In 1992, Brock Poling was looking for new perspectives.
He wanted more exposure to Columbus but really hadn't had time to learn about it. He also was toying with the idea of starting his own business and wanted to know how other entrepreneurs viewed their companies and the world.
What he found was inspiration through a program called Leadership Columbus.
Cleve Ricksecker, who now heads up the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District through the Capitol South Community Urban Redevelopment Corp., was one of the program's speakers who fanned Poling's entrepreneurial fire.
"Here's one person who is basically spearheading a major movement in our city," says Poling, now president of MC2. "That sort of stuck with me; that one person can make a huge difference if they stick with what they're passionate about and what they believe in."
Poling is among 1,600 people who have had extensive training about the local community and developing leadership skills through a 26-year-old program called Leadership Columbus.
The annual 10-month class meets for a two-day retreat, followed by one full day each month to examine the city's history, health and social services, diversity, economic development, education and other issues. Through lectures, panel discussions, tours, simulations, interactive experiences and small group community service projects, participants develop skills such as consensus building and communication, and work on a community project.
Recent class projects included developing a tutor recruitment plan for the Columbus Literacy Council and writing a civic resource guide for use by the Somalian community acclimating to American culture and life in Columbus.
Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter law partner Roger Sugarman, another participant who is now a Leadership Columbus board member, says he pushed for his firm to send one of its attorneys each of the last five or six years.
"We view it as an opportunity or reward or benefit for them and for our firm in terms of the skill building and program that they'll go through at Leadership Columbus," he says.
He's not alone in his view. Laurie S. Marsh, executive director of Leadership Columbus, says local companies and organizations such as AEP, United Way of Central Ohio and the city of Columbus regularly send executives and employees to the program, which works in cooperation with the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce.
Cathy Mayne Lyttle, vice president of corporate communications at Worthington Industries and past board chair of Leadership Columbus, says her experience with the program showed her the importance of not only serving on boards but volunteering in other ways, such as with your neighborhood association or your child's school.
"Those are unsung community roles that we should all take an active part in. I think I became aware much more of the power of that," she says.
"What we're about," Lyttle says of Leadership Columbus, "is bringing up through the ranks the next generation of leaders, and it's people you don't know and people thinking about making an impact on a community."
The application deadline for the next Leadership Columbus class, which costs $2,950, is March 15. Scholarships are available. How to reach: Brock Poling, MC2, 255-0910; Roger Sugarman, Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter, 462-5422; Cathy Mayne Lyttle, Worthington Industries, 438-3077; and Laurie S. Marsh, Leadership Columbus, 225-6948 or email@example.com. For more information, visit www.leadershipcolumbus.org.
Joan Slattery Wall (firstname.lastname@example.org) is associate editor of SBN Magazine in Columbus.