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June 1, 2017

The 2017-2018 Leadership Academy Fellows
Leadership Academy Fellows
Passing the baton to the next leadership class

The Florida Bar will train 31 “fellows” for future leadership roles within the legal profession as part of the latest class of the Wm. Reece Smith, Jr., Leadership Academy.

The goal of the academy is to reach out to lawyers from across the diverse state of Florida and help give them the skills and resources to become leaders not only in the legal profession but in their communities.

The year-long program includes one-day meetings at locations throughout the state, beginning at the Bar’s Annual Convention. The curriculum focuses on developing skills and networking opportunities within the legal profession and having the fellows create projects to put their new skills to use.

The meetings feature various speakers and topics, such as learning to work with different workplace personalities; balancing personal, volunteer, and work life; motivating others and delegating; conducting effective meetings; effective leadership styles; and public speaking.

Through the academy, fellows have an opportunity to network with both past and present Bar leaders, including presidents and Board of Governors members. Midway through the program, fellows indicate two preferences for Bar sections, divisions, or committees in which they would like to become involved following graduation.

Diversity is also an important component of the program, and fellows are chosen with the goal of creating a leadership academy class that reflects the different regions and populations of the state.

Camara A. Williams of Orlando, a member of last year’s Leadership Academy class, penned an open letter to the incoming class, to give them a taste of what to expect and how to maximize their experience.

Dear Future Leader,
First, congratulations on being accepted into this wonderful program. The fact that you made it into this prestigious program means that you are already an incredible, impactful member within your community, organization, profession, and within The Florida Bar. Personally, I have always believed leaders are born, not manufactured, and so this program is designed to enhance what you already have within you. With that being said, I wanted to take the time to offer you some insight and possibly guidance on how to maximize this wonderful opportunity placed in front of you. So here are a few lessons that my class has learned and hopes to pay forward.

BE OPEN: As I mentioned earlier, everything you need to become a great leader is already inside of you. However, this program cannot turn dust into gold. That is not the way it works. This program is what you make of it. So, that means if you are a person who is naturally close-minded and cynical, then the program will do nothing for you if you do not open your mind and be willing to learn. Just like church, a synagogue, a tabernacle, temple, or a mosque cannot make you a better person simply by attending; you must immerse yourself within that particular faith in order to generate the necessary effect. Speaking of learning. . .

BE AN ACTIVE LEARNER: The leadership planning team has an awesome year planned for you all. It is full of workshops, speakers, and presentations. The information provided has been specifically chosen to make you greater and more knowledgeable about The Florida Bar and other important issues. However, this is only effective if you are an active learner. That means not only listening intently, but asking questions — tons of questions — and taking notes and being engaged. You will be better for it.

LEARN YOUR CLASSMATES: Each of you was chosen specifically for a reason. However, you will never know that reason if you do not take the time to learn about your classmates outside of session. That means hanging out during the social hour, calling each other privately, emailing, and just continuing to communicate outside of session and Leadership Academy activities. The more you learn from each other and pour into each other, the more the experience will be enriched. These will be your lifelong classmates, so why not make them your lifelong friends? Remember this is not law school, so none of you are in competition, so breathe and enjoy each other. You will be better for it, I promise.

Lastly. . .

BE GRATEFUL: As you already know, you being chosen designates you as special: You are literally .005 percent of the makeup of the Bar, which means only a select few are designated as a fellow. But being grateful just doesn’t stop at being happy you were chosen for the program. It is also displayed by your attitude throughout the program. I am not going to lie to you; some sessions are less exciting than others. But in those times, when it seems like the time has stopped and you can think of a million things to do rather than sit through another session, I want you to center yourself and think about all the hard work and time that was expended to create the program you are now dreading, or literally the thousands of people who will not have the opportunity you are now causally interested in. Being grateful means thinking beyond yourself and understanding the favor that has been placed in your life. Be grateful.

Undoubtedly, you will learn tons more of lessons along your journey. We just hope the above mentioned advice provides you sturdy footing early in your path. Best of luck going forward, congratulations, and welcome to the leadership familia!

Camara A. Williams
Proud Leadership Class IV Fellow

[Revised: 04-26-2018]