The Advanced Leadership Collective at USJC: Building Connections and Bridging Gaps

Describing the first year of the Advanced Leadership Collective (ALC) at USJC is like trying to explain a feeling – not straightforward but meaningful. We’ll get into the strategic importance of ALC to USJC in a moment, but what really makes it special is how to create deep people-to-people connections. It’s not your usual networking scene; it’s about creating deep relationships through the open and honest sharing for participants going through life’s biggest moments – career transitions, family life, identity-based decisions. This exploration is what ALC is all about, and it’s something that really resonates with our members.

Why Does This Matter to USJC?

We touched on this during Members Day, but here’s a recap for anyone who missed out. The idea behind ALC was to bridge a noticeable gap between two of our signature programs: the Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) and the Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD). Both these programs are amazing in their own right, creating a strong sense of family, purpose, and belonging. They’ve been instrumental in forging deep, meaningful relationships, not just among members, but also in strengthening US-Japan relations and our role in the Japanese American community.

But here’s the thing: we noticed a gap. On one hand, we had folks in the ELP gradually outgrowing the ‘under 40’ bracket and transitioning to new life stages. On the other, there were a notable amount of members who hadn’t yet had the chance to join either ELP or JALD, for a variety of reasons.

Enter the Advanced Leadership Collective. Our goal with ALC was to strategically fill this gap in the most inclusive way we could think of. By doing this, we’re enriching our pipeline at USJC, ensuring that we have something valuable for every age group in our active membership.

Why is the Pipeline Important?

Every organization (USJC is no exception) is concerned about the future. Questions like, “What will we look like down the road?” and “Who are the people who’ll lead us there?” are frequent topics of conversation. Leadership succession isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a real concern because the future is always on the horizon. We need to be ready to adapt, grow, and evolve. And that’s not just about strategies or plans; it’s about people – fresh faces, new ideas, and vibrant energy.

Now, while it’s one thing to recognize this need, acting on it is a different story. This is where I’ve noticed organizations tend to stumble. They might not have a clear plan for nurturing and retaining talent. That’s where the concept of a ‘pipeline’ comes into play. It’s essential to have a systemic way to bring people in, keep them engaged, and evolve with them as they grow.

This is exactly where ALC plays a crucial role. ALC genuinely plugs a vital gap in our leadership pipeline, ensuring that we don’t lose people during key transitions. Our aim is to keep the engagement dynamic and relevant, benefiting both our members and the organization as a whole.

What Did the Program Look Like This Year?

This year’s class was quite the mix! We had 21 members ranging from 36 to 66 years old, with the average age hovering around 43. This diversity in ages really highlights something important about ALC: it’s not about how old you are, it’s about the commonalities that the group is facing as they go through life.

ALC is crafted with inclusivity at its core, welcoming all USJC members. Not only does it embrace our current members, but it also includes alumni from both the ELP and JALD programs. Looking ahead, we’re excited about the possibility of opening our doors to non-members as well.

What about the programming itself? The program content consisted of exercises and tools to explore the personal and professional challenges facing our members, along with a format to forge meaningful and authentic relationships. This of course was just a start, plenty of more topics to come, focusing on topics covering the middle of career and middle of life.

What’s Next for the Program?

There are a few exciting developments we’re eyeing for next year. With conference convening in Tokyo, that offers us an opportunity to weave a stronger US-Japan thread into the program. Perhaps that means broadening not just our perspectives, but even our cohort to include a strong Japanese component.

We often say that the real value of our programs unfolds through continued participation over the years. As our alumni community grows, so do the opportunities for deeper connections, stronger relationships, collaborative projects, and meaningful impacts on the communities we serve and belong to.

Thank you to USJC Associate Craig Ishii (Beckman Coulter) for the above content and photos.