Recently I was asked to be on a panel for United Way’s Emerging Leaders Society (ELS) Leadership Symposium, and I am still reeling from the experience. Here is what I’ve come to understand might be the cause.

Commitment to contribute
Everyone in attendance at the United Way’s Emerging Leaders Society Leadership Symposium was actively working on things bigger than themselves, no matter if they were a senior executive of a huge company, a student pursuing their degree, or a spiritual leader of a local church. I couldn’t believe the community impact “side hustles” everyone spoke so passionately about. It gave me hope that the world can be even better.

Celebrated diversity
As a middle-aged white guy, I happily found myself surrounded by people who didn’t look, sound, or think as I do – and they weren’t just different from me, but different from each other. An attendee visiting from Boston remarked that they would be hard-pressed to bring together a group as diverse, even in a city as large as Boston. It opened my eyes and my heart to new ways to see the world.


Compassionate respect
The level of heartfelt greetings and exchanges I not only witnessed but experienced was moving. It was evident the deep level of love everyone had for each other, and rightly so, based on what everyone was up to and why they were there (to celebrate the achievements of young professionals who had been working hard on the design and deployment of community impact initiatives). It encouraged me to engage everyone around me more warmly.

Eager connections
I always strive to make meaningful connections at events. However, I find, that most of them remain on the surface. The difference was that in EVERY instance, a request for connection was not only sincere but followed up on. Weeks later, I’m still having one or two meetings a week with people I met at the event. In fact, many of those meetings have led to emerging partnerships. It has created new opportunities for me to grow.


The environment invited everyone to connect beyond the surface, and as a result, we all engaged—deeply. It was as if we were there to find clues that could unlock the future, even though we were all so wildly different in so many ways. The ambitions the attendees have for the future of their community are profound. I think everyone recognized that the only way to make those ambitions real, is together. This, I believe, is what really made this event so special. How do I know? Because I find myself going out of my way to dedicate support to and call others toward the vision of ELS.


To learn more about United Way’s Emerging Leaders Society (which I suggest you do!) visit:

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