Sudbury's first Leadership Summit is scheduled for Oct. 24-25, with events planned at LU as well as Science North. Drawing on Sudbury's legacy of strong leadership, organizers hope the summit will become a regular event, eventually leading to the establishment of a Centre for Leadership at Laurentian.
The goal, says one of the people driving the effort, is to encourage and mentor Sudbury's next generation of leaders.
“Leadership is not about creating more followers — it's about creating more leaders,” said David Courtemanche. “Leadership is the silver bullet, it's the secret formula, it's the magic wand.”
The idea began last year with a conversation about leadership he had with LU Prof. David Robinson, when both were at the Ontario Universities Fair. The annual event attracts thousands of students who come to look at their post-secondary options.
“We talked about the opportunity Laurentian had to create a centre for leadership right in Sudbury that would serve, not just Sudbury, but all of Northern Ontario,” Courtemanche said. “And we brought that conversation back to Sudbury.”
They pulled together a group from the university to explore the idea, which eventually became a larger committee.
“We soon realized we needed to really expand the circle of that conversation to include a whole lot of local leaders from multiple sectors to talk about the importance of leadership, but more importantly, what are we doing about it,” he said.
With support from the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation and, more recently, the Goodman School of Mines, plans for a two-day summit came together. The first night will be held at the Cavern at Science North, where special guests will speak about leadership.
The next day will be spent in “conversation cafes,” Courtemanche said, where not only leadership will be discussed, but also ways to made the LU Centre for Leadership a reality.
“A big part of this is speaking to the next generation of leaders,” he said. “They're going to be engaged in the summit – in fact, on the Thursday, we're asking all the delegates to bring a young leader with them. We want them to be part of the conversation.”
He said collaborative leadership has historically benefited Sudbury in a number of concrete ways — LU, Science North, the art gallery, the symphony, the cancer centre, to name a few.
“And I think this is another initiative that Laurentian can really drive — in partnership with the rest of the community and with leaders from multiple sectors across the community.”
Robinson said getting leaders of government, business, labour and education together will help chart a course for training and supporting the leaders of tomorrow.
“There's an emergent need here,” he said. “The mining industry is desperate for leadership training ... The summit will allow us to talk about how we develop the leadership we need.
“We're also hoping it will leave us with an organization in place that will determine exactly how we get the centre established at the university.”
Courtemanche said the initiative is not a reflection of the lack of leadership now, but rather builds on one of our strengths.
“Whether it's government, industry or labour, we have a history of really strong leadership that has made an enormous difference in our community,” he said.
For example, when he travels, he's often asked how Sudbury managed to reclaim much of its devastated environment, or diversify its economy.
“And I tell people that all of those things required enormous leadership and, inevitably, it wasn't one leader that made it happen — it's always been about collaborative leadership,” he said. “Maybe not always agreeing, maybe getting into hot debates. But at the end of the day, it was about moving this community forward and finding a way to get it done.
“Other communities have a lot to learn from Sudbury.”
Robinson cites the Sudbury Theatre Centre as an example, which was established in 1971 by a group of locals who were determined to bring professional theatre to the city. But Robinson said they also had bigger dreams.
“They had a vision — they wanted to make this city a centre for culture in the North.”
Combined with the performing arts program at Sudbury Secondary, the conditions were in place for local playwrights to emerge, ones capable of telling compelling stories about Northern Ontario.
Today, not only is there an active amateur theatre community in Sudbury, but a homegrown talent, Matthew Heiti, will see one of his original plays put on by the STC. "Mucking the Drift" premieres Oct. 31, marking the second time a local playwright has had an original work featured as part of the STC's regular season lineup.
But it's an accomplishment that depended on leaders able to think long term, Robinson said.
“They had a vision for this community that they stayed with year, after year,” he said. “And now that vision has been passed on. It's remarkable.”