On last week's Chamber LIVE show, a series we host on our Facebook Page live every Thursday at noon, I mentioned that growth and development in Bennington would take Catalytic Leadership. This was in reference to the development announced around the Putnam Block.

In 2014, the Association for Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) launched "The Horizon Initiative. " This group was tasked with discovering the crucial factors that will influence chambers, communities and economies in the next decade. Initially, the project tried to quantify how "chambers" would and could survive but the researchers found that chambers all over the U.S. are different: some small, some large, some urban, and some rural. There was just no way to provide a silver bullet that would apply universally to all chambers. Instead, the initiative began to focus on the change factors that should influence a chamber no matter its location or type.

At the Bennington Chamber's strategic retreat earlier this year, we took a look at all eight factors the initiative looked at, with the eighth being Catalytic Leadership.

Of all the factors, the Horizon Initiative put the greatest emphasis on this last one because it is the catalyst that drives the rest of the factors. The combined effect of forces within a community, great universities and powerful local leaders are the most predicable solution to America's biggest current problem: winning the global war for good jobs and great communities. Unfortunately, the struggle for willing and able volunteer leadership is likely to only intensify over the next decade.


Successful organizations, projects, and initiatives of the future will require at least a handful of leaders who exhibit these traits: staggering levels of focus, commitment to excellence, fiery passion, persistence and humble understanding that only the power of a team can yield success. You can start to see a trend emerging as we talked Level 5 Leadership in last week's column and Catalytic Leadership in this week's.

How do leaders become catalytic? It starts when those involved begin to define their vision in terms of what the organization (or initiative, project, dream) will be, rather than what it will do. The business side of these initiatives will require leaders who cause change to happen in communications, development, design and direct support.

Additionally, community-imposed limitations on leaders who seek to be catalytic could drive some of the best leaders from our area. This goes beyond the Putnam Block. When I look around we have some great potential Catalytic Leaders who are testing the flexibility and adaptability of our town and their organizations at the moment. Challenged with too many limitations and roadblocks, these leaders might decide to leave.

Aligned community leadership is, in many ways, the holy grail of community advancement. When elected officials, bureaucrats, corporate leaders, chambers, economic developers, media, non-profits, clergy, and other influencers of a community can come together with one common goal and approach, truly remarkable things can happen.

It will take the full community to make projects like the Putnam Block (and others) to really ignite and be successful. It starts with Catalytic Leaders, and as you can see already, Bennington has a treasure chest of them.

Always Onward,

— Matt Harrington is the executive director of the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce

The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bennington Banner.