An initiative of the Leadership program, The American Express (AMEX) Leadership Academy is a signature program that was founded in 2008 in collaboration with the Center for Creative Leadership. It started off in New York with 24 participants and now it has become an international movement that encompasses, 11 Academy partners and 20 programs, across nine countries. To date, the Academy has hosted over 90 Leadership Academy sessions training nearly 3,000 nonprofit and social sector leaders.

Even though all the academies follow consistent core elements, the academy is tailored to fit in with different nonprofit needs and each cultural nuance. The curriculum of the American Express Leadership Academy focuses on building the personal, business and leadership skills needed to run a successful nonprofit organization

I applied for the AMEX Leadership Academy 2017 a few months ago, and out of so many applicants, I was among the 48 selected. This was the greatest news for me because I knew how much this meant to me. This particular Academy was supported by Points of Light, an organization, where I serve as an Atlas Corps Fellow and it was held on June 21 -23 in Seattle, Washington State.

The Academy started off with a talk from Aaron Hurst who is the Co-founder and CEO of Imperative. He is also a Founder of the Taproot Foundation. Aaron had a lot to share, and one of the main highlights for me was the fact that he said that leadership begins with defining the core role of work in personal life as helping others, and being personally fulfilled. According to Aaron, a large number of people working in the non-profit sector are primarily responsible for helping the society and only 45% of the people are purpose oriented. Two most powerful platforms designed for emerging social purpose leaders that Aaron shared are Leaderosity and +Acumen; both of them being online platforms for leaders committed. Other speakers included Rebbeca Gnessin of American Express, Malikah Berry and Shila Nieves Burney both of Points of Light and Shera Clark from Center for Creative Leadership.

The Centre for Creative Learning facilitators kicked off day two with a welcome and an introduction session then went straight into Leadership Development Concepts. This session cover leadership Assessment, challenges and support. As a leaders, it is important to understand your strengths, development needs, personality preferences, learning styles, context and your current state. Also, new behaviors and expected outcomes have to be determined, and this may call for you as a leader to take risks and stretch out of comfort zone. Creating safety for taking risks and providing resources for success is also vital because this steps lead to lasting impact which is a developmental experience.

The highlight form me for day one was Assessing my leadership skill scope which provided me with insightful , valuable feedback on job related skills such as Decision-making, Interpersonal skills, Information skills, , Personal resources and effective use of self. One of the most difficult skills is how to give feedback. The facilitators were very good a guiding the attendees through the Situation-Behavior-Impacts (SBI Model) which is a three step process that provides a structure that helps keep your feedback focused and relevant, and increases the likelihood of it being received in a clear , non-defensive manner by the recipient. Leadership and change was also another session that was one of my highlights. The change style indicator tool enabled attendees to measure the preferred style of leadership when faced with change. The change styles were placed between a conserver, an Originator and a Pragmatist.

Conservers prefer the unknown to the unknown and their goal is to improve effectiveness by utilizing available resources while a Pragmatist prefers to explore the current situation in an objective manner and are likely to advocate for change that is reflective of the demands and constraints of the current circumstances and last but not least, an Originator prefer faster and more radical approach to change. Their preference is significant and expansive change which occurs quickly.

Day three was more hands-on. All attendees were paired with a coach and this was a chance for all of us to ask questions and get feedback based on our skill scope. Peer consultation session enabled us to interact and receive feedback from other attendees. Together with the coaches, individual attendees set their goals and made a commitment to a follow up session with their coach in a few months. That marked the end of the academy.

Personally, I gained so much from the Leadership Academy. The information was valuable and I have been able to practice some of the skills learned. I would recommend everyone, given the opportunity, to go through this training.

I am a better leader today than I was yesterday!! Thank you American Express, Center for Creative Leadership and Points of light for pulling this successful Academy together. And to all participants, congratulations on being the newest members of the AMEX Alumni network.