Orlando Hosts NLC University Summit Focused on Leading Through Tough Times

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This is a guest post by Laura Lanford.

The 2015 NLC University Leadership Summit was hosted at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel in Orlando, Fla. (photo: Universal Orlando)

More than seventy elected officials and city staff from across the country gathered in Orlando, Florida, from September 16-19, to learn how to lead through challenging times in their communities. This convening, NLC University’s Annual Leadership Summit, is a retreat-style training program aimed to strengthen and enhance the leadership skills of city officials. This year’s summit was held in conjunction with the National League of Cities’ Race, Equity, And Leadership (REAL) initiative, NLC’s effort to equip its membership with the capacity to address the historical, systemic and structural barriers caused by racism and inequities.

A special pre-summit event, the 3rd REAL Talk Forum, was hosted in the city of Sanford, Fla., on Wednesday afternoon. The city of Sanford recently gained national media attention due to the high-profile Trayvon Martin case. The REAL Talk forum provided an opportunity to hear from Sanford city leaders about their experiences, actions, and challenges for moving forward in the aftermath of tragedy.

Formal summit programming commenced on Thursday, and was facilitated by Roy Reid, Executive Director of Communications at the University of Central Florida and Consultant for Enso Leadership. Roy spoke to the group about new ways of building a high-trust and resilient culture within communities.

The conference featured insightful presentations about racial equity connections to trustworthy leadership from Leon Andrews Jr., Director of Race, Equity and Leadership at NLC, Julie Nelson, Director of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, and Glenn Harris, Director for the Center of Social Inclusion.

The Summit also included presentations by Dr. Scott Paine, Director of Leadership Development and Education at the Florida League of Cities, and Lt. Ricardo Ubinas, from the National Preparedness Institute at Indian River State College. Dr. Paine spoke to the group about how to rethink leadership to meet modern challenges, and Lt. Ubinas addressed how to navigate “hyper-complex” crisis scenarios in order to ensure public safety.

In addition to traditional summit programming, participants were exposed to issues of particular importance to the city of Orlando. Mayor Buddy Dyer greeted the group during Thursday’s luncheon, and talked about reimagining and remaking Orlando in the aftermath of a nationwide economic recession. On Friday, summit participants learned from Orlando leaders how the city used neighborhood commercial corridors to create jobs and bring economic vitality during a recession.

The city of Orlando hosted receptions on both Wednesday and Thursday evenings, highlighting the city’s eclectic food and culture. Wednesday’s reception at the Red Coconut Club at Universal Orlando’s City Walk was open to both Summit and REAL Talk Forum attendees, and sponsored by Comcast and NBCUniversal. Thursday’s reception was held at Orlando’s annual Taste of Downtown, and sponsored by Red Lobster, the Downtown Development Board, and the Downtown Orlando Partnership. Participants were able to network and engage with top executives from these companies.

Another highlight of the program was participating in one of two special mobile workshops. Participants had the option of a mobile workshop that focused on public safety in Orlando and provided a tour of the city’s state of the art operations center, and a workshop that demonstrated the city of Orlando’s commitment to advancing a boys and men of color agenda.

From all of these experiences, Summit participants walked away with useful tools and skills to better serve their home communities.

As Lydia Glaize from Fairburn, Georgia, commented upon conclusion of the conference, “This was one of the most informative trainings I have attended both nationally and state wise. It gave us the issue, multiple plans of resolution, and provided reports on best practices from these innovative and courageous cities.”

The NLC University Leadership Summit features presentations by noteworthy leadership scholars and provides opportunities for engaged learning and networking with influential individuals from across the country. The program’s goal is to showcase leadership skills and topics valuable to local leaders at every level. Additionally, each city that hosts the Annual Leadership Summit has the opportunity to use the program as a platform to discuss issues of particular importance to their community. For more information, visit the Annual Leadership Summit homepage or contact Laura Lanford at lanford@nlc.org.

About the Author: Laura Lanford is the Principal Associate for Leadership Training at the National League of Cities University.