Last week I attended the AIA Leadership Institute in Phoenix, AZ. Over the past few months I have been volunteering on the Planning Committee for the Leadership Institute. The planning for this event has been years in the making, so I came on board a little later in the process. Needless to say, I had my questions and concerns about another conference on leadership but as in most situations, instead of standing idly by and questioning, I dived in head first and started to help out with the planning and organizing of this extensive one-day conference.
I became invested in the success of this. Typical of new events, the biggest challenge is getting people to attend because they are unsure of the track record of the event. There are so many risks, yet as I found after a full day in Phoenix, so many rewards.
The organization of the conference was unique. The main hub was based in Washington, DC with four regional venues in Phoenix, Cleveland, Boston and San Antonio. Four speakers were broadcast from DC to the regional venues using Adobe Connect. The regional venues were responsible for then finding three to four of their own sessions to fill the rest of the day.
The conference started with a few technical difficulties, which was probably to be expected. During the extended breaks, I got to know some of the great leaders out of AIA Arizona and even toured the local SmithGroupJJR office. Once the technical issues were ironed out, I was surprised at how engaged a room of people hundreds of miles from the speaker could be. We clapped when the speaker said something great, and we laughed when they brought humor into their sessions. The chat feature built into the Adobe Connect allowed all of the regional venues to ask questions and make comments as if they were in the room.
While my part in the planning of this conference was small, I felt a great sense of accomplishment. Not that this day had gone so well, and I am sure there will only be an even greater event next year, but the targeted topic of leadership was different than the leadership conferences I have attended before. There were hundreds of architects from around the country not only learning to be better leaders, but how to be better leaders in our communities outside of the profession.
This was pivotal in the success of the event. It showed me that there is a network of people out there that are already leaders in the industry but are interested in becoming leaders of their communities, cities and country. One statistic that was mentioned is since 1991 there have been 2668 lawyers serving in the United States Congress and only one architect. As an architect, I may be a little bias in our ability to problem solve, but it seems to me that maybe we could benefit from a few more architects with a different approach to problem solving.
Ultimately, when we become better leaders in our communities, we become a stronger profession. We have shared our ability to uniquely solve issues regarding community, housing, and economics in a way that may be very different from the 2668 congressmen and women who’ve served in the past 25 years. The Leadership Institute was sponsored by the Center for Civic Leadership. If you participate in one conference outside of the normal ones next year, I urge you to participate in this one. It’s inspiring to have only traveled a short distance but remain tied into hundreds of great and aspiring civic leaders in architecture from around the country.