Leadership Development Key to Leading Central Appalachia through Economic Transition

Fahe’s Senior Media Producer Aaron Phelps (far right) is participating in Ridgeway: A Transformative Leadership Experience. Fahe strives to cultivate leadership in Appalachia.

Fahe’s Senior Media Producer Aaron Phelps (far right) is participating in Ridgeway: A Transformative Leadership Experience. Fahe strives to cultivate leadership in Appalachia.

It’s a Friday night but the work day hasn’t ended for a group of folks representing nonprofits and small businesses in Central Appalachia. They gather at one of Kentucky’s state parks with a shared vision—to become effective leaders working across sectors toward a bright future in the region.

In this time of economic transition, Fahe strives to develop and retain leaders who will further our mission to eliminate persistent poverty in Appalachia. In fact, Fahe’s strategic plan embraces leadership as a key to bringing positive change to our communities.

To that end, several Fahe staff members are graduates of, or current participants in, Ridgeway: A Transformative Leadership Experience, an extensive nine-month cohort experience tailored to Central Appalachian leaders.

Fahe Vice President of Single-Family Lending Laura Meadows described the experience as transformational stating, “I showed up as one person and graduated as another. Through this program I have learned that everyone has the capability of being a great leader. This cohort showed me how to identify and expand on the qualities that I already possess and take that back with me to be the best version of me I can be for myself, my organization, and my Appalachia.”

The theory behind Ridgeway is that in-depth personal growth allows people to show up as their best selves at the organizational level, enabling them to facilitate change in the region and become the most authentic leaders. Participants attend a series of multi-day intensive retreats, benefit from coaching and accountability support, and create personal development plans.

“The most rewarding piece of facilitating Ridgeway is knowing that people are showing up to do really in-depth personal work and that has the potential to have significant impact on work we can do in the region,” notes facilitator and program leader Carrie Brunk.

The program allows for individual goal-setting, rather than a prescriptive “one-size-fits-all” approach. Fahe’s VP of Marketing Anthony Newman states, “Unlike many leadership programs out there, Ridgeway wasn’t designed to present some sort of ‘optimal’ leadership method or style. We were provided a supportive yet accountable environment to explore our personal ideas of leadership and encouraged to set goals that saw that leadership manifest in our lives.”

With the second-year cohort underway, Brunk states that she is already able to see the long-term impact of the program, especially with organizations like Fahe who have had multiple people participate.

“I see organizational level, and community level changes,” she states. “Participants doing deep personal work have a cadre of people with this shared experience. There’s now a group who can make difference in the region with this work of transition.”

Recruitment for the next cohort of Ridgeway: A Transformative Leadership Experience begins in the spring. For additional information, email Carrie Brunk (carrielbrunk@gmail.com).