Over the past few years I’ve grown familiar with the benefits of the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation’s (DMCLF) programs: an expanded network of high-powered professionals; exposure not only to civic problems, but also to potential solutions for those problems; a deepened sense of community and possibility. And my first Leadership Exchange (LEX) trip to Munich provided all of those in spades. But to be honest, I still haven’t fully come to terms with the implications of the trip professionally and personally.
The delegation of 130+ leaders from myriad industries was formidable. At various points over the four days of the trip I found myself chatting over lunch about statewide expansion of my nonprofit with the CEO of a major non-profit, discussing social justice on the bus with the Mayor’s security detail, drinking steins of beer with entrepreneurs who have built multi-million dollar businesses from scratch, and getting so embroiled in a conversation with the Governor about his recent trip to India that he was nearly late to his next event!
But to say that LEX is purely about exposure to these incredible leaders is to pay short shrift to the true value of the experience. The fact is these leaders live and operate in Colorado and they’re often accessible – one of my favorite parts of the Colorado corporate culture.
Instead I’d argue that true value of LEX lies in the ability to have meaningful discussions with these leaders about the civic challenges facing our great state, while learning from and being inspired by leaders around the country (and now the world).
You can have a conversation about transportation and mobility with the head of the Colorado Department of Transportation, but that conversation is completely different when you’ve just heard the engineers at BMW claim that Munich will reduce the number of cars on the road by 50 percent in the next 30 years.
You can discuss apprenticeship models with the founder of Careerwise, but the conversation is made considerably richer when you’re hearing from an entrepreneur incubating in a local technical university.
You can chat about Denver’s sanctuary city status with the Mayor, but when you’re standing on the roof of a 100-unit affordable housing structure created for refugees that overlooks the swimming pool of the 1972 Munich Olympics, the implications take on deeper resonance.
For these reasons and others, LEX was a transformative experience. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have attended, and I’ve come back inspired by possibilities for Colorado. And that, I believe, is the true beauty of the experience.
Savinay Chandrasekhar is the Executive Director of Minds Matter of Denver.