councilwoman Mary Steinbrecher, planning board member Dave Sturges, CMC president Cynthia Heelan, Alpine Bank chairman Bob Young, former Aspen mayors Rachel Richards and John Bennett, and Bill Kight of the White River National Forest.
“Anyone would do well to go to the ALF program. It would teach them to evaluate things from a very concise point of view,” Davis said. “I really strongly think it’s an incredible program and if people are interested, they should give CMC a call.”
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