A Bridge into Board Service

Recently, I celebrated my 15-year LMR class reunion. I and many of my classmates gathered to reminisce about our time together during the Fall of 2002 and Spring of 2003.  I was one of two classmates on the agenda asked to share how the experience had shaped us.

I pointed out how prior to LMR, I had no board service.  My classmate, Lee Reeves, was the Executive Director of a very successful nonprofit he started called Team UP Richmond.  During our graduation ceremony back then, Lee asked if I would serve on his board. I shared with him my reservations about having no prior board experience, but Lee said “Ken, you'll be fine”. That exchange started my career of servant leadership in the Richmond non-profit community and beyond.

Soon thereafter, Rita Ricks (LMR ’89), who had recommended LMR to me, also recommended me for the Board of the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce; known today as ChamberRVA.  Rita later shared that when she originally mentioned my name, the leadership of the Chamber indicated that they had no idea who I was.  But once she stated I had just completed LMR, their eyes widened, and I was welcomed to the board.

Several other boards soon followed as news of my status as an LMR alumnus made the rounds.  Such that, when the then President of Old Dominion University nominated me to serve on the Board of my alma mater, there was plenty of board experience on my resume.  Appointment to the Board of Visitors of ODU by Governor Warner was the first of now 5 gubernatorial appointments.  Since 2003, in all, I’ve served on 20 boards; and have turned down numerous others in light of my day job.

LMR is the place where I learned the principles of facilitation and collaboration; where I learned a greater understanding of social issues of the Richmond region; and where I was first exposed to the concept of servant leadership.  All of these traits have become the foundation for my years of community involvement at a leadership level.  Participation in THE BEST CLASS EVER instilled the desire in me to leave the world a better place then how I found it.  John F. Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other”.  Thanks to LMR, we learn how to lead.

Ken Ampy, Astyra Corporation
Class of 2003

Richmond and the World

As a relatively new resident of Richmond I became a proud member of Leadership Metro Richmond 2017 in order to link local and international interests from my position as Dean of International Education at the University of Richmond. From the first day I found partnership with LMR members on issues highly relevant to my work, immigration and education foremost among them. Thanks in part to the awareness LMR brought, my first Memorandum of Understanding was not with an international partner, as would be customary, but with Virginia Commonwealth University to have our faculty work together in places of mutual interest, so far including Mexico, Guatemala, and South Africa.

Another strong partnership from LMR turned out to be with the ever-resourceful LMR President and CEO Myra Goodman Smith. UR created Danish Week in November 2017 to celebrate our longstanding student exchanges with Denmark and to have our campus and community learn about another culture together. The Danish Embassy got on board in a big way. Myra Smith met with Lars Bo Mueller, the number two at the Danish Embassy, to discuss how LMR models civic engagement and to compare Richmond and Copenhagen in several dimensions.

His Excellency Lars Gert Lose, Danish Ambassador to the United States, on this first visit to Richmond was interested in meeting with Mayor Levar Stoney. Myra facilitated our connection with the Mayor’s office and the meeting was very productive. The two leaders discussed sustainable energy and the challenges of transportation. The Embassy car pulled up to City Hall immediately by the new RVA Bike Share racks, so things got off to a good start: Copenhagen has been named the world’s friendliest city for cycling.

Both officials from Denmark tweeted about their positive impressions of Richmond and shared a flood of images from their visit to the city and the UR campus. The Danish Ambassador was so impressed with his first visit to Richmond that he returned two weeks later with his family.

Myra and Haywood Spangler, as well as the helpful staff of LMR, had earlier offered strong support for our group project on immigration when we decided to show a film on the UR campus and to host a panel discussion of local experts who work with immigrants, several of them LMR alumni. It was the best-attended event of the year for my office.

All told, I feel that my world grew both locally and internationally by virtue of the year invested in LMR. Our group on immigration still meets to catch up on local issues and to advance our shared belief in Richmond as an international city, usually over dinner at a restaurant owned by an immigrant. And my staff is better integrated with Richmond, having attended the Richmond Region Tourism’s “I Am Tourism” training program to which I was alerted through LMR. We are now better able to represent our city to the world!

Martha Merritt
Class of 2017

CLICK HERE for more information on the next “I Am Tourism” workshop to be held by Richmond Region Tourism from 8:00am – 12:30pm on March 14, 2018.

Communities Need Constructive Conversation

Avoidance. Having conversations that challenge our beliefs, values, biases and perceptions is seen by many as stressful. Who is looking for more stress? Some of the most committed community leaders I know will step away from a group conversation of key importance if they believe it will lead to nowhere or cause an emotional debate. Many go silent. Have you heard the statement, “I just can’t go there?” If you are truly committed to creating change in our communities, you must be willing to step out of your comfort zone.

Since our beginning, LMR has encouraged dialogue amongst our community leaders by creating a “safe space” for open and honest conversations that reflect a myriad of diverse perspectives which often do not appear to stand on the same side of the issue. However, no issue has just two sides. The conversation should not be about right or wrong, instead it should increase our understanding about each other and the experiences that inform our values, priorities, and opinions. It is through listening to others that we can elevate our levels of personal knowledge to start us down a path towards collaboration and problem-solving.

Social media has provided a variety of digital platforms on which individuals now feel safer, more confident and empowered to share their opinions with the world. However, while absent from digital communications, voice tone, physical gestures and body language play an important role in how we communicate with one another in person. They reveal emotion and passion which add depth to words, thus building deeper understanding. In this digital age, it is important that we take these conversations offline and sit face-to-face with one another for these difficult but necessary interactions. This could be about anything from politics to religion to monuments…whatever is weighing heavy on the hearts and in the minds of the community around us.

Next Tuesday LMR will host a facilitation training for members, where they can learn the tools necessary to manage open and honest group dialogue. What are tactics to alleviate tension in the room? What do you do when one person is dominating the conversation? How do you keep the conversation on topic? These are just a few of the questions we will address with Jonathan Zur (LMR ’08), President & CEO of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities.

Over the holiday weekend as you converse with your loved ones, take note of the way you converse with one another and consider if your approach to those conversations mirrors how you converse outside of the home in your day-to-day interactions. Imagine the possibilities if everyone would listen with the same interest and intent to understand as you do with your loved ones. At LMR, we are thankful for the opportunity to strengthen ties and build understanding in our communities. We are thankful for the dedication and passion our members have for this region and excited to engage with the future leaders they are influencing every day.

Myra Goodman Smith
Class of 2006
President & CEO, Leadership Metro Richmond

The Quest for Public Leadership

In 2005, I became a member of Leadership Metro Richmond because I believed that leadership was more than an ascension to a position or title. I believed that it was the essence of being an active part of a network of people who cared about and accepted the responsibility of the future of the City of Richmond and surrounding jurisdictions.

Through our leadership quest, we embrace being an effective part of leadership in a diversified group with varying and sometimes opposing interests and beliefs. However, we came away from our quest understanding that leadership is about having the personal resolve to be inclusive rather than exclusive. Leadership Metro Richmond is a tremendous resource comprised of Richmond’s most talented network of individuals who care and want to be a part of community solutions which we so desperately need.

When I think about Richmond, I think about our LMR family which represent the public and private sector of our community. When seeking individuals for projects, councils and board appointments, LMR provides access to a vetted compendium of talented capable individuals.

Most recently, the Office of Minority Business Development needed several individuals to become members of the Mayor/Council appointed Emerging and Small Business Advisory Board. As a member of LMR, it was a natural and first choice resource in soliciting individuals who might be interested in serving in this capacity because the overall mission of the organization is clear. Preparing leaders and offering them opportunities to lead in RVA and surrounding areas! A big THANK YOU to Myra Smith and her staff for continuing to find and provide the best leadership talent that Richmond Region has to offer!

Angelia Yancey
Class of 2005