Leadership Northern Utah (LNU) has been developing business leaders and improving the community for years. Each year the Ogden-Weber Chamber program, which runs from October to May, welcomes between 20 to 30 members for a detailed training course in leadership, problem-solving and teamwork.  

A major part of the program has always been the annual project, a coordinated enterprise to engage with the community while exercising actual leadership and business skills. Past projects include a multi-year program to address intergenerational poverty and renovating the Ogden Women’s Retreat House.

However, LNU is trying a different approach this year. Rather than a single extensive project undertaken by the group at large, they are opting for three individual projects based on the personal interests and abilities of the members.

“We decided to break the participants up based on what they’re passionate about,” said Cori Anderson, 2018-2019 Chair of LNU.

“It’s been really fun to watch the groups plot these things out and think about what they want their peers to see and experience.”

According to Anderson, this change came after analyzing previous projects and spotting deficiencies.

“We wanted to maintain that process-oriented learning piece where you develop something and build and execute and plan it. But we also wanted to be cognizant of their [the LNU members’] commitment to employers while also maximizing their own skill sets and approaching things from positions of strength.”

In addition to aligning with the specific skill sets of members, the new format has other advantages as well. Members have more individual say in the direction of their chosen project, which leads to more personal ownership.

Additionally, smaller groups lend themselves to more of an egalitarian approach which increases individual engagement. Rather than one person taking charge and making decisions, leadership responsibilities are shared.

“LNU has always had a tremendous benefit to our community. I’m hoping this will elevate it even more,” Anderson said of the changes.

Chosen during a retreat in October, the three smaller projects represent the concerns of each individual group. The first group, scheduled to present this month, wanted to delve further into the issue of poverty. Their project involves giving the other members a first-hand experience of life in poverty.

One exercise involves a lunch meeting where participants are randomly assigned “rich” and “poor” meals. Another involves having normal modes of transportation taken away and having to get around town with a very small amount of money.

The second group, interested in general business training education, is set to present their project in February or March of 2019. The final group, which has chosen to focus on the impact of implicit bias, is scheduled for May.

While the new approach may lead to challenges, Anderson said this risk makes the educational experience that much more valuable. The projects can serve as important lessons even if they end up in failure.

“Really it’s up to them. And if they fail, if it doesn’t come together and there are mistakes made, that’s a huge lesson in leadership too,” said Anderson. “And if there is failure, we’re going to point it right out. Like, okay, what should you have done differently?”

“What process improvements should you make? Where else does this show up in your work life and how can you apply this to your work life?”

Will the new approach be a success? Time will tell. Early results look positive, though. The new project format is just one more advancement in a group that has been training business leaders for years.

Anderson, a previous initiate to LNU herself, is a big proponent of the program.

“You’re going to get to know your community in a way you never would have. I’m a transplant to Ogden; I didn’t know what was going on here. This was the best introduction to the community,” she said.

“The networking is fantastic. You’ll make friends and professional acquaintances that you can call on in the future.”