Transit’s Next Leader Institute

“The public transit industry does so much to support a community’s transportation needs, improve the environment, and respond to the needs of the transit-dependent population, it must continue to grow.  Your participation in the next Transit Leaders Institute shows your commitment toward keeping the industry strong and moving forward into the future.”
John W. Clauson
Executive Director – Kitsap Transit
WSTA President

The Washington State Transit Association (WSTA) is working in collaboration with Clarity Consulting to provide Transits Next Leader Institute. This premier leadership program will provide Fellows world-class leadership skills, in-depth transit best practices and the personal and professional foundation necessary to lead the transit industry into the future.

This six month program will include 6 all day sessions that will include both a leadership topic and transit industry topic. The program will provide fellows personalize coaching sessions, personal leadership evaluation, culminating community projects and integration to present that project at the Annual Public Transportation Conference in August. Additionally, TNLI will provide an in-depth view of the industry trends, best practices and ongoing situations we all experience.

Leaning on industry titans such as current and retired General Managers and CEOs to elected officials the program objective is to provide fellows with real-world skills to ensure their personal and professional success while providing the industry as a whole with talented leaders for the future. 

“A career in transit is like juggling a chain saw and fine china. In such a challenging environment, high performing leaders must be equal parts evangelist and executive – mission focused and business savvy. Their sharp view must be focused not only on the entire eco-transit system, but also the wellbeing of the single-parent employee working graveyards. Expect immediate returns on your investment in the next Transit Leaders Institute – a powerful and challenging program to equip leaders for success. “
E. Susan Meyer
CEO – Spokane Transit Authority
WSTA Past President

Program Skills & Objectives
Core Leadership Skills LearnedCore Industry Skills Learned
Analytical thinking
Executive presence
Responding to failure
Leadership teams
Leading in ambiguity
Transit Fundamentals
Managing Personnel
Project Development & Presentation
Peer Networking
Core Leadership Learning ObjectivesCore Industry Learning Objectives
Define core values, beliefs, and practices
Craft a leadership approach document
Define key approaches to building inclusive and equitable leader relationships
Craft a leader relationship document
Define key approaches to team development
Craft a team development document
Identify processes and practices to efficiently manage the business of the organization.
Define key approaches to transit org process
Craft transit org process document
Define key approaches to systems and strategic leadership
Craft organizational leadership document
Define key growth areas from institute and beyond
Present portfolio and project to executive audiences
Discover basic elements of state and advocacy
Develop a deeper understanding of how transit is governed and funded
Identify core areas of talent management practices.
Understand Labor Law fundamentals
Understand primarily federal and state compliance principals 
Identify significant transit innovations on the horizon and the benefits and challenges of each.
Begin to identify resources and routines for staying abreast of industry innovations.

Program Overview & COST

Tuition Cost:
The program will have an inaugural cost of just $800, covering all sessions as described below. It does not cover the Public Transportation Conference; however, the class will be provided a discount code upon registering for the event. Tuition will be billed once fellows are selected, and payment must be received before the program begins.

Session Overview:
Transits Next Leader Institute will take place over the course of six months, beginning in late March and ending with a presentation at the Public Transportation Conference in August.  Please see below for a more detailed schedule. The program is multifaceted which includes: 6 sessions covering leadership and industry-specific topics, culminating community project, one-on-one coaching opportunities, a sub-cohort element, and a final presentation.
– Session 1:  Leading Self | Developing Fundamentals
– Session 2: Leading Others | Managing Personnel
– Session 3: Leading Teams | Administering Business  
– Session 4: Leading Process | Achieving Compliance
– Session 5: Leading Organizations | Planning Onward
– Session 6: Leading Forward | Closing Preparations
– Session 7: Conference Presentation | Class Graduation

Culminating Community Project Overview:
All fellows will complete a leadership project connected to your emerging leadership approach and a leadership challenge/opportunity that is immediately pertinent to their work. This project will focus on a challenge or opportunity within your local transit agency and/or local community.  The project timeline parallels the overall program. Fellows will be able to apply skills learned in the virtual sessions, receive 1:1 coaching, and utilize peer networks to help complete the project. The project effort and institute experience culminate in a presentation at the WSTA conference. Fellows will also present their project to their home agency’s executive team or Board.
Projects should meet the following criteria:
– Be agency-specific or local community-focused
– Can be completed in approximately 4-month timeframe
– Can get necessary stakeholder approval to do
– Have a concrete work product at the conclusion
– Connect with key areas of your leadership growth
– Final product presented at the conference

Who Should Apply

Eligible fellows include employees of a current WSTA Transit member, WSTA’s Transit Agency Associate Member in Oregon, and Montana and WSTA Associate Member who provides public transportation (nonprofit/tribal transits). To learn more about WSTA’s Associate Member program CLICK HERE.

The program is designed for anyone who desires to deepen their understanding of the transit industry and build their personal and professional leadership skills. Specifically, the program will assist lower to middle-level managers or smaller agencies and organizations’ top leadership, including General Managers. With a Champion Endorsement, we welcome you!

  • 01.22.2021 | Application Opens
  • 02.04.2021 | Application Q&A Zoom Session – 1:30pm – 2:30pm (sign up now)
  • 02.25.2021 | Application Closes
  • 02.26-28.2021 | Design Team evaluates applications
  • 03.01.2021 | Acceptance Notification Sent
  • 03.16.2021 | Pre-Program Meet and Greet Happy Hour – 4:00pm – 5:30pm
  • 03.26.2021 | Session 1: Leading Self | Developing Fundamentals
  • 04.30.2021 | Session 2: Leading Others | Managing Personnel
  • 05.14.2021 | Session 3: Leading Teams | Administering Business  
  • 06.18.2021 | Session 4: Leading Process | Achieving Compliance
  • 07.16.2021 | Session 5: Leading Organizations | Planning Onward
  • 08.13.2021 | Session 6: Leading Forward | Closing Preparations
  • 08.21-24.2021 | 45th Public Transportation Conference, Vendor Expo, and State Roadeo
    • Fellow Session Presentations all day Monday, August 23rd
    • Fellow Graduation during General Session 4 and Lunch on Tuesday, August 24th
  • TBD | Fellows individually schedule presentations to their leadership/Boards
  • TBD | Class closing session |Hotwash/Evaluation

Fellow Application Process & How to Apply

Application Timeline:

  • January 22 – Fellow Application Opens
  • February 04 – Application Q&A Zoom Session – 1:30pm – 2:30pm (Sign up now)
  • February 25 – Fellow Application Closes
  • February 26 – 28 – Design Team evaluates applications – selects Class
  • March 1 – Acceptance Notification Sent
  • March 2 – Invoices for tuition program payment sent to selected fellows

How to Apply:
Applicants will be asked to fill out an application which will include:
– Letter of Interest
– Current Resume
– Champion Endorsement (Approval of your direct supervisor and head of the agency) (Download Form)

We encourage applicants to review the class dates and times.  This program requires your full participation, including commitment to attend the Public Transportation Conference in Vancouver, WA on August 21-24th.

Class of 2021

Class Website

Coming Soon

Design Team

Kelly Johnston – Program Consultant

Clarity Consulting – Founder
Learn More

Justin D. Leighton – Program Lead

Justin D. Leighton
WSTA – Executive Director

Melanie Espinoza – Program Staff Support

Melanie Espinoza
WSTA – Development & Member Services Manager

Tom HingsonDesign Team Member

Tom Hingson – Everett Transit
Transportation Services Director

Christine O’Claire – Design Team Member

Christine O’Claire – King County Metro
Mobility Division Director

Emily Bergkamp – Design Team Member

Emily Bergkamp – Intercity Transit
Operations Director

Michael Griffus – Design Team Member

Michael Griffus – Pierce Transit
Chief Operating Officer

Christine Selk – Design Team Member

Christine Selk – C-TRAN
Director of Communications and Customer Experience

Cesar Portillo – Design Team Member

Cesar Portillo – Community Transit
Director, Employee Engagement