L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs

L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs



The Inaugural Virginia Government Leadership Summit stood as a Development Program Unlike Any Other

The Spring 2019 Virginia Government Leadership Summit graduates in Roanoke, Virginia
The Spring 2019 Virginia Government Leadership Summit graduates in Roanoke, Virginia

By Mandy Fowler

In light of today's complex leadership environment, the Performance Management Group (PMG) within the Center for Public Policy at VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs provided an opportunity for deep conversation, candid dialogue, external activities, and a sophisticated examination of self. PMG's newest professional development offering, the Virginia Government Leadership Summit (VGLS), brought together a group of 15 change agents from Virginia's agencies to converse, network, and reflect on material that is so timely.

For decades, PMG has provided an environment for leaders, managers, and supervisors of today and tomorrow to examine and enhance their abilities as thinkers and decision makers. Adding to PMG’s principal line of professional development courses, the Virginia Government Leadership Summit (VGLS) provided a week filled with conversations, deep thinking, and exchange through open dialogue, time to self-reflect, speaker discussions, assessments, and networking opportunities. 

The week-long VGLS retreat fostered a different framework that focused on conversation, reading, reflection, writing, and provided several opportunities for self-exploration and alignment of personal values to public service. The theme of moral courage was used to develop a personal examination of abilities, challenges, and goals. Two different self-assessments helped participants to understand their leadership style, values, and practical ways to address matters.

"It is an exciting opportunity to offer this new addition by the Performance Management Group. We need to keep providing our state workforce with experiences that grow their thinking and their leadership abilities. At the Wilder School, we are committed to lifelong learning with a special focus on those who serve in the public sector" said James Burke, Ph.D., Director of the Performance Management Group who led VGLS with Associate Director, Linda Pierce, M.B.A.

Burke and Pierce’s goal was to create one of the most intimate, community focused experiences possible through both indoor and outdoor creative activities, periods of reflection, journaling, and connection with peers. They wanted participants to think deeply, coach each other, and be inspired to do even better as leaders upon return to the workplace.


The experience exceeded our expectations, largely due to the rich conversations and thoughtful examinations of the participants,” said Linda Pierce, M.B.A., Associate Director of the Performance Management Group.

Professional Development Unlike Others

The inaugural VGLS enrolled 15 participants for their first program held in Roanoke, Virginia. Burke and Pierce lead the class in conversations on leadership awareness, emotional intelligence, curiosity and creativity as a leader, courageous leadership, leading with gratitude, and incorporated a bag full of supplies including books, poems, a journal, and a guide to nature drawing with colored pencils.  

VGLS featured three outstanding leaders in dialogue and discussion with issues of leadership, management, and recent matters that we public servants are facing in Virginia. These conversation leads included that of General Anthony Zinni, a distinguished perennial learner who was head of CENTCOM who is still actively involved in international diplomacy, Dr. Robert Vinson, Professor of History and African Studies at William and Mary who brings history profoundly into the now, and Ms. Cookie Scott, recently retired Deputy Director for the Division of Administration for the Virginia Department of Corrections after a distinguished career and the first African American graduate of Longwood. General Zinni led a fireside chat and discussion related to life lessons from leadership, Dr. Vinson dialogued about "Everyday People Doing Extraordinary Things" and engaged participants in a conversation about moral courage, and, Ms. Scott engaged participants in a discussion on women and the changing face of leadership.

Participant’s self-reflected and deep dived into their leadership styles with an assessment of emotional intelligence (EQ-i 2.0) and the Strengths Deployment Inventory suite (SDI) of assessments. The EQ-i 2.0 provided participants with a picture of how they operate emotionally, their areas of strength, and their potential areas for development. The SDI suite helped participants understand how their motives drive their behaviors, how those motives and behaviors change during different situations, and how to develop a better understanding of the motive-driven behaviors of others. It’s an approach that drives stronger relationships and more effective teams.

VGLS participant and Procurement Management Account Executive at the Department of General Services - Division of Purchases & Supply, Cindy Wilson, attended the VGLS because she wanted to “learn more about EI and its relationship to leadership.”

Wilson mentions her standout moment at VGLS was “obtaining the results of the SDI and comparing the SDI results to the Conflict Sequence Results which pointed out areas under conflict to be aware of and work on improving those areas.” Cindy also enjoyed learning about her EI and where her strengths lie as well as areas to work on. “I loved the analysis and suggestions provided. It will definitely help my leadership skills,” says Wilson.

VGLS participant, Tully G. Welborn, Director of Strategic Management Services at Department of Motor Vehicles, and the VEI Alumni Association (VEIAA) President says he “attended the course to learn more about myself, emotional intelligence, and ways to integrate what I learned about myself into my life. During the work week, it is difficult for me to stop, take a deep breath, and be in the moment. After attending the summit, I’ve established a daily routine to practice self-reflection, mindfulness, and live in the moment.”

“The class size was small and intimate. As such, we really got to know each other on a more personal level.  Also, I think the participants felt more at ease to be themselves, express their personal views and not feel guarded. My standout moment started the first day, at the welcome and overview session, when we were tasked with writing an experience from our childhood in our journal,” mentioned Welborn.

Wilson remarked that she “loved the exercises, analysis tools and the speakers! Great combination!” She mentioned that the program “reminded me of my love for poetry and drawing and I am working them into my personal time again.” Welborn mentioned that he “thoroughly enjoyed the summit, meeting new state leaders/colleagues, and the comfortable and relaxed setting.”


Graduates of the Spring 2019 Virginia Government Leadership Summit include:  

  • Sandy Bouldin, Disability Determination Services
  • DeAnn Compton, Auditor of Public Accounts
  • JT Grier, Virginia Retirement System
  • Arlissa Grooms-Washington, Department of Health
  • June Jennings, Office of the Governor Secretary of Finance
  • Elizabeth Mancano, House of Delegates Clerk's Office
  • Chris Mayfield, Department of General Services
  • Kate Nosbisch, Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation
  • Brook Pittinger, Department of Fire Programs
  • Tony Russell, Virginia Lottery
  • Heather Seymour, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Dana Smith, Virginia Information Technologies Agency
  • Lisa Wallmeyer, Division of Legislation Services
  • Tully Welborn, Department of Motor Vehicles
  • Cindy Wilson, Department of General Services - Division of Purchases and Supply

Additional Professional Development Opportunities at Performance Management Group

VGLS is among several professional development programs offered by the Performance Management Group at the Wilder School:

The Virginia Executive Institute is a 10-day program that provides a dynamic forum for leaders to be part of an impressive network of state executives who have committed to developing their leadership strengths and becoming change agents for Virginia's future. VEI is the principal executive educational program with more than 1,400 distinguished leader graduates including cabinet secretaries, agency heads, and other directors.

The Commonwealth Management Institute is a five-day program that focuses on professional development for managers in state government. The institute promotes the exchange of information, the development of creative ideas, and cooperation and future collaboration among program participants.

The Experienced Supervisor's Institute is a three-day program for forward-thinking supervisors, managers, and project leaders. This class helps build the necessary competencies that will move participants beyond the role of a managing supervisor to becoming an influential leader. This program focuses on advanced supervision tools/tips and an introspective look at what it takes for Supervisors and their team to succeed in good and challenging climates.

Fundamentals for Supervisors is a three-day program that provides essential skills required by those new to supervising the work of others, leading project teams, or who have not received prior supervisory training. The goal of this program is to increase an individual’s performance as a supervisor and to provide practical tools to enhance staff performance.

Learn More

For more information about these programs, contact:

James Burke, Ph.D., (804) 828-1191 or jmburke@vcu.edu

Linda Pierce, M.B.A., (804) 827-0482 or llpierce@vcu.edu

Mandy Fowler, (804) 827-1583 or afowler3@vcu.edu