Reflections of my first year as President & CEO

They say that so much can happen in a year, and boy, are they right. As I celebrate my first anniversary as President & CEO, there is indeed a need to celebrate, along with a need to reflect. I stepped into this role feeling proud, optimistic and motivated to continue the strong impact that LM has been making in the county for over thirty years. I also did so during a time when there were still so many unknowns (which continues in many aspects even now) that hugely influenced how we would operate. I’ve learned a lot from a year that was everything and nothing that I expected it to be.

Listen first. 

This year we embarked on a strategic planning process, with the first half of our time spent gathering information and conducting research and the second part of the year planning. Throughout the process, we elicited feedback and input (surveys, interviews, focus groups) and integrated it into our plan. There were questions about our strategy and direction. Still, overwhelmingly, you told us that you rely on us to provide unique connections, learning opportunities that enhance or build your leadership (skills), and a trusted environment to analyze and engage with complex topics and issues.

We needed to listen to how you think of yourselves- whether you are an alum, partner, funder, or member of the community-and the role that LM plays for you. We needed to listen to your feedback on how you received information from us. We needed to listen to the things that were not being said to get the complete picture of how we were showing up as an organization. We cannot fully meet our mission without the voice of the people we serve.

Take time to reflect.

What happens when you stop to reflect? I mean, really stop- clearing your head, quieting all the thoughts, taking a deep breath, transitioning yourself from critical thinking and solving problems to examining assumptions, core beliefs, and knowledge. Time continues to be a nebulous concept, and some moments have blurred together. Reflection has been crucial this year to clarify the big picture and imagine untapped opportunities. Getting caught in a cycle of doing things for the sake of doing them or defaulting to what feels safe and comforting at the moment is easy. Reflective time creates more opportunities to lean into innovation, strategy, and execution.

Stick with it. 

This year we underwent several operational changes that impacted our staffing, programming, events, and trainings. We navigated a variety of variables to deliver things in-person, virtually, and hybrid. We took risks, and most of the time, they paid off, and when they didn’t, we dusted ourselves off, took the opportunity to learn, and decided what we needed to apply to the future.

I end my first year as President & CEO with the following:

  • An approved strategic plan that honors the rich history of this organization but focuses on a future that enhances and builds leadership to create change (a clear purpose, aim, and strategy)
  • We have a staff that has fun together and works hard to leverage their skills and provide leadership development, program development, and management, communications and marketing, corporate relations, governance, facilitation, event management
  • We have a network of subject matter experts and practitioners who help us meet the capacity to deliver programs, a leadership conference, various trainings, and events annually
  • Served more than 700 leaders through the Emerging Leaders Program, Senior Leadership Montgomery Program, CORE Program, REAL Inclusion Program, racial equity trainings, LEAD Forum, Candidate Forum, BoardMatch Montgomery trainings
  • Our board accomplished good governance through the creation of new bylaws as well as streamlining and modifying scope and practices for more significant impact and efficiency


I fully expect that year two will be as exciting, meaningful, and impactful as this year has been. We will be releasing our new strategic plan shortly, along with planned improvements for leadership programs, alumni engagement, and corporate engagement. We will continue to roll out new ways for connection, service, and learning. And how do we plan to do so? We have a refined framework and curriculum for our leadership programs, a new alumni engagement program, and a streamlined approach to corporate engagement. We are committed to providing the connection, support, and enhancement that leaders need right now to grow themselves, grow others and make change.

Equity drives us. As an organization, we have always addressed complex issues, systemic issues, and elevated a desire to improve and advance Montgomery County. The makeup, composition, and outcomes for the people of the neighborhoods, workplaces, and society within our approximately 500 square miles were developed intentionally. This intentionality benefited some at the sacrifice and expense of others. What would happen if we consciously learned about that history? What would happen if we shifted policies, practices, and processes to better outcomes? How would we improve if we acknowledged the past and collectively worked for an opportunity for everyone to thrive?

Wishing you a wonderful summer!

With gratitude,



Dana Pauley, CFRE is the President and CEO of Leadership Montgomery. Connect with her on LinkedIn