Kyle Coleman applied to the Emerging Leaders Development Program to continue his local government education and shares how he benefited from the coaching experience. 

Why did you choose to apply to this program?

I’m early in my local government career, but have an MPA and MBA already under my belt. So, in this way, I felt stuck between a desire to learn more and a cap on formal graduate work to be done. I perused the ICMA website and found the Emerging Leaders program, which seemed to be the perfect fit for my career stage. I was fortunate to work for a municipality that supported my professional development objectives, as well (Estero, Florida), and knew that they would support this endeavor.

How did this program influence your approach to leadership?

This program reoriented my approach to leadership by encouraging (and forcing) me to actually study human behavior and interactions. I realized that my interpersonal and technical skills could only carry me so far, and that I had much to gain by simply reading what experts had long ago learned. Talking through the challenges of early leadership, and the inevitable “imposter syndrome” that accompanies that, with peers across the country, provided me with greater confidence in my contribution to my municipality. I learned to “lean into” my perspective as a millennial leader.

What was your biggest takeaway from participating in ELDP?

My biggest takeaway was that young leaders have been, are, and will be successful in this field. Through collaboration and frank discussions with my peers across the country, I’ve grown as a leader. The program also invigorated my desire to help incoming municipal leaders.

Did you enjoy the coaching experience? How did you benefit from it?

I did. For me, there are two benefits of coaching. Firstly, it provides perspective that I would not otherwise have. As we know, so many issues that we face today stem from decisions of the past. While this is clear in many facets of public life, there are instances at the local level where this connection is not intuitive. The perspective of experienced managers went a long way toward bridging this gap. Secondly, the coaching experience provided our cohort with the opportunity to live successful and failed decisions and processes. For a young leader, gaining this shadow experience, across a litany of functional areas, is invaluable.

How can you use the skills you have gained during the program in a post-pandemic world?

In my opinion, the principles that guided good management during the pandemic will apply after the pandemic. For example, during the pandemic, our village prioritized the safety of our staff, council, and the public. So, we purchased mobile laptops for staff and council, and supported remote work for as long as any single member wished. We didn’t pass judgments and we didn’t exclude based on how each individual approached the pandemic, remote work, and the eventual return to in-person meetings. We told the public exactly what our staff and council were doing to stay safe, and how we were continuing to provide value to them for their highly valued tax dollars. Looking ahead, we will continue to prioritize the safety and well-being of our staff and council, as well as the value of our tax dollars, and implement policies for each in the light of day.

Get more information on the ICMA Emerging Leaders Development Program. Application deadline: August 31, 2021.