Our Mission

The Community Leadership Alliance’s mission is to develop a base of informed and motivated community-minded leaders.  The program’s goal is to build alliances to unify communities throughout Southwest Wisconsin.

Purpose and Core Values

The Community Leadership Alliance of Southwest Wisconsin serves those who live and work in Grant, Iowa, and Lafayette Counties and who share the vision of creating a stronger southwest Wisconsin. The CLA believes the strength of our region depends on relationships and an eagerness to lead by modeling our core values:

Lead from Within
Intentionally be present, authentic and do the next right thing. Learn who you are, express yourself and offer your gifts. Bring energy and passion to all you do. Be all in.
Value Relationship
Engage, listen, and work collaboratively. Seek diverse perspectives and be open to new ideas. Everyone belongs here. Celebrate every voice.
Prioritize Community
Inspire, create, and appreciate moments in your community. Champion the Driftless region and welcome all who explore it. Enrich the lives of others.
Get Your Hands Dirty
Show up, pitch-in and be empowered. Embrace challenges and act courageously. Take the initiative, hustle, and make it happen.
Look Forward, Fail Fast
Assess, explore, and think strategically. Ask questions. Honor our resources and learn from every mistake. Reflect on our past as we craft our future. Pivot.

CLA Theme Song

“You’ll be a leader somewhere (“Ode to CLA”)” by Marian Maciej-Hiner

Song Lyrics

Find your strengths, find your way
Find your passion everyday
You’ll be a leader, a leader somewhere

Know what you think, know what you feel
know what you believe in, know what is real
You’ll be a leader, a leader somewhere

Well, CLA’s gonna help you grow
If you let it…
CLA’s gonna help you show
That you get it, you won’t regret it

You’re a thinker, you contemplate
How to build a team… to change the current state
You’ll be a leader, a leader somewhere

Well, CLA’s gonna help you discern
Where you stand… and justify it!
CLA helps you take what you learn
And apply it, just try it!

You’re a doer, you’re a force
You make things happen… keep things on course
You are a leader, a leader somewhere

Yes, you… you are a leader
… A leader out there!

Listen to song

The 'How' & The 'Why'

Why CLA has a theme song

“Ode to CLA” was created as a tribute to the Community Leadership Alliance by founding partner Marian Maciej-Hiner, UW-Platteville Continuing Education Director Emeritus. Marian served on the CLA Board from its inception in 1999 to its 20-year anniversary celebration in 2019. “Ode to CLA” is her legacy to the program she helped to build.

For many years, I led reflection and discussion activities for CLA, using various books and resources to guide conversations – including a book by Larraine Matusak, Finding Your Voice. That metaphor – and Matusak’s description of leadership – really resonated with me. It starts with first identifying what you’re passionate about – that motivates you to invest time and energy in something meaningful to you. The next step is to develop the skills you need to act on that passion – including learning to speak from the heart (“finding your voice”), based on your values and beliefs. The last step is to find places where you can apply your skills and use your voice – to build on that passion, and make things happen.

“Finding your voice” took on a new meaning for me after I retired and started playing the ukulele and singing. This was a journey I hadn’t planned to take, but it was one I became passionate about. The ukulele opened up a whole new world for me, as I started playing with groups and performing at a few small venues. The metaphor of “finding your voice” was playing out for real! When I started singing, my voice shook with nervousness – and I could barely be heard. Then, the more I used my voice – and gained confidence – it became stronger and steadier. And I found that, when I sang songs I loved, my voice became a vehicle for messages I wanted to share.

I wrote the lyrics for “Ode to CLA” to share the message of what CLA is about and how it encourages participants to think of themselves as leaders. I hoped my story about literally “finding my voice” would motivate anyone who was passionate about wanting to make things better in their community – but lacked confidence in their abilities. I’m not a musician, but I’m passionate about singing – and I’m finding ways to make my voice heard.  

Why it “Ode to CLA” included on the CLA website under “Mission”

The lyrics of “Ode to CLA” characterize the mission and vision of CLA – through descriptions of the goals and outcomes of the six sessions, in the 6-month program. As you listen to the lyrics, you will hear about the purpose of CLA – to inspire, motivate, encourage, and remind everyone that “YOU can be a leader.” How you lead, where you lead is up to you – and CLA can help you find your way on your leadership journey. Everyone can be a leader in some way, in some place, if you’re acting on what you’re passionate about – using your strengths to make things happen for the good of your “community,” however you define it. If you’re doing that, you ARE a leader!

How the “Ode” came together –

In CLA, we talk about identifying your strengths – along with your passion – and have a few assessment tools to help in that process. We also talk about differences in how people approach things – preferences and inclinations that guide how we work with people and projects. And we talk about how the CLA program validates and affirms each person’s strength – helps people gain confidence in their abilities – helps them learn to think of themselves as leaders. These aspects of CLA emerge as participants go through the program – but are difficult to describe.

In 2018, I left a CLA meeting to make the 5-hour drive from Platteville to Minneapolis, MN. These ideas about CLA were percolating in my head and I started to think about a unique and memorable way to convey this message. I had just immersed myself in playing the ukulele and singing, finding many melodies and lyrics that were so compelling they stayed with me long after the song ended, so the idea that emerged was to put this message to music!

Music brings people together – when people sing together, they form a bond. Like a bond forms among those who go through the CLA program together – and how the larger network of graduates from each CLA class share a common bond.

It was an interesting challenge to me – to try and capture the essence of CLA, and what we want each individual to find as they go through the program, and carry with them after they graduate. The first lines that came to me were:
Find your strength … find your way
Find your passion … every day.

Why it is set to Bob Dylan’s music –

The day before my trip, I had played at a ukulele jam session and Bob Dylan’s song “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” was still on my mind. I liked the rhythm of the melody, it was straightforward and easy enough for a novice ukulele player like me to learn – which meant it was also easy for people to sing along with the song.

As I was driving, the phrasing of the lyrics and the melody kept running through my head:
Close your eyes … close the door
You don’t have to worry … anymore

The song seemed well-suited for the words I was coming up with to describe CLA. With the melody in mind, the words just flowed – and I had to make several stops along the trip, to write down the lyrics as they flowed through me! By the end of my 5-hour drive, I had written “Ode to CLA!”