As executive director of the Family Resource Center of Northeast Georgia, Linda Johnson is always looking for leadership or professional development opportunities.

Through the UGA J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development’s Online Certificate in Leadership Development, Johnson found an opportunity to build her leadership skills and those within her organization without having to leave her office.

“Taking professional development courses sometimes requires so much travel time out of the office that it is not possible to attend,” Johnson said. “The online certificate program makes leadership development training accessible to myself and others who may not have had the time to travel and attend.”

One of 17 individuals who graduated from the Fanning Institute’s inaugural online leadership development certificate program in February, Johnson learned new techniques that she passed to her staff members who are now using them throughout the organization with their teams.

“In a staff meeting, I used a strategy from the program to ask staff to identify three things we are doing well, two things we could improve and one thing we should stop doing,” Johnson said. “A few days later, I heard one of my staff using the same strategy with her team.”

The program also allowed Johnson to put the skills she was learning right to use.

“After each session, I would try to incorporate something from that lesson immediately with my staff,” Johnson said. “That really helped because I not only learned a skill, but I learned how to implement it within my organization.”

Led by Fanning Institute public service faculty members Brendan Leahy and Julie Meehan, participants went through virtual sessions covering topics such as leadership styles, the difference between leadership and management, effective collaboration, and conflict management. The program also covered facilitation techniques, adult and youth learning theory, and best practices for building a leadership development program.

“As a nonprofit leader, it takes different tools to motivate and lead volunteers as opposed to employees, and working effectively with a board requires unique skills as well,” said Keryl Corley, executive director of McDuffie Manna, a Thomson, Ga.-based food pantry. “This online program helped me build skills and receive feedback in areas such as communicating and facilitating meetings that I can apply in different settings to help strengthen all parts of our organization.”

The program has helped Corley not only in her organization, but as a member of the Thomson City Council, she said.

“The course provided me with tools and strategies that have helped me gain confidence as a leader and also helped me identify leadership traits and characteristics in others that I work alongside,” Corley said.

In all, participants from 16 Georgia counties and one from Pennsylvania representing chambers of commerce, nonprofits, and public sector organizations completed the open enrollment, online-only program.

The program reflects the institute’s commitment to creating opportunities for new audiences to access leadership development, said Matt Bishop, Fanning Institute director.

“At our core, we believe that everyone possesses leadership potential and courses like this provide avenues for anyone, regardless of where they live or work, to develop their personal leadership skills,” Bishop said. “The online program represents another way in which we seek to serve all corners of Georgia and support UGA’s land-grant mission.”

Registration for the next Online Certificate in Leadership Development is open now and classes start Oct. 6.

To register for or learn more about the program, click here.

Writer:             Charlie Bauder; 706-542-7039;
Contact:          Brendan Leahy; 706-542-0792;
Julie Meehan; 706-542-3264;