Julie Thorson
Julie Thorson

Who would have thought that sitting on a quiet dock in West River, MD, would have anything to do with leadership? 

Turns out it’s the perfect place for a transformative leadership experience. I recently completed the LeadingAge Leadership Educator Program.

When I began my career in this field, I had no idea what a true journey it would be — the twists and turns, self-development, amazing people, compassion for those older than us. This career path has been the most rewarding experience imaginable. 

The Leadership Educator Program was an amazing summer experience that stretched me to enjoy and embrace the work we do even more than I had before. Taking time for reflective practice is necessary and so worth the time and energy spent. I’ve come to the realization that doing work like this is not common. As leaders, it’s a gift we need to hold on to but also give away. Not everyone takes the time. Take the time!

The Leadership Educator Program is an amazing journey led by the inspiring Judy Brown and the focused Wendy Green. There are so many adjectives to describe these two talented women, but inspiring and focused seem to fit. Students of the Academy spent a week in May at Judy’s home, which is truly a peaceful retreat. In June and July, virtual meetings via Zoom were held. Again, in July we were at Judy’s home for the final week. While the logistics are impressive, the content is transformative. 

This program is a peek behind the curtain of the Larry Minnix Leadership Academy. I completed that program in 2015. I know many of my alumni friends would say the academy is life-changing. Sure, that may sound cliché, but clichés are what they are because they are anchored in truth. In life, you get what you put into anything, and the academy came at the perfect time for me to really embrace my leadership style. Learning more about myself and giving myself permission to be the leader I was meant to be is what the academy did for me. 

The Leadership Educator Program takes it to the next level. Looking inside out — not only on your own leadership strengths but also how to truly give that gift to others — is what the program is all about. 

The Friday after I returned home from Judy’s, I hosted an afternoon at my home for our executive team. Six of us gathered on my patio, enjoyed the Iowa air and talked leadership. We focused on our strengths, talked about what our team needs from us, and spent time discussing and giving feedback on emotional intelligence. 

For us, this has become a part of our culture. Time out of the office, focusing on ourselves and each other is how we roll. The work is important. The work matters because the business of everyday sometimes gets the best of us. As leaders, we need to take time to get away, slow down, listen to each other and be self-reflective. 

The Leadership Educator Program provides the tools to bring this work into your organizations, to help you make it a part of the fabric of your organizations. 

Julie Thorson’s was the 2018 recipient of the LeadingAge Dr. Herbert Shore Outstanding Mentor of the Year award. Her “Living Leadership” blog was named the 2016 “Best New Department” Bronze Award winner by the American Society of Health Publication Editors. The president and CEO of Friendship Haven, a life plan community in Fort Dodge, IA, Thorson is a coach’s daughter at heart. A former part-time nursing home social worker, she is a licensed nursing home administrator and has been a participant in LeadingAge’s Leadership Academy.