Leadership Personal growth

Embracing Lifelong Learning in the Canadian Municipal Sector

Municipal Workers Downtown Toronto

In today’s dynamic and rapidly evolving world, continuous learning and professional development are vital components of success for executive leaders in Canada’s municipal organizations. These leaders are responsible for navigating complex challenges, driving innovation, and fostering positive change in their communities. To fulfill these responsibilities effectively, they must continuously enhance their knowledge, skills, and leadership abilities.

The Canadian Municipal Leadership Accelerator at Ivey is designed to equip executive leaders in the municipal sector with the tools and insights needed to excel in their roles. This article explores the value of professional development and lifelong learning, drawing from the experiences and testimonials of three leaders who participated in the program.

Katrina Furlanetto is General Manager at Cataraqui Conservation. Alana Del Greco is the Manager of Policy and Government Relations at the Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks, and Treasurers of Ontario (AMCTO). Amy Grose is the Manager of Recreation for the Township of Mapleton.


Adaptability in a Fast-Paced World

The world is constantly evolving, and the challenges facing municipalities are no exception. Demographic shifts, technological advancements, climate change, and economic fluctuations all require leaders to adapt and respond quickly. By engaging in continuous learning, executive leaders in municipal organizations can better anticipate these changes and develop proactive strategies for addressing emerging issues.

Staying informed about the latest trends, best practices, and innovative solutions enables leaders to make well-informed decisions that benefit their communities in the long run.

Q: What motivated you to enroll in the Canadian Municipal Leadership Accelerator?

Alana Del Greco: As a relatively new leader, I wanted to gain deeper insight into various leadership approaches and better understand my own values, capabilities, and skills. My aim was not only to advance my career but also to become a more effective manager for my employees.

Amy Grose: As a new member of our senior leadership team, I felt it was crucial to find a form of professional development to enhance my skills. With a background in education, I strongly believe in ongoing learning, particularly in leadership within the municipal sphere.

Katrina Furlanetto: I chose to take the municipal leadership program based on recommendations from colleagues. They emphasized the excellent opportunity to meet others in similar executive positions, learn about various challenges, and collaborate on problem-solving. The program helped me understand my leadership style and apply the lessons learned to my organization.


Enhancing Decision-Making and Problem-Solving Skills

Effective decision-making and problem-solving are crucial skills for executive leaders in municipal organizations. Continuous learning can help leaders refine these skills by exposing them to diverse perspectives, case studies, and new methodologies. By engaging in various learning opportunities, such as workshops, seminars, and online courses, leaders can deepen their understanding of complex issues and develop new approaches to addressing challenges within their municipalities. This ongoing process of learning and reflection enables executive leaders to make more informed decisions, manage risks, and drive positive change within their organizations.

Q: How would you describe the learning experience in the program?

Alana Del Greco: Learning from passionate professionals who have dedicated their careers to studying leadership styles, values, and practices provides a profound understanding of both leadership theory and application. The faculty's enthusiasm and desire to help others comprehend their own leadership styles and approaches contribute to a more comprehensive and well-rounded experience.

Amy Grose: The faculty were engaging and passionate about the subject matter, making the learning experience enjoyable and educational. The program's interactive nature exceeded my expectations, as I had anticipated a more lecture-style approach. This interactive environment allowed us to feel connected and work collaboratively throughout the course.

Katrina Furlanetto: Learning from Ivey's enthusiastic faculty was a rewarding experience. They brought diverse perspectives and extensive backgrounds in research and leadership to the table, creating a safe, challenging, and motivating environment.


Building Collaborative Networks

Engaging in continuous learning provides executive leaders with the opportunity to build networks with other professionals, both within and outside their specific areas of expertise. This collaborative approach can foster innovative thinking, as leaders learn from one another's experiences and share knowledge, ideas, and best practices. In addition, building strong networks can help municipal leaders identify potential partnerships, resources, and opportunities that may benefit their communities.

Continuous learning, therefore, not only expands one's personal knowledge and skills but also contributes to the development of broader collaborative networks that can drive meaningful change.

Q: What are the benefits of studying alongside other municipal leaders in the program?

Alana Del Greco: Studying alongside other municipal leaders allowed me to hear diverse perspectives and approaches to leadership in various scenarios. The exposure to alternative points of view and leadership styles helped me learn from others' experiences, which in turn clarified my own approach to leadership and how I would handle various situations throughout my career.

Amy Grose: Learning alongside other leaders offered valuable networking opportunities and the chance to connect with people from other smaller municipalities facing similar challenges. We've already established correspondence and are excited about potential collaborations on projects.

Katrina Furlanetto: The diverse group of participants from different industries offered unique insights into leadership challenges and team dynamics. The networking sessions and breakout rooms allowed us to problem-solve and discuss successes, making the most of the program's diverse perspectives.


Fostering a Culture of Learning and Innovation

Executive leaders who actively engage in continuous learning set a powerful example for their organizations, promoting a culture of learning and innovation. By demonstrating the importance of ongoing professional development, leaders encourage their teams to embrace similar learning opportunities, fostering a growth mindset and a commitment to excellence. This culture of learning can help municipal organizations adapt to changing circumstances, enhance service delivery, and improve overall performance.

Q: How did the case method and interactive learning help your learning outcomes?

Alana Del Greco: The case method and interactive learning enabled me to apply my values and leadership characteristics, as well as the knowledge acquired from the faculty to real-life scenarios. This hands-on approach was eye-opening and allowed me to test my values and reactions in different situations, ultimately clarifying my perspective on leadership.

Amy Grose: A memorable teaching moment from the program was the "mountain climbing" simulation. It provided a hands-on opportunity to apply our learning and observe everyone's unique leadership skills and abilities. The activity fostered a sense of connection and involvement.

Katrina Furlanetto: Interactive learning provided a dynamic and safe space for open discussions about overcoming challenges and learning from other leaders. The program's interactive nature was not intimidating; it facilitated guided conversations and encouraged engagement.


Personal Growth and Self-Improvement

While continuous learning undoubtedly benefits executive leaders in their professional capacities, it also contributes to personal growth and self-improvement. Engaging in lifelong learning helps leaders cultivate a sense of curiosity, humility, and resilience, as they are constantly challenged to reevaluate their assumptions and adapt to new information. This process of reflection and self-awareness can enhance leaders' emotional intelligence, empathy, and communication skills, ultimately contributing to more effective leadership.

Q: What are some of your key learnings from the experience?

Alana Del Greco: As a result of this program, I have gained a better understanding of my own leadership approach and recognize that this type of learning is not a one-time event. Cultivating leadership practice and understanding my values as a leader are essential for guiding my staff and bringing out the best in both them and myself.

What resonated with me was learning to appreciate and work with different leadership styles and adapting my own approach when collaborating with others. Gaining a better understanding of how to identify others' leadership styles will help me become a more effective communicator, collaborator, and colleague, enabling me to guide others on their leadership journey.

Amy Grose: One aspect of the program that stood out to me was exploring different learning and leadership styles. It was invaluable to apply this knowledge to my team and identify ways we could collaborate more effectively. I also discovered how to better connect with everyone on my team and within my workplace.

Katrina Furlanetto: A standout feature of the program was the leadership character assessment, which offered personalized insights and practical action plans for team-building exercises within my organization. Each module and discussion was designed to be easily implemented in the workplace, building confidence and competence.


Deepening Leadership Awareness

Building self-awareness through professional development is crucial for leaders, as it allows them to recognize their strengths, weaknesses, and leadership styles. By understanding their own tendencies, leaders can adapt their approach, improve communication, and foster stronger relationships within their teams. This self-awareness also encourages personal growth, enabling leaders to tackle challenges, make informed decisions, and create a positive work environment that supports their team's success and the overall objectives of the organization.

Q: How has participating in this program influenced your personal approach to leadership?

Alana Del Greco: Participating in this program has opened my eyes to the ongoing nature of leadership practice and has made me realize the importance of constantly honing my skills as an individual and a team member to support and advance both my colleagues and organization, regardless of whether the situation is positive or challenging.

Amy Grose: The program has undoubtedly made a difference in my leadership abilities. It has helped me better understand my team and ensure that everyone feels heard and can contribute ideas. Overall, the experience has been positive and has significantly enhanced my leadership skills.

Katrina Furlanetto: The program's results, including the leadership character assessment and other aspects, provided a platform for reflection and continuous improvement as a leader. The course equipped me with the tools to bring this learning back to my organization and even help my leadership team with their own learning and development.


Career Advancement and Succession Planning

Continuous learning is essential for career advancement and succession planning within municipal organizations. Executive leaders who consistently expand their knowledge and skills demonstrate their commitment to excellence, making them strong candidates for future leadership opportunities. Moreover, by investing in their own professional development, leaders are better equipped to mentor and develop the next generation of municipal leaders, ensuring the ongoing success and sustainability of their organizations.

Q: Who would you recommend this program to, and why?

Alana Del Greco: I would recommend this program to both new and established leaders, as it can help many individuals refine their approach to leadership and gain a deeper understanding of key concepts. From the case method to learning from passionate faculty members, the program emphasizes the importance of collaboration, storytelling, character-building, and commitment in one's leadership practice when faced with real-life scenarios that impact an organization.

Amy Grose: I wholeheartedly recommend this program to others seeking professional development opportunities. It offers a unique and valuable learning experience that can greatly benefit leaders in various fields.

Katrina Furlanetto: I highly recommend this program to anyone in a leadership position or aspiring to be a leader. The program offers invaluable learning from other executive leaders, insights into your leadership style, and opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Making the commitment to participate in this program is well worth the investment of time and resources. The professional development benefits gained from this program have a lasting impact on your organization and the value you bring to your team. The engaging nature of the course keeps distractions at bay, ensuring a positive and enriching experience. Working with Ivey was truly an invaluable opportunity.