Impact Spanning a Decade

Learn how the Fellows Program has manifested in the lives of several alumni over the past decade.

Impact Spanning a Decade
Elise Keitz Harlow
May 9, 2023

For over a decade, the Severn Leadership Group has been catalyzing leaders of character to become difference makers in the world. What sets the SLG apart from other leadership programs is its ability to personalize the experience for its fellows. By offering each fellow a dedicated mentor for the duration of the program, individualized emotional intelligence assessment results, and small group discussion forums to discuss the shared readings, no two SLG fellows have the same experience of the program. This flexibility allows the program to form itself to the fellow and for the fellow to walk away having filled their cup with the tonic they needed to grow, reinvigorate, heal, lead, listen, follow, inspire, and move through the world with courage.

My lessons from the Severn Leadership Group experience are continuously unfolding. I was lucky to complete the program in April 2019, a year before the pandemic. The program offers many opportunities for introspection, such as reading and applying SLG’s leadership materials, Harvard Business Review articles, and Daniel Brown’s The Boys in the Boat, and my amazing mentor helped me connect what we were learning to what was happening in my personal and professional life. All of this self-work helped me define my inner code of integrity, leadership, and followership. This development of “the core” as SLG would put it, gave me a commitment to living in alignment with my values and a barometer for recognizing if I drifted away from my path. Without knowing it, I practiced leading and following during the pandemic months of tough decisions and swift actions under high uncertainty.

One of my most important takeaways from the program was that everyone has something to offer and contribute to the greater whole, whether in their family, workplace, team, or community. If an individual is not thriving or making strides, there is always something you can do to help motivate or support this person. Are they in the right seat? Is their pursuit in alignment with their values? Further, I learned not to judge any positive contribution as big or small. Sometimes a person’s seemingly small, incremental growth is a significant achievement that marks great personal growth and is worth celebrating. I think this belief in everyone’s potential to be their version of great has led me to recommend the program to so many of my friends and colleagues (and even one person I met on a plane while traveling for work!).

To hear how the program has manifested in the lives of other alumni, I reached out to six others to ask how the program has impacted them since its commencement. As you read the responses below, you will see threads of similar themes, as well as individual takeaways and applications. These thoughtful and honest responses echo that the magic of the program is how the fellow alchemizes the interactions and teachings into their own form of gold, whether through feeling part of a strong community, discovering resilience, self-empowerment, or learning to place the team above oneself.

What is most memorable from your time in the Severn Leadership Group Program? What was your favorite part of the program or something that widened your perspective?

“SLG connected me with such an amazing network of leaders that I continue to be thankful for today. In our own professions, we can tend to become a little insular and think that “this leadership struggle I am facing is just a symptom of this specific organization / community / profession. No one else will understand.” SLG made me realize that the leadership challenges as well as leadership tools for success stretch across communities, and there is strength in sharing experience and leaning into mentorship from outside your own profession.” - 2019 Alumna LCDR Marina N. USN

“Meeting 1:1 with a dedicated mentor throughout the SLG program was the most memorable part for me. Discussing real-life scenarios about the topics and group discussions with my mentor was invaluable.” - 2022 Alumna Lisa D., Chief Marketing Officer

How have you used your SLG experience in your work and/or personal life since graduating the program?

“The most impactful takeaway from my SLG experience was very simple: learning to lead with love. While I've studied and practiced leadership for a few years, and I have associated many worthy traits with what I consider to be successful leadership, I had not previously associated leadership with love. Keeping love at the forefront of my interactions and my reflections on professional issues has greatly changed the way I am able to both connect with others and also handle stressful situations.” - 2021 Alumna Claire G., Director of Warrior Experience at Warriors and Quiet Waters Foundation & Navy Veteran

“In 2020 I was laid off from my job shortly after wrapping up the SLG program. At the time I was in my dream job for a tech company. When I was ready to start interviewing again, I was more methodical with my answers and questions. My mindset went from looking for a company with amazing benefits, to prioritizing company culture, how those leaders worked with their teams, and how did they measure the successes of their peers? I was fortunate to have multiple offers and I ended up accepting the job with the leaders that gave me answers around servant leadership the most, rather than the leaders who shared a benefit like a higher salary. It is 3 years in September and I'm so grateful to have joined my company.” – 2020 Alumna Meghan H., Lead Experienced Recruiter

Who in your life has benefitted from you becoming a fellow of the SLG? How so?

“A few of my peers and friends have been involved in SLG and it has been mutually beneficial as we are sounding boards for each other as well as challenge each other to be better and strive to make our organizations and teams better, even when it’s challenging.” - 2019 Alumna LCDR Marina N., Surface Warfare Officer, USN

“Since my initial involvement with SLG as an inaugural Junior Fellow in Fall 2012, I have brought to bear the tenants of SLG during my time leading large and small groups in the U.S. Navy and in other settings such as higher education, community engagement, mentorship, and friendship. For instance, the 150 midshipmen I led and mentored as the 14th Company Officer at the U.S. Naval Academy had the benefit of my initial exposure to SLG which translated into an incredible organizational excellence and trust. Likewise, my leadership of the Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron FIFTY ONE (HSM-51) Maintenance Department and Detachment THREE resulted in similar success. These two groups exemplify how SLG has taught me to translate leadership theory and knowledge into practice, particularly as it relates to physical and moral courage, organizational values, followership, and leadership.” - 2012 Alumnus Commander Jonathan L., USN

What was something you learned during SLG that you wish you could tell the world about? What would change if others heard this message?

“Leadership knowledge isn't just for professionals in management or positions of "power." Leadership education is for everyone. Even as a follower, learning how to communicate your way of learning and executing in a team is just as important as being a good leader. If people better understood their influence on those around them, I would hope they would take more care of how they treated or communicated with others.” - 2022 Alumna Morgan S., Communications Specialist

“Leadership and mentorship are not about you, they are about others. Only when we stop worrying about who gets the credit for organizational success can we truly realize the transformational leadership and organizational excellence we all so desperately want to achieve. It is my belief that the very fabric of our culture and society would improve and move in the same direction if more people – a lot more people – adhered to this mentality. Let’s keep trying to reach this goal, together!” - 2012 Alumnus Commander Jonathan L., USN

Elise Keitz Harlow is the VP, Community Development for Early Learning Academies. She cares deeply about the Severn Leadership Group and the work it does to help inspire individuals for lives of purpose. Elise is a Navy spouse, writer, master's student, traveler, dog mom, and very soon-to-be baby mom.

Impact Spanning a Decade

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