Roanoke Buzz: Leadership North Carolina

Published 11:14 am Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Over the past forty years I have participated in a number of leadership programs. However, this past year—I had the great fortune to be a part of my most profound opportunity for personal and professional growth so far – Leadership North Carolina (LNC).

Each year LNC selects a class of 50-60 current and emerging leaders from across the state through a competitive application process.  The LNC program connects individuals from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives to help them strengthen their networks and foster a rich exchange of ideas. Participants learn about the challenges and opportunities facing North Carolina, with a focus on turning knowledge into action. LNC graduates join a powerful group of more than 1,200 alumni, with continuing opportunities for networking, exposure, and service.

This time last year, I didn’t know much about LNC when one of Roanoke River Partners’ (RRP) long-time supporters recommended that I should consider applying. So, I set out to do a little research.

What I found was that over the past twenty-five years over 1200 people from diverse backgrounds have participated in LNC. I found that CEOs, elected officials and interested citizens-at-large have been among those who have signed on.

I found that in addition to leaders from urban areas, leaders from rural communities like ours have stepped up to expand their perspective about North Carolina. I found that LNC has earned the reputation of being the state’s premier leadership engagement program.

So after careful consideration, I applied and was excited to be selected as one of fifty-six members of LNC’s Class XXI. I am very grateful to two of my regional colleagues who wrote letters of recommendation for my selection.

Over the course of six two-and-a-half day sessions, my class traveled across North Carolina to learn about our state. Our sessions were focused on economic development, education, environment, government and health and human services. Our first session was in September of 2018 and we graduated from our program in May of 2019.

With such a small staff, it was a sacrifice for me and for RRP but I can already see the benefits beginning to materialize. For starters, my classmates, from all over North Carolina, have a greater understanding of my region and the rural challenges we face. And, I have a better understanding of each of them and their work.

As I completed this program, I thought about the important role leadership plays in our communities here along the Roanoke. And, I realized that I want some other folks from our region to have this same great opportunity.

Leadership North Carolina has a goal to engage participants from all 100 counties across North Carolina. While I want to encourage anyone from our five counties that has an interest in participating to apply—I particularly want to encourage applicants from Northampton and Martin Counties to apply.

These are the two counties in our five-county region that have not had an applicant to LNC. I am hoping we can change that. I want to get the word out that there are scholarships to support participation, especially from the counties that have not previously participated.

Honing our collective skills to support the development of our rural communities is a critical need across our region. If you or someone you know is interested, let’s talk. The application process for the next LNC class will be open through June 28, 2019.

Carol Jones Shields is the Executive Director of Roanoke River Partners, Inc. You can contact her at (252) 798-3920 or You can learn more about Roanoke River Partners at