"Leadership Montana" seeks to develop new leaders for Montana

A young leader from Anaconda, Rep. Jesse Laslovich, recently wrote about the need for becoming actively involved and creating change. He said, "It takes more than words to create this force, it takes leadership. There should be no more complaining about the status quo, only efforts to change it."
In creating change, encouraging collaboration, solving problems to build a strong community for the future, "leadership" is one of those nebulous terms that we all feel is important, but we’re not sure what it means. The very skill that virtually everyone agrees is indispensable, is often the least understood.

Bruce Whittenberg, Guest columnist

The creation of a statewide leadership development program, Leadership Montana , is underway, with this Mission: "Š developing a sustainable core of committed leaders who understand these issues, are willing to listen to and learn from each other, celebrate cultural diversity and diverse opinions, and demonstrate a passion for the Last Best Place."

Leadership Montana won’t be an attempt to satisfy everyone’s definition of leadership, rather focus on some very simple concepts which are critical to creating a bright future for our families and communities.

€ Collaboration is the No. 1 leadership skill. Bringing together diverse thought in a safe forum. A real effort to find common ground on which to build something better.

€ Listening – really listening – to the ideas of others. Stephen Covey, author of "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" said, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood."

€ Respect for each other and a willingness to let go of your position long enough to let another’s position emerge.

€ Trusteeship is at the heart of Leadership Montana. From an article entitled, "What is Trusteeship," from the National Association for Community Leadership, "Being a trustholder of the community means serving it as would a good steward. The good steward views the community as a gift to future generations, but a gift with strings attached. One is obligated to pass the gift to future generations in a better state than that it which it was received." Leadership Montana seeks individuals from all walks of Montana life, who are willing to make conscious, personal decisions:

€ To know themselves;

€ To care about the quality of life in the community;

€ To be stewards of the community and its resources;

€ To serve the common good;

€ To listen to the diverse voices of the community;

€ To define and to articulate the community’s concerns;

€ To dream and to form effective responses to these issues and needs;

€ To use their skills and leadership ability to make a better future for the entire community;

€ To lead with passion and authority.

Our highest priority is the creation of Montana’s premier network of passionate individuals. 40 leaders each year who share something special — diverse, yet with a common goal — a bright future for Montana.

Imagine the power, in five years, of 200 people in this state who have shared this intense and deeply personal learning experience, demonstrated their commitment and love of Montana and have proven it through their involvement and leadership. Economic development has emerged as a priority for Montana with many important efforts underway to improve our economic situation — erhaps our state’s highest profile initiatives.

Yet, according to Dr. David Mills, executive director of the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership at the University of Georgia, "Without informed, skilled, engaged and united leadership, nothing of a significant and sustainable nature occurs. Leadership is inextricably linked to community and economic development."

There are many great Montanans who have gotten involved in the development of Leadership Montana from all over our state — providing the vision, the funding, and the hard work of developing a curriculum — three dozen leaders and 27 leading organizations, from Sidney, Lame Deer, Great Falls, Missoula, Kalispell, Helena, Butte, Bozeman, Eureka, Havre and Billings.

The Leadership Montana program will involve seven sessions, September through May in seven unique locations across Montana. A strong curriculum will include education and discussion of the issues facing Montana, active application of skills through class projects and an exploration of personal leadership development through the concept of trusteeship. There will be a tuition fee, and scholarships will be available.

In 1790, Abigail Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson, "These are hard times in which a genius would wish to live. Great necessities call forth great leaders."

This fall, Leadership Montana will begin calling forth great leaders — trustholders — from across Montana, from all walks of life. They will come to this program with eyes open, a love of community in their hearts and a respectful willingness to learn from others. They will return to their community as leaders, with a strong network of friends and collaborators, and a commitment that will light the way for a bright future for Montana. They will have accepted the gift of community, and will prepare themselves to pass this precious gift to the next generation of Montanans.

Please visit the Leadership Montana website at for information and an application.

Bruce Whittenberg, executive director of Leadership Montana, was publisher of the Helena Independent Record from 1993-1998 and the Billings Gazette from 1998-2000.

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