Innovation’s role in leadership

Denise Smith


The work of building community leaders is a dynamic endeavor. It requires innovative thinking and a commitment to continuous improvement. Two examples that reflect an innovative spirit at LCC include our approach to curriculum and our connection to our alumni.

LCC’s curriculum is designed to give a broad overview of issues relevant to Clark County in a format that incorporates best practices of adult learning theory. As a result, many of our class sessions today look different than they did in 1993.

These days, LCC incorporates a systems-thinking approach to help underscore the “30,000-foot” thinking that leadership requires.

Additionally, our guest faculty apply current concepts in leadership to real-world examples specific to Clark County. These range from how Christensen Yachts is using the lean manufacturing process at their Vancouver shipyards, to how legalization of gay marriage in Washington is now part of the conversation about building a strategic business case for diversity and inclusion at Clark County companies and agencies.  

Consequently, classes can be a catalyst for consideration of divergent viewpoints – a key element of innovative thinking and successful leadership.

Now that LCC has hundreds of alumni, staying connected to them also looks different than it did in our early history. Social media plays a growing role; in fact, LCC Board Member and Marketing Chair Jim Mains recently reported a 425-percent increase in LCC’s Facebook page postings during the last six months.

Another recent innovation for our alumni is post-class educational offerings. Last year, we partnered with the Nonprofit Network to provide a specialized training for LCC alumni. This March, LCC is providing a Cultural Competency Workshop for alumni and the broader community in collaboration with the Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Clark County.

And then there’s the work of LCC alums themselves. We challenge LCC classes to bring innovation to their thinking, to their community projects and to their lives after they graduate. Given our 600 alumni, the examples I could cite would fill volumes.

Because shaping community leaders is a dynamic endeavor, it requires ongoing work and innovation. Now is the perfect time for Clark County’s civic-minded businesses and individuals to step forward.


Denise Smith joined Leadership Clark County as executive director in 2010. Prior to that, she served as a senior manager for a statewide nonprofit. She is a member of the Nonprofit Network of Southwest Washington and a past president of the Society of Marketing Professional Services Oregon-Southwest Washington chapter. She can be reached at

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