Experience Shore Leadership

By Sandra Zunino

Shore Leadership was formed in 1997 to facilitate a positive change and enhance the quality of life among Eastern Shore communities. Modeled after national and regional leadership organizations under the Talbot County Chamber of Commerce, Shore Leadership is a non-profit organization devoted to developing strong leadership and partnerships to foster a regional approach to community issues.

By further educating proven leaders on the Eastern Shore, Shore Leadership promotes character and shared ownership of select individuals to positively influence the future of this area.

“There are many such community leadership development programs around Maryland and across the country,” says Shore Leadership President, Nancy Andrew. “We differ in that we cover a larger geographic area than most.”

One vital component of the program’s mission is to address the issues of how to work across county lines. “The issues of the shore affect all the counties,” says Nancy.

“Each year, we recruit a class of community leaders who commit to meeting once a month for nine months,” explains Nancy. “Want people who have a proven track record of leadership, who represent the whole region and come from many different professions.”

Participants meet throughout the Eastern Shore, beginning with an overnight retreat in April and culminating in a December graduation ceremony. In addition to leadership training facilitated by a master-certified Leadership Coach, each session focuses on a topic of regional interest including legacy, technology, economic development, community and arts, environment, education and government.

This year’s class has 24 leaders, which is the average class size and small enough to create a tight, interactive group. “We’ve experimented over time to find the right size that give us a mix of people from different fields, professions and all different ages,” says Nancy, “including men and women from all parts of the shore.”

Recruits are found by Shore Leadership alumni. “We want to see people who have dedicated time to community involvement beyond work,” says Nancy, “typically volunteering or contributing somewhere else in the community through their church, PTA, community bank board, etc.”

Participants pay an application fee of $100. If accepted, each pays an additional $1,800 to participate in the program. The fees are used to meet the costs of the educational seminars. “We try to keep costs reasonable so the program is accessible,” says Nancy. “Other comparable programs cost $5,000 to $6,000.”

After completing the program, graduates have run for public offices, served on community non-profit boards and moved onto other leadership jobs in their own careers, according to Nancy. “We want to continue to foster and support that,” she says.

Nancy, who graduated from the program in 2002, says the networking aspect of the program was invaluable to her. She also enjoyed touring and experiencing the behind-the-scenes look at industries she otherwise would not have been exposed.

While the program is community leadership oriented, graduates can also take advantage of furthering their careers. “Now that we have more than 10 years under our belt, we have a network of 250 alumni graduate leaders,” says Nancy, “We are really starting to look at what kind of services we can offer to those alumni and how can we keep everyone connected.”

For more information about Shore Leadership, visit www.shoreleadership.org.