Moving Community Connection Virtual: How Leadership Springfield Keeps Community Leaders Connected in a Time of Social Distancing

Share This Post

It’s Thursday, March 26, 2020 and most Springfieldians (and the rest of the world) are hunkered down in their homes to help flatten the COVID-19 curve. This is day one of the city-wide “stay-at-home” mandate, so remote work has become the reality for most of those who do not work for what has been dubbed as essential businesses and services to the community. And today, Leadership Springfield hosts four different virtual check in’s with different groups of alumni and program participants.

Executive Director, Carrie Richardson kicked off a casual coffee social hour with one Signature Class this morning with the question, “In one word, describe your last week.” Words like mayhem, chaos and surprising were some of the first to pop out of our participants’ mouths. From there, the conversation jumped from a serious tone about coping with the crisis to a sharing of best practices from different industries to casual talk while experimenting with changing Zoom backgrounds, sharing COVID-19 Spotify playlists and saying hello to dogs and kiddos who occasionally appeared in the background. The undercurrent of the hour was connection, one of the four key elements of the Leadership Springfield mission and a crucial piece of community many local professionals are missing right now.

Hosting virtual socials and delivering content differently are just a few of the ways Leadership Springfield is delving into the virtual world of remaining connected with class participants, alumni and other community leaders.

“As we closely monitored the guidance of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department and CDC a few weeks ago, we knew we had to move quickly to temporarily alter how the organization operates. How does an organization with a 35-year history of providing in-person, engaging community exploration go entirely virtual? We move quickly, get creative, communicate and adapt,” said Carrie Richardson, Executive Director.

Leadership Springfield staff have collaborated with other members of the Association of Leadership Programs across the country to share best practices to keep class participants and alumni plugged in during this unprecedented crisis. Most notably, the local community leadership organization has adopted a set of COVID-19 Virtual Convening Principles to guide virtual activities together in the coming weeks, starting with the recognition that “Nobody signed up for this.”

Leadership Springfield current class participants are continuing to convene, although all in-person sessions are postponed through April currently. “While we have every intention of rescheduling the in-person programs that were originally scheduled for March and April, we have plans in place to deliver some content for our Signature Classes virtually as well,” states Ashley Clair, Communications Director. “We have also extended the 2020-2021 application deadline to Friday, April 17 for the Signature Class and Academy Class programs to give all applicants more time to adjust to the current situation.”

A virtual alumni member event has also been announced for Tuesday, April 7. Dr. Marissa LeClaire Weaver (Signature Class 23) will share about leveraging strengths during a crisis, and participants will have the opportunity to connect with each other, equipped with tools to practice strengths-based leadership in their work and home lives in this particular season. Dr. Weaver brings nearly twenty years of leadership development experience to her business, Your Leadership Trainer, LLC where she helps businesses and organizations through facilitating workshops, executive coaching & leadership training. Leadership Springfield Alumni Members may register for this virtual event at or contact [email protected] with any questions.

Board President Don Harkey also shared a message to the 2,000 alumni: “Springfield is not defined by our challenges, but by how we respond to these challenges. Please encourage and highlight the positive response. Don’t judge, collaborate. Don’t panic, innovate. Don’t point, help. Don’t engage in rhetoric, hold thoughtful conversations. It’s moments like these where community leadership will tip the scales.”

Leadership Springfield’s commitment to the community is to remain human-centered, continue the mission to inspire, develop and connect community leaders to serve the Springfield community, and remain flexible and adjust to the situation as needed.

Together, we are #417strong.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get updates and learn from the best

More To Explore


100+ Wise Women Table Hosts 2024

These inspiring women will lead the discussion at each table during our second annual 100+ Wise Women event on March 7, 2024, at The Old