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Amy L. Stewart recently was honored for her completion of the year-long, prestigious International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) Leadership Academy. The IACP is an international body including over 5,000 members from twenty-four countries. Its vision is to transform how conflict is resolved worldwide, through Collaborative Practice. Collaborative Practice is a dispute resolution process known best for its use in divorce and other family conflict, in which parties work with the support of a multi-disciplinary team to identify interests and reach agreements, without resort to high-conflict litigation, court-imposed solutions, and adversarial posturing. Stewart has been a leader in introducing Collaborative Practice in Indiana. She has offered Collaborative Practice to her clients since 2006, is a frequent speaker on the topic, and has formed a study group focused on bringing excellence and best practices to Indiana.

In 2013, the IACP announced the creation of a Leadership Academy, a program through which a select group of participants would be offered the opportunity to develop and nurture their leadership skills, in an effort to support the growth and vitality of the worldwide Collaborative movement. In his remarks honoring the Leadership Academy participants at the IACP’s fifteenth annual Forum in Vancouver, British Columbia, on October 24, 2014, IACP President Ross Evans said, “The selection process was competitive and rigorous. We had far more applicants than we had spaces.” Stewart was one of twenty-two professionals who completed the program.

“I was extremely honored and humbled to be chosen to take part in the IACP Leadership Academy,” Stewart said. “It is a rare opportunity to be able to learn at such a high level, alongside people with such enormous hearts and brilliant minds.”

The Leadership Academy involved an intense program of study, spanning one year from October 2013 to October 2014. Participants were introduced to cutting edge principles in leadership, through reading, meetings, lectures, phone bridges, journaling, and small group projects. Topics covered included self-awareness as the foundation for leadership; setting and monitoring expectations; leadership styles; reflective leadership; neuroleadership; healthy leadership; creating deliberate group structures; conflict theory, conflict styles, and organizational conflict resolution; organizational skills, creating intentional groups; facilitating systemic change in communities; and leadership as service.

“Our understanding of leadership has evolved a great deal, since I received a business degree,” Stewart said. “What is understood now, and was missing then, is the power of relationships. To recognize that is complicated, sometimes uncomfortable, and takes work, hard work – especially on ourselves – but we ignore it at our peril. If we get everything else ‘right,’ but we get the relationships wrong, we fail. On the other hand, when we get the relationship piece right – really right – we can achieve things that no modeling can predict. As my hero, Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt put it, “Love is the most powerful motivator of all.’”

“Nowhere is this more evident than in a Collaborative divorce case, where a highly skilled, trusting, inter-disciplinary team of legal, mental health, and financial professionals works with a divorcing couple to model and practice respect, preserve dignity, and design solutions that address both spouses’ interests and chart a lasting path forward for a family,” Stewart reflected. “George Por, Founder and Chairman of Community Intelligence Ltd. has said, ‘I believe that Collaborative Practice is one of the social revolutions of our times.’ I am proud to be part of a revolution that is empowering people to be responsible for their own decisions about their family’s future, rather than relegating those decisions to lawyers and judges, and that allows families to emerge happier, healthier, and more hopeful. The truth is that most divorcing spouses don’t need help fighting. They do that well, have done it for a long time, and it isn’t working for them. What they need help with is making peace.”

Stewart joined the law firm of Mallor Grodner LLP as a partner in 2014. Previously, she spent twelve years as a leader in health care and government, before practicing family law for fifteen years with a large Indianapolis law firm.

Other participants in the IACP Leadership Academy included:  Joelle Adelson (Ontario), Kristen Algert (Texas), Susan Buniva (Virginia), Nikki Charleton (British Columbia), Bev Churchill (British Columbia), Deborah Conflenti (Pennsylvania), Adam Cordover (Florida), Susan Gahrns (Ontario), Brian Galbraith (Ontario), Fraser Himes (Florida), Louise Livesay (Minnesota), Julia McAninch (Tennessee), Cassandra Pullos (Queensland, Australia), Kyra Raimey (Ohio), Adrienne Grace (New York), Kevin Scudder (Washington), D. Scott Spence (Manitoba), Melissa Sulkowski (Pennsylvania) Cristi Trusler (Texas), Viola Vaughan-Eden (Virginia), and Susan Zwaenepoel (Alberta).  Nancy Cameron, Q.C., LLB (British Columbia) and Anne Lucas, MA, LMHC (Washington) served as mentors to the program.

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