A City That Supports Leadership Training

Somerville, Massachusetts is a city of 75,000 people located just north of Boston. Somerville as a city understands the importance of leadership training. Two years ago the city brought in Dr. Hugh O’Doherty a Harvard professor and leadership expert to teach City managers and department heads adaptive leadership skills.

Mayor Joseph Curtatone recently created the Somerville Academy for Innovative Leadership (SAIL), to provide free adaptive leadership skills training to residents. The six-session Art and Practice of Public Leadership course is open to all Somerville residents or employees of nonprofits based in Somerville. The course is free, but in exchange for this leadership training, the city asks that participants give back 30 hours of community engagement of their choice. Each participant will be able to choose their own activities from participating in public meetings or joining a board or commission to volunteering at a local nonprofit or starting a new community-based effort.

In a Somerville news article Dr. O’Doherty stated: “In some ways, adaptive leadership is a quite radical idea, because it involves everyone in problem solving by giving the work back to the group. The approach also offers a framework for identifying and addressing the root cause of an issue – something we call an adaptive challenge. It’s really quite impressive to see a municipality offer this kind of training to community actors so that they too can get to the heart of what they would like to achieve or change.”

I am not familiar with Adaptive Leadership but apparently it has been adopted by many organizations, including: Microsoft, the United States Department of Justice, the New York City Fire Department, and the Stonewall Organization.

Offering leadership training to department heads and residents is rare at the local government level. Perhaps the local government in your community could do something similar.


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