Leadership Grand Rapids: Fostering Community Growth One Class at a Time
Leadership Grand Rapids, often called LGR, is the premier leadership program of Grand Rapids. The program boasts alumni who are some of the city’s top change-makers over the last 30 years. A quick Google search for Professional Development programs in Grand Rapids will come up with hundreds of results, but what makes LGR stand out from the rest is its focus on community development, rather than just individual leadership growth.
The program is comprised of day-long sessions spread out over nine months. Participants take a systems thinking approach to analyzing and solving problems in the community. One of the most notable things about LGR is its strong alumni base. Graduates of the program continue to be passionate community trustees long after they have left it.
One of Leadership Grand Rapids’ most passionate alum in recent years is Michelle Meulendyk, Senior Specialist, Corporate Social Responsibility for Amway. She is an alumna of the LGR Class of 2017, as well as a graduate of the Chamber’s Emerging Leaders and Leading Edge programs.
To better understand why LGR is so impactful for its participants, we sat down with Michelle to quiz her about her experience.
What made you want to participate in a Chamber leadership program?
I knew I was interested in LGR and saw Emerging Leaders and Leading Edge as great stepping stones to participating in LGR. I had some connections with program alumni who recommended I participate, so I went for it.
Describe your experience in Leadership Grand Rapids.
First, I’d say any participant in the program is going to only get out of it what they put in. Your personal investment is what can make or break this experience. What’s so amazing about the class is it’s an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the systems set in place in our society. You really have a chance to look at the community and challenge systems that are inequitable. The program gives you a foundation and a sense of responsibility to do something about that. Each class looks at a different topic, and you’ll do everything from participate in a ride-along with the Grand Rapids Police Department, to spending time with some of the most influential individuals in Grand Rapids. Those unique experiences allow you to look more critically at the issues you’re examining in each class.
How has your career path been impacted by your participation in LGR?
I began my Amway career back in 2005. I started working in the lobby during the day and going to college at night. I’ve been able to grow my career with a lot of hard work and dedication. My experiences in LGR have allowed me to be more present at the table and recognize that I have a value add. My participation at the Chamber has really helped me step more into the leadership space as opposed to being comfortable in the background.
What’s the biggest lesson you learned from your time in Leadership Grand Rapids?
I learned how to use my voice. All the leadership programs I participated in at the Chamber shared the common thread of empowering participants. I learned the importance of being my authentic self, and how huge that can be in growing in your career. You can talk about authenticity all day, but to internalize what that means and be able to be authentic in every aspect is a big a journey. But once you’re there it’s really empowering.
LGR classes are known for being super tight-knit, even after graduating. Are you still close with your class?
I do still feel really close with my class. The way our class was structured, we got to know each other on a personal level. The people came before the titles, companies and the connections. It’s a space where you can grow and learn from others who have a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Shout out to the Biggest, Strongest, Best Class Ever! #BSBCE
Leadership Grand Rapids is just one way the Chamber is committed to creating great leaders. If you’d like to learn more about the talent development programs offered at the Chamber, go here.
Applications for the next class of Leadership Grand Rapids will be opening in March 2019. If you’d like to be notified of when applications are open, contact Mel Trombley at firstname.lastname@example.org.