Leadership Academy for Excellence in Disability Services

diverse group of adults seated and standing in a conference room posing for a group photo

For the past few years, we have explored strategies for how to address leadership development for those who work in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities in Tennessee. We wanted a way to ensure that leaders who work in state government programs that serve Tennesseans with disabilities would operate from a shared set of values, goals and principles and strengthen all agencies' commitment to collaboration. Throughout 2015-16, we partnered with the TN Department of Human Resources and together developed the concept of a disability-specific leadership academy.

Why is this important?

  • Different departments vary in their approach to serving customers with disabilities
  • There is a 'greying' of the current workforce and not enough leaders being trained for the future
  • Too often we work in 'silos', trying to solve the same problem but not working together to do so

In 2015, we surveyed all state agencies asking how many of their employees could potentially benefit from this type of training. Through the survey, we learned there are 16 state agencies with well over 55 separate programs that directly impact the lives of Tennesseans with disabilities. Nearly 7,000 Tennessee state employees work in programs where they are expected to regularly interact with customers with disabilities in various ways. 

An Executive Leadership Council was formed to provide guidance about the structure of the academy, select leadership competencies, and influence curriculum development. Twenty-eight participants from the agencies listed below were selected for the first Leadership Academy for Excellence in Disability Services

  • Bureau of TennCare
  • Department of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Health 
  • Department of Human Services (& Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services)
  • Department of Veterans Services
  • Tennessee Commission on Aging & Disability

The first Academy ran through May 2016-2017.  

Ultimately, we believe this ongoing training program will provide numerous long-term benefits to Tennesseans with disabilities and their families by improving their experiences with all state services. 

Read more about the Academy in Breaking Ground issue 83.