A University of Georgia-designed leadership program in middle Georgia continues to leave an impression on one program graduate, years after attending.

Boyd Elrod graduated from the 2019 Middle Georgia Regional Leadership Champions program, developed by the UGA J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development in partnership with the Middle Georgia Regional Commission.

“When I am engaged in leadership positions, I keep falling back on principles I learned during the sessions to evaluate all sides and see the greater good,” Elrod said. “I am analytical and introspective, and the program opened my eyes to see how I could key in on those traits and sharpen them to make myself a more effective leader and communicator.”

Those skills have served Elrod both in his career in information technology and in community service.

“Something that really stuck with me was the idea we listen, we process, and we reflect,” Elrod said. “It makes sure that we have all the information before making a decision. That transcends not only in my professional aspects of what I do, but in my personal life as well.”

Launched in 2015, the Middle Georgia Regional Leadership Champions program brings together leaders from the government, education, nonprofit and business sectors to develop their leadership skills and become more engaged in the 11-county middle Georgia region.

A 2021 report from the Fanning Institute showed that 100% of participants surveyed said they were equipped to make the middle Georgia region better after completing the program.

“The program helps broaden your mindset,” Elrod said. “It is about the region, not just one county or another. It made me think outside of the box. We all face similar challenges and if one community found a way to address something, we should share those resources across the region to help everybody.”

Thinking beyond community boundaries represents a key priority of the UGA Fanning Institute’s regional leadership programs, which combine leadership skills training in areas such as communication, decision-making and conflict management with awareness of regional resources and issues.

“Especially in rural areas, communities on their own may have limited resources to take advantage of opportunities or solve a particular problem,” said Brittany Adams-Pope, UGA Fanning Institute public service faculty member. “Developing people’s leadership skills in a regional context allows leaders in neighboring communities to work together and generate an even greater positive impact.”

The program in middle Georgia has garnered national attention.

The National Association of Development Organizations recognized the program with the Aliceann Wohlbruck Impact Award in 2022. This award recognizes projects that have advanced regional economic development and improved quality of life and made significant impacts on their regions.

“We are very proud of the partnership with the UGA Fanning Institute and the way in which this program has impacted individuals and the region as a whole,” said Laura Mathis, executive director of the Middle Georgia Regional Commission upon receiving the award. “Collaborations such as this help generate progress on a regional level, and the program fosters those while increasing regional awareness and understanding.”

More than 150 people have completed the Middle Georgia Regional Leadership Champions program.

“I just have high grades for the program,” Elrod said. “I wish that more people would take advantage of leadership development opportunities like this one. This program really had an impact on me, and I think others would be impacted as well.”

For more information on the UGA Fanning Institute’s regional leadership programs, click here.

Writer: Charlie Bauder, charlie.bauder@fanning.uga.edu