Leadership program expanding to North Shore

·3 min read

Jan. 25—A program that provides Harvard Business School training for leaders to tackle some of the area's biggest problems is coming to the North Shore.

The program, called LEADS, will train up to 100 people during 10-month fellowships with the goal of forming project teams to take on issues such as housing, health care and the opioid crisis.

"This is a unique opportunity that will create value for all the participants and the region as a whole," LEADS President Derek Mitchell said Monday during a virtual press conference announcing the launch of the program on the North Shore.

LEADS was created in 2018 by Mitchell, the former executive director for the Lawrence Partnership in Lawrence, along with Pam Hallagan, director of custom executive education at Harvard Business School, and Jeff Bussgang, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and general partner of Flybridge Capital Partners.

The program, which Bussgang called a "world-class executive education and experience," has trained 160 fellows in Lawrence, Lowell and Haverhill. The 10-month fellowship is designed and delivered by faculty and staff from Harvard Business School.

The fellows come up with proposed solutions to a particular problem and pitch those solutions to potential funders. So far, LEADS fellows have secured $25 million in philanthropic funding to support their projects, Bussgang said.

"That's the thing that's been so unique about this program," he said. "It's not only extensive education and top academic teaching, but it's applied, and it's applied in your community."

Socrates De La Cruz, an attorney from Lawrence who was in the first cohort of new leaders, said his group helped spur a revitalization of downtown Lawrence. The group bought a dozen buildings in the downtown, four of which had been boarded-up for more than five years, he said.

"We put our money where our mouth is," De La Cruz said. "We came in, took the boards down. Now they're packed with businesses that are thriving."

De La Cruz said one of the keys to LEADS' success is that it develops cohorts of leaders who work together.

"Everybody's community has different issues, but everybody's community issues cannot be tackled by just one person," he said. "We found we could tackle bigger issues that we could not tackle on our own."

LEADS fellows responded to the gas explosion in Lawrence and the COVID-19 pandemic, and have worked on issues such as food insecurity and helping non-English speakers get manufacturing jobs.

On the North Shore, the fellowships will be open to leaders from Salem, Peabody, Beverly and Lynn. Fellows will be nominated and selected by the program's area partners and a North Shore-based selection committee. They will be trained in two cohorts in 2022 and 2023.

LEADS is expanding to the North Shore in collaboration with Essex County Community Foundation, which is helping to fund the project.

"Back in 2018 we saw the LEADS program and the LEADS fellows in action during the response efforts to the Merrimack Valley gas explosions," Essex County Community Foundation CEO Beth Francis said. "They were positioned so well to step up during crisis and relief. We truly understand the value that LEADS fellows can bring and that's why ECCF is investing in the expansion of this program here on the North Shore."

Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at pleighton@gloucestertimes.com, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.

Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at pleighton@gloucestertimes.com, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.