My Catawba County

A Legacy of Leaders

A Legacy of Leaders

Last week, we had the opportunity to host this year’sLeadership Catawba cohort at Mountain Creek Park as part of the program’s “Telling Our Story” month. What exactly is Leadership Catawba? When we asked The Chamber of Catawba County’s Vice President of Operations and Leadership Catawba Director Kim Dahlsten to fill us in, she sent the following information – and a few past participants chimed in, too.

What is Leadership Catawba, and when it does take place?
Since 1974, Leadership Catawba graduates have been the most influential, powerful and dynamic leaders Catawba County has ever seen. This group has built this community, worked through times of economic viability and instability to sustain it, and are currently working to transform it through innovation for future generations to thrive.

Leadership Catawba educates and equips each cohort with information about the social, economic and political dynamics of our community.

The Leadership Catawba program extends over an eight-month period. Participants will attend a total of six full-day and six half-day program sessions from September through February, with graduation held in March.

Why does The Chamber offer Leadership Catawba every year?
Developing strong, purpose driven, collaborative, empathetic and innovative leaders is vital for the future of our community and region as demonstrated in one of The Chamber’s strategic priorities – Leadership Development: Create a pipeline of leaders in business, non-profits and government through Leadership Catawba, who are aware of our community’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and are passionate about crafting the future of Catawba County.

This aligns with our other strategic priorities: Talent & Recruitment Development; Entrepreneur & Small Business Support; Government Affairs / Pro-Business Advocacy; and Organizational Growth & Excellence.

Much is expected Leadership Catawba alumni, which begins with the question asked throughout the year and upon graduation: “Now that you know what you know, what are you going to do next?”  How will you contribute to your community, to your organization and to your family going forward? 

Who participates in Leadership Catawba?|
Leadership Catawba pulls together individuals of diverse backgrounds and experiences who have demonstrated leadership potential throughout our community and their organization. This year’s cohort features 36 participants from a variety of professional backgrounds and industries. Over 1,000 esteemed business and community leaders are proud to identify themselves as Leadership Catawba Alumni.  

What do Leadership Catawba participants experience during the program?
The program kicks off in August with a half-day orientation and a full-day team building retreat.

Over the 8-month duration, participants are immersed in community issues and challenges that The Chamber positions itself to directly address in the areas of Reinventing Community, Telling our Story, Serving our Community, Building for Jobs, Workforce Connectivity and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. 

Participants are challenged to organize and execute a group project that directly addresses a critical issue our county is facing, aimed at making a sustainable impact. Each participant graduates with approximately 16 hours of situational leadership training from a diverse array of community leaders and contracted consultants.

How do participants benefit from their Leadership Catawba experience?
Alexis Abernathy, First Horizon Bank:
“Leadership Catawba is a wakeup call to leaders in our communities. Leadership Catawba is an inspiring and empowering program that helps connect the dots for our community and its surrounding areas.”

Brandon Pope, BPope Productions: “Leadership Catawba has been a wonderful eye-opening experience and investment. I have been a resident of Catawba County my whole life and have been fortunate to learn about so many hidden gems in our community that I never knew existed along with how much we’re growing. The relationships that are built during this experience will last for years to come.”

Chris Murray, Granite Insurance Agency: “I grew up here and have been active in Catawba County all my life. Even so, this program was eye opening, and I’ve learned so much that reinforces my belief that this is one of the best areas in the country.”

Sarah Sakatos, Catawba County Partnership for Children: “Leadership Catawba is an incredible opportunity to learn about every aspect of this outstanding community we all choose to call home. You’ll learn more about yourself along the way and the role you can play in improving the world you see around you one person at a time, if you’re willing to set up and do the work.”

Jordan Ledford, Council on Adolescents of Catawba County: “Leadership Catawba was an experience like none other. I learned more about every aspect of Catawba County and was able to meet so many wonderful people during the process. You will not regret doing Leadership Catawba!”

Jerrica Broome, Broome Associates: “Leadership Catawba is the best professional and personal development that you can invest in for yourself. It provides you with knowledge and awareness that would take years to gain but the Chamber organizes it perfectly into a 7-month crash course. You also have the opportunity to build genuine relationships in the community that is invaluable.”

How has Leadership Catawba evolved?
Leadership Catawba began in 1974 and has evolved throughout the years, including over the past two years. In 2020, when other Chambers were putting leadership programs on hold, The Chamber made the decision that Leadership Catawba had to continue – knowing full well a strong recovery for our community was dependent on leaders: leaders who lean in when times are tough; leaders who are not afraid to make decisions without analyzing for days or weeks; leaders who are empathic and concerned for their community; and leaders who think outside the box.

Who is involved in helping to make Leadership Catawba happen?
The Advisory Board plays a critical role in the Leadership Catawba experience.  As program graduates themselves, these individuals work alongside Chamber staff to plan, coordinate and execute each program month. 

Leadership Catawba partners with collaborative partners, thought leaders and subject matter experts from our community, region and across the country who believe in leadership development for the future. These leaders are from business, education, community service and government. During the 2021-22 program, participants engaged and interacted with over 140 leaders.

Is there anything else you would like to add about Leadership Catawba?
Leadership Catawba is The Chamber of Catawba County’s longest-running program – we’ve been creating a pipeline of community leaders for 47 years.