Leadership...in Las Vegas

When I applied to Leadership Las Vegas over a year ago, I defined leadership as “a characteristic that inspires others to follow, moving together in the same direction to reach a common goal.” While that language is still an accurate definition, after becoming a member of the Class of 2017, my view of leadership—and the community in which I live—is quite different.

After almost 14 years in the energy efficiency space, moving to Las Vegas three years was quite a professional departure for me. I had to make myself invaluable within a whole new set of industries, as well as create a whole new network. Bottom line: I’d be lying if I didn’t say I initially wanted to apply to Leadership Las Vegas as a networking opportunity.

But what I learned after going through this extensive 10-month program run by the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of commerce was not networking. It was relationship building with likeminded leaders who want to make the most out of being a part of the community. I applied and interviewed to learn more about my adopted hometown. What I gained throughout the process was an inside view on how I can be a part of important issues in Southern Nevada like education, healthcare, and community services.

My classmate Elaina Mulé, with the United Way of Southern Nevada, was very new to Las Vegas when she applied. “As a new resident to Las Vegas with no relationships or personal connections to the city, Leadership Las Vegas ingrained me in this community in ways I could not imagine were possible over the course of just 10 months. The program truly enabled me to make Las Vegas my home and gave me with family and friends that provided—and continue to provide—support, love, and laughter.”

I was shocked at how strong the friendships with classmates and program alumni alike would grow to be. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, as curriculum chair Jennifer Mayon and co-chair Brian Rice set out to create themes of inspiration, collaboration, and gratitude in monthly session days. Those themes set the tone for the entire experience and brought 49 of us from leadership roles across the valley together.

And we weren’t the only ones who were inspired. Rice, Chief Administrative Officer of Boys and Girls Club of Nevada, says, “Serving in a curriculum role and leading the Class of 2017 through the experience had an exponential effect. I now have an affinity for the members of the class who are some of the finest people that live here and make our city great.” Mayon, with the Clark County School District agrees: “I still have a post-graduation gratitude afterglow for the opportunity to collaborate with, learn from, and lead the LLV Class of 2017. They are a force for good in our community. The type of ripple effect we choose to make matters. Creating ripples of kindness, decency, and curiosity instead of judgment will undoubtedly help us to recognize the humanity in ourselves and one another. I can't wait to see the ripple effect that the Class of 2017 will make in our community and the world.

And our views and perceptions of our town have shifted. “Leadership Las Vegas’ real value for me was not just getting me outside of my bubble, but helping me realize what a bubble I live in,” shares classmate Gian Brown, a partner at Hart & Holland. “That occurred from what we focused on, to the people who spoke, to the people who are our classmates.”

Dr. Shellie J. Keller from the College of Southern Nevada has this to say about her experience: “My understanding of the history, challenges, and wonderful opportunities in our community increases my drive to help others and create positive change. My network of people and support is much larger. I’ve made lasting friendships with some amazing and talented people. And to top it all off, I experienced personal growth that is priceless.”

Yes, I have imbibed on the proverbial Kool-Aid when it comes to Leadership Las Vegas. My class did get to do amazing things like visit the Golden Knights’ practice facility under construction—and be a part of the hype of Nevada’s first professional sports team!, tour the Nevada Test Site, and experience back of house of the MGM Grand. But it was more than that. Leadership Las Vegas helped me understand the history, culture, and industries that have shaped the city. And I’ve met 48 classmates and even more alumni, each of whom has brought something special to my life while I explore my chosen hometown.

To learn more about the Leadership Las Vegas program, please click here.

The Importance of Storytelling

I love a good story. From before-and-after tales to business fables, I am fond of a good yarn. And when a story tells of a life-changing moment that happens because of a struggle, I am all ears. Add to it that a story has a bit of someone’s inspirational personal history, I can’t get enough.

The scene for our story? A sunny afternoon at Cured, a lovingly restored restaurant in San Antonio’s Pearl district. Once the Administration Building of the Pearl Brewery, it’s now a dining hotspot created by Chef Steve McHugh. A repeat James Beard Award finalist, Chef McHugh and his team have created a welcoming environment to enjoy charcuterie and a tasty wine list, which top an interesting menu.

But no, this is not a restaurant review. It’s a story about how someone’s history made our own experience even sweeter. From the moment our group of four walked into Cured, we were skillfully taken care of by a cheerful sommelier and unobtrusive server. We were delighted to have an impromptu tour—from the brewery’s safe to the original early 1900s fixtures to a printed description of the restoration.

Rustic ceiling at Cured, San Antonio

Rustic ceiling at Cured, San Antonio

Our somm friend sent over a taste of rosé when he noticed that we were celebrating an engagement among us. While we sipped this treat, he told us Chef McHugh’s story. Based in New Orleans, he was diagnosed with lymphoma and determined that the medical centers in the River City would be his best option. He soon moved to Texas.

We learned that Chef McHugh opened Luke, John Besh’s first restaurant outside of New Orleans. Our informative sommelier shared that concurrently, Chef McHugh went through rounds of treatment. Soon, he had plans to open a restaurant of his own in the Pearl. After his doctor indicated that he showed signs of remission, McHugh was inspired to rename his restaurant Cured, as this was the first time he felt like he would be.

This experience underlines the importance storytelling has on all of us. Whether it be a powerful award-winning movie or a rags-to-riches fable, telling a compelling story is an essential human trait. Done well, it can be at the cornerstone of an organization’s brand or a shared history. Cured has incredible cured meats, a charming staff, and a lovely space. But it’s the story that makes Cured stand out…a beautiful story that weaves a tale of triumph, inspiration, and being cured.