From August through April, ALF classes meet for one full-day session each month in a different county or city to showcase the communities that make up our region.
There are two overnight sessions that enable class members to connect outside their hectic daily lives. Those are the Wilderness Experience (2 nights) with Outward Bound of Western NC and a session called Taking Stock (1 night). ALF sessions are taught by Lee Institute facilitators who practice core elements of the ALF curriculum firsthand with clients and community every day. Class sessions are engaging, warmly supportive and highly interactive, with opportunities for dialogue, team-building and experiential learning.
The ALF curriculum is designed, crafted and facilitated to provide participants with opportunities to learn, practice and deepen their understanding of diversity, servant leadership, community, themselves and each other.
Orientation and Civic Engagement
The first two-day session brings the class together for the first time and lays the emotional and cognitive groundwork for the entire ALF experience. Fellows learn about the history and purpose of ALF, key characteristics of our region, and critical issues facing our communities. This session introduces a model for effective community leadership. In facilitated conversations, we discuss the need for civic leadership and the importance of the common good in our communities.
One of the first steps in building a cohesive, supportive group is getting to know classmates. In this session, Fellows present themselves through candid and powerful seven-minute introductions. Class members share who they are at their core, the people and events that shaped their lives and perspectives, and the legacies they wish to leave for their communities.
Self as Leader & StrengthsFinder
The Lee Institute knows that great leadership comes from building on our own strengths and recognizing the unique strengths of those around us. Class members receive the book StrengthsFinders 2.0 by Tom Rath and take its online assessment to determine their five greatest strengths prior to attending this session. They then learn together how to nurture and develop those strengths both personally and professionally and how to maximize the diverse strengths of any given team.
Wilderness Experience (two nights)
Every year, class members rank the Wilderness Experience as the most important and most transformational experience of the ALF program. Over the course of three days and two nights, facilitators from NC Outward Bound immerse the group in problem solving, physical challenges, personal reflection, and team exercises that create powerful bonds among classmates. Held at Table Rock Base Camp in Linville Gorge, this program teaches Fellows to trust each other and push themselves beyond their expectations and self-imposed limits.
Dialogue is essential to the work of ALF and community leadership. This session develops members’ ability to have difficult conversations while remaining connected, to bring together diverse leaders to focus on the common good, and to build a cohesive group while exploring challenging topics. Class members learn the differences among dialogue, discussion, and debate as they build their capacity to listen more effectively, generate meaningful dialogue that makes progress on difficult issues, and identify core interests behind positions.
Leading Across Differences
How often do community leaders have a safe space to identify, question, and explore their differences? ALF provides this rare space and facilitates deeper conversations about race, class, gender, and religion that people often want but always approach warily. Class members grow even closer through awareness-building exercises and lively focused dialogues that help them unpack their values, histories, and belief systems. Fellows become more effective leaders by learning how to bridge differences.
Adaptive Leadership is the practice of mobilizing people to tackle complicated, systemic, and community-wide challenges. In the absence of obvious solutions (and sometimes a clearly defined problem), this requires leadership as an activity and a collaborative skill, rather than a position of power. For the challenges facing our region, adaptive leadership narrows the gap between the way things are and the way things need to be to create a better future. This session provides an overview of adaptive leadership and gives class members hands-on practice framing highly complex community problems and engaging people to be part of the solution.
The Practicum invites Fellows to use all the knowledge and skills they’ve built throughout the program. Current issues and case studies form the agenda for the day, during which members wrestle with finding solutions to real challenges in their communities. Fellows are called upon to combine, practice, and strengthen skills such as leveraging individual and team strengths, facilitating effective dialogue, leading across differences, and modeling adaptive leadership.
Taking Stock Retreat (overnight)
After seven months together, ALF Fellows get to practice the art of giving and receiving feedback while building self-awareness about their leadership styles. At an overnight session, members create a personal leadership statement and hear from peers if and how this aligns with how they have modeled this leadership style throughout the year. Everything the Fellows have learned throughout the year finds its way into the feedback, which includes both strengths and opportunities for improvement.
The capstone of the year is Commencement, when the principles and skills of ALF are knit together and Fellows commit themselves to individual and group action in their communities. This session also includes an evaluation of the year and a chance for class members to say goodbye with personal statements. The day-long class leads into a reception and celebratory dinner at The Duke Mansion with family, invited guests and many ALF Senior Fellows who return to honor the newest Senior Fellows.
Once you complete the course, you are designated an ALF Senior Fellow, and are able to attend special programs that dig deeper into theories, processes, and topics covered in ALF. Throughout the year we offer programs that allow you to hone your skills, socialize, and engage with other Senior Fellows and subject matter experts.
Senior Fellows also self-organize to hold mixers and other gatherings that allow classes and Fellows from the regions to remain close and stay active within the network.