As a professional dedicated to and working in the learning and development space, it’s perhaps as or more important that I continue to invest in my own personal and professional development as it is for the clients I serve. I will confess it is not always easy or convenient to do so, given the fervent pace of everyday life. I often think to myself, “Who has TIME for this luxury?”

Last year, I participated in Leadership Texas, a program offered by Leadership Women here in Dallas. And did I ever enjoy an amazing journey! So much so that I applied to enter Leadership America this year. With three planned sessions addressing the economy, education, and healthy and human rights this year, we launched this year’s program in Atlanta April 19-21, where I enjoyed two and half days with 37 really remarkable women leaders from across the nation. What a program Leadership Women put on for us!

Among the highlights for me on the first short day were enjoying the emcee performance by Martha Farmer, a Founding Director of Leadership Women and listening to the wisdom of Dr. Helene Gayle, President and CEO of CARE USA. Dr. Gayle shared her own career development journey and earlier work at the Center for Disease Control where she worked steadily to combat HIV/AIDS. She was incredibly poised and inspiring, yet also approachable and real – a great combination for a powerful female leader.

Monday April 20th began with a breakfast at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, where we had the pleasure of listening to Congressman Tom Price present his views on the role of the US economy in achieving global economic stability. Dennis Lockhart, the 14th President and Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta also spoke to our group and helped us understand how the bank works and some key stats of the current global economy. Afterwards, we were then treated to an extraordinary visit with Meria Joel Carstarphen, the Superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools. Every single one of us women were completely breathless as she shared her passion for public education and discussed the challenges and opportunities she faces in her new role in Atlanta. Next, we then went on to The Carter Center and heard a rousing keynote opening over lunch by Ambassador (Retired) Mary Ann Peters, Chief Executive Officer at The Carter Center. She discussed her passion for fighting disease while waging peace. We also heard from Thomas Bornemann, Director of Mental Health Program at The Carter Center and Dr. Mark Rosenberg, MC and President/CEO of The Task Force for Global Health. Each gave their perspective and shared their incredible experiences fighting and treating disease across the world. I know I personally left asking myself, “Am I doing my part to help make the world a better place??”

Finally, if the day were not already memorable enough, we made our way to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. As a person reared in the Northwest and very young during the Civil Rights movement, I can absolutely say the visit was monumental for me. If you ever get the chance to visit this place, you MUST “do the lunch counter.” The Center has recreated the experience of those incredibly courageous African Americans who were standing up for what should have been their right to enjoy lunch like anyone else. If you are not left chilled to the bone, you were either already there and experienced the Civil Rights movement directly, or you may not have a pulse and should check into your health. Dinner there at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights included the distinguished guest Ambassador Andrew Young, who is a Politician, Diplomat, Activist, Pastor, former member of the US House of Representatives, former US Ambassador to the United Nations, and former Mayor of Atlanta. He earned a standing ovation among us after he encouraged us as women to continue our leadership and helped us understand the gripping challenges facing so many of our sister women across the world.

The highlight for me of the short Tuesday morning we had together was listening to the Reverend Dr. Joanna Adams speak about the hard work of leadership. A Presbyterian Preacher and writer with decades of experience, she made us laugh and cry throughout her entire talk with her own stories of career tests. She too earned our standing ovation with her spirit, grit, and strong but gentle gift of insight and support for our own leadership journeys. Reverend Adams was truly a role model for all of us in the room, as she represented success in a profession completely biased against her gender.

As I made the drive in the van from the last session to the Atlanta International Airport, I was reminded of how frenzied I felt to attend the session just two days prior. Happily quite busy with consulting, workshops, writing the research into a book, and hosting the radio show, I initially thought, “How in the world do I have TIME for this experience??” I sat on the plane completely uplifted and fundamentally altered by the powerful experiences of the Leadership America program. It is so paramount to continue to invest in our own development throughout the course of our lives, even and especially if it’s not convenient. What a quality program Leadership Women put together – I can’t wait for the Seattle session in June!