Geoff's Blog: Is the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute worthwhile for entrepreneurs?

Every Wednesday Geoff publishes "The Pull", a digest of the top news for the Iowa innovation community that week. The following is the introduction to Issue #149.

As a natural part of what I do, I’m constantly thinking about the role of a “community” in helping to support innovation and particularly those building startup companies. For most of the past year, however, I’ve also been thinking a lot about the role of startups in a broader community context as I’ve participated in the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute’s Community Leadership Program.

Over the course of nine months, the CLP curriculum focuses on leadership development, getting to know the Des Moines community better and serving a non-profit partner. It’s intensive, a significant time commitment and kind of spendy (for those of us without continuing education budgets).

I get asked a lot if the program is worthwhile for entrepreneurs. I didn’t have that answer when we started last August—I initially participated because it felt like something I should do, not necessarily because it's something I wanted to do—but it quickly surpassed all my expectations.

I knew the network would be valuable and I’m already seeing benefit from that. Thanks to this program, I now have leadership-track friends working inside many of Central Iowa’s established businesses that I expect to call upon for all sorts of things in the future. Plus, there’s now 48 new advocates for what I’m working to build here with Gravitate.

I really underestimated the value of learning about Des Moines though since I kind of thought that I already had the place figured out. GDMLI exposed me to several parts of the community that I likely would never have made the effort to visit, to all sorts of venues I’d never seen and to many social and cultural issues that I’d never considered. We all know the value of “getting outside the building” and experiencing diverse situations/viewpoints but sometimes it take a reason like this to motivate you to actually do it.

Even though most of you are probably heads down right now working on something, I’d encourage you to check out GDMLI or whatever leadership program is offered in your community. And, don’t be afraid to wear jeans and hoodie. I made it all the way until graduation day, last Thursday, without putting on a suit.