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  • Writer's pictureDeb Macfarlan Enright

Leadership After Dark - The Blueprint

In conversation with Dr. Patrick Leddin on his top rated podcast, Leadership Lab, we talked about my concept of Leadership After Dark – that consequential and satisfying practice of leadership “away from” the office, “outside of” the workday, or after dark that benefits those in the community determined to make the world better.



As we chatted, I provided a blueprint to maximize your Leadership After Dark impact. The blueprint includes a four step process:


· Listen to the vision of the organization in how and who they serve


· Learn what challenges, successes, gaps, etc. they face in the short term and over time


· Look for ways your expertise, experience, and network can benefit the organization or those they serve


· Lean in to leverage your resources, talent, and time to have a consequential impact within the organization or those they serve


A recent wine tasting at Arrington Vineyards with fellow alumni from the Leadership Brentwood program reminded me of just how fun it is practicing Leadership After Dark in our own community.

You know this type of civic leadership program. They are available in various formats including city, county, and regional programs.


Inside of a year’s time, these learning experiences seek to educate citizens provoking actions of good to enhance the livability of the community. Forming yearly cohorts, the programs provide an extensive tour of the community’s infrastructure and local amenities that contribute to the quality of life experienced by the residents and businesses. For many, such programs introduce them to what is best as well as the most challenging aspects of the community – showing a bit of how the sausage is made - to engage participants in some “what if …?” thinking.


What starts as a collection of strangers slowly morphs into a group of do gooders determined to create a project experience that may shift an existing burden, explain or record a bit of history, focus on citizen health, support social impact organizations, or beautify the community.


Throughout the program, the participants practice the Leadership After Dark L4 process:

  • To Listen first and foremost to those assembled to educate and engage the cohort

  • To Learn how the community’s organizations work

  • To Look around the community reflecting on how they might go do good

  • To Lean in and leverage their expertise and experience to add value to their community

During my experiences in Leadership Brentwood, along with my cohort, we listened and engaged with the program speakers who had curated each full day learning opportunity.


We learned from the access these programs provided to leaders including city officials, business owners, and social impact/nonprofit leaders.


We looked to create projects that would bring a benefit to the community, perhaps closing a gap in services or introducing a new amenity.


And we leaned in to leverage our expertise, experience, and networks to ensure we enhanced the community is a significant and sustainable way.


I loved participating in the Leadership Brentwood program. It changed my life. I was the most unlikely candidate for the program (stay-at-home Mom who had recently kicked cancer’s ass while completing my doctorate from Vanderbilt with very little ties to the community save for starting to teach preschool music at Day School at Brentwood United Methodist Church and having our girls in the public school system – I know …). But Greg Lemon (one of my community leader heroes) saw something in my application and said “let’s invite her to join us”. I’ve made lots of friends and learned so much about Brentwood, Williamson County, the Nashville area within Middle Tennessee, and the people who serve those in need, help our students, take care of our parks, see to it that animals are rescued by loving families, provide a window into the area’s history, and more.


And what kind of good has this unique program in Brentwood brought to all of us in the community?


Well, quite a bit including:

· The Eddy Arnold Amphitheatre at Crockett Park

· The Martin Center – a Fifty Forward senior social support location and community event space

· Murals – (We are big on these here in the Nashville area. Literally have folks flying in to post their completion of the Mural Walk/Trail through town.)

· Bike Pathways with self-repair stations secured along with route


I also have to give a shout out to my fellow alumni in the Leadership Franklin program. The City of Franklin is amazing in its dedication to growing an engaged citizenry. Just last week, our alumni group kicked off it first official event that included a sneak peek visit to the brand new Turner Theatre now the permanent residence of the home grown Studio Tenn theatre company to enjoy a live performance from” The Million Dollar Baby” cast (show tickets still available). The good done by this illustrious alumni group would take up most posts over the next month to do their accomplishments justice.


These program help all of us remember how important civic leadership is in creating and sustaining the neighborhoods and communities we choose to call “home”.


These opportunities to use your LAD skills are everywhere.


What programs in your community could you participate in to practice the Leadership After Dark blueprint: to Listen, to Learn, to Look, and to Lean In to maximize your impact as you go do good?


Deb is the Founder of The Macfarlan Group. She loves learning about leadership through the stories of those who do good to make the world better. This topic of Leadership After Dark feeds into Deb's belief that everyone - no matter their station - has the ability actually the responsibility to lean in to do good to make the world better whether alleviating the hunger of a family, rescuing a discarded dog, or helping a child learn to read. She is collecting these stories to bring to you to spur on action as well as help us understand the intrinsic value of lending one's specific strengths to do good.


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