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Since Southwest Airlines was founded, it has approached business from the Heart and by investing in partnerships and programs that drive economic, social and environmental impact. San Diego is filled with dynamic people and organizations who make this city a thriving community. LEAD San Diego is an example of an organization which aims to create a network of leaders equipped with the skills, insight and passion needed to work collaboratively across industries and issues to positively transform their communities and country. Whether in the air or on the ground, Southwest Airlines believe community is more than a place, it’s at the Heart of what brings us together.

LEAD San Diego has been driving civic and community leadership development in the San Diego region for more than 40 years. With an alumni roster totaling more than 3,500 community leaders, LEAD’s suite of three programs is designed to mobilize leaders by enhancing knowledge of key regional issues, strengthening personal leadership skills and establishing strong community connections.

“LEAD San Diego is like the secret sauce of professional development,” said Kerri Verbeke Kapich, LEAD Board Chair and COO of the San Diego Tourism Authority. “Our alumni have gone on to serve on the federal, state and local level and are leading nonprofits, local businesses and the largest corporations in our region.”
Through its three programs – Impact, Influence and Advance – LEAD aims to create a network of leaders equipped with the skills, insight and passion needed to work collaboratively across industries and issues to positively transform their communities and country.

As the nonpartisan, leadership development arm of the San Diego Regional Chamber, LEAD’s highly selective programs are tailored to address specific needs for leaders from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, with a unified focus on key leadership qualities, such as collaboration, communication, vision and business acumen.
LEAD’s flagship program, Impact, is an immersive 10-month program for mid- to senior-level managers focusing on the issues and industries that are part of our region’s DNA. Impact includes a half-day retreat and monthly, full-day workshops featuring unique access to a variety of top community leaders who educate participants on what makes San Diego tick, the industries that power us, and the issues we face.

The Impact program was condensed to create Influence – a three-day crash course on San Diego’s business and civic landscape for C-level and senior executives interested in establishing a stronger connection to the regional community and an issues-based professional education program.
In 2017, LEAD San Diego became an affiliate of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce bringing together two longstanding community-driven organizations under the same roof. With this merger came LEAD’s third program, Advance.

With the goal of making a substantive and measurable increase in the number of local women in the C-suite and community leadership positions, Advance is a LEAD San Diego program dedicated to elevating women through tailored coaching, mentorship and skill building. Advance participants connect with fellow female executives, building lifelong relationships who will change the face of the region’s business, government and nonprofit sectors.
Since its inception in 1981 and first graduating class in 1983, LEAD has been fortunate to work with a variety of partners across San Diego’s business and community landscape. LEAD is grateful for and proud of its long-standing relationship with Southwest Airlines. It is partnerships like this that allow LEAD to give hands-on experiences like touring the U.S.S. Tripoli docked at Naval Base San Diego, exploring the costume department at the Old Globe, a behind the scenes visit at the San Diego Zoo, visit to Tijuana to learn about the cross-border economy, and so much more. They also support the LEAD scholarship fund which aims to create rich, diverse programming by bringing together classes that truly reflect all communities in our region and provide opportunities for those who traditionally might not have been able to participate.

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Esteban Villanueva
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