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Inside Leaders United: Personal Perspectives

Leaders United, a unique course designed to engage and develop the next generation of corporate and community leaders with the multicultural skills needed for success, is now gearing up for its third year. The program enables participants to develop transformative leadership skills that will benefit them personally, as well as the companies they work for.

Rebecca Ayers, Retail Test Kitchen Product Specialist at Land ‘O Lakes, Inc., participated in Leaders United’s inaugural year in 2016-2017. In her personal life, she is passionate about equal rights and diversity, singing with a nonprofit women’s choir that performs at cause-related fundraising events. When Rebecca’s boss approached her about Leaders United about two years ago, she was excited about the cultural competence and volunteerism pieces.

“I strongly believe in the importance of self-awareness and improvement, so I said yes,” Rebecca said. “From Day 1, I was learning and growing.”

Jessica Loos, Vice President of Economic Sanctions Screening Site Manager at U.S. Bank, was also part of Leaders United’s first cohort. She had always been interested in volunteerism, so when her employer approached her with the opportunity to be part of the program, she jumped at the chance.

“The most intriguing part about the Leaders United program versus other leadership programs out there was the cultural competence piece,” said Jessica. “Being that the greater Twin Cities area is a melting pot, you work on teams that are diverse and I thought integrating behavior awareness was neat.”

Aaron Sillanpa is an Asset Portfolio Manager at CHS Incorporated who participated in Leaders United’s second year from 2017-2018. He signed up for the program at his supervisor’s suggestion, and said it has been eye-opening.

“We took an inventory at the beginning to assess our cultural competence and the results surprised most people because the gaps were larger than expected,” Aaron said. “Even coming from national and global organizations where there is a lot of diversity, it shows there is still so much more we can learn.”

Tommy DeMarco, International Customer Logistics Liaison at Land O’Lakes, was also part of Leaders United’s second cohort. He had previously worked abroad, and upon returning to the United States, had a new perspective on issues like education, housing, and the gaps that exist in the greater Twin Cities.

“I was looking to develop more a more inclusive leadership strategy, and it sounded like a chance for me to be part of the solution to these problems and really make an impact,” he said.

Also part of the second cohort was Jamie Rudolph, an Operations Manager at U.S. Bank. Jessica Loos (above) was her former supervisor and told her about the program from a participant’s point of view. She says in turn, she’d recommend Leaders United to any of her direct reports.

“I would encourage people to not only be part of the program, but to get the most out of it, be open and honest and really put themselves out there,” Jamie said. “It drives valuable, deep conversation and I’ve learned a lot.”

Rebecca and Jessica finished the program in June 2017.

Rebecca decided to go back to school and get her MBA in large part because of her positive Leaders United experience.

“It instilled confidence in me and I’m not afraid to be a leader anymore,” she said.

Jessica said it changed her as both a professional and as a parent to her two young children.

“It improved my awareness of who I am as a leader and helped me grow to become even better,” she said. “Also, I want to set an example for my kids that it’s important to be impactful in the community.”

Aaron, Tommy, and Jamie finished the program in June 2018, and say they are excited to see how the transformative leadership skills they’ve gained will benefit them, as well as their organizations.

“This is one of the most powerful trainings I’ve ever been involved in,” Tommy concluded.

If you are interested in being part of the third Leaders United cohort, please apply online now.

For more information about Leaders United, contact Andrea Caro at andrea.caro@gtcuw.org or 612-340-7569.

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