GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — When Truist was looking to begin a new venture it felt could transform its home area of the Piedmont Triad, a decade ago, then CEO, Kelly King had an idea. What if they developed a leadership institute that would work not just with (what was then BB&T’s) employees and those of their clients, but also welcomed people from the general public?

“There are fewer people in our community who have more impact on our future than education leaders, and yet, oftentimes they’re the ones that get the least exposure to leadership development,” said Will Sutton, the president and director of the Truist Leadership Institute. “And so what if we were able to offer the same high-quality, executive-level development for them as we do to corporate leaders? What could be the impact of that?”

Significant, if you ask Paula Wilkins.

When she was first exposed to the training at the institute, she had yet to have her first principal job. Because Truist decided to offer the program to educators at no cost to them, Wilkins took advantage and used what she learned to not just become a principal in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools system, but has since earned her PhD and is the chief academic officer for that school system.

Wilkins has lost count of the number of programs she’s taken at the institute. Most last between a day to nearly a week. The campus has four dozen guest rooms with plans to build many more as it is going through a multi-million dollar expansion. For Wilkins, it provided training the school system simply wasn’t equipped to do.

“Because I think, as leaders, we’re busy completing tasks from day to day,” Wilkins said. “And we really don’t stop and think about how are we showing up in the work, what’s driving us right now at the moment. And this gave the time to do that, and more leaders need it.”

And as parents look to for the school systems to do more and more, the leadership required of school leaders changes.

“Students spend more time at school than they do at home, and so, because of that, educators need to have a skill set to really invest in children and grow them as leaders too. And so that’s why it’s important for the principal or that leader of that building that have so many skills to grow that leadership and teachers too,” Wilkins said.

 For her, this program is essential for the entire WS/FCS system.

“I think we have the opportunity to grow enough leaders. Do we have enough? No,” she said. “I think we need more of this, and I’d love this to grow to the teacher level but I know that’s wishful thinking.”

Will Sutton hopes the bank’s latest investment in the institute will provide enough capacity for the region because, he says, a new type of leadership has emerged in the 21st century.

“Over the last 10 or 15 years, people have begun to desire more of a human approach from their leaders,” Sutton said.

See what the campus looks like in this edition of The Buckley Report.