Opinion by Cindy Garretson-Welbel
Need for Strong Leadership Increases by Cindy Garretson-Welbel
Strong leadership is crucial to the success of any business including ranching and farming operations. Recent research has shown that companies are spending more money on leadership development now than they have in the past and they are grooming leaders at all levels. Wyoming is fortunate to have an agricultural leadership program available to hone participants’ leadership skills, increase their knowledge of agriculture and natural resources and develop a strong network of support.
The Wyoming Leadership Education and Development (L.E.A.D.) program is Wyoming’s oldest state-wide adult leadership program and has trained over 200 leaders for agriculture and rural communities since its inception in 1984. Currently, efforts are underway to recruit applicants for Wyoming L.E.A.D. Class 13, which will start in the fall. Up to 18 individuals will be chosen to participate in this exciting opportunity, with preference being given to applicants who are involved in agriculture production or an ag-related business. Participants must be a Wyoming resident for at least one year and be a minimum of 25 years of age.
A selection committee will interview eligible applicants in August and September. Qualities considered include agriculture production experience, ag-related work experience, leadership qualities and community involvement. Candidates are selected based on their growth potential, dedication to agriculture and commitment to program participation.
During the 14-month L.E.A.D. program, participants spend about 40 days in training sessions. Eight seminars, generally lasting three days each, are held in various communities around Wyoming. These seminars focus on a variety of topics to enhance participants’ communication and leadership skills, including team building, media message development, effective listening skills, mediation techniques and business succession. Topics related to agriculture are discussed, such as niche marketing, agricultural diversification, federal land policy, research and technology, global ag issues, natural resources and energy and interpreting ag policy. Tours of local businesses complement the formal presentations and give participants an opportunity to gain a better understanding of Wyoming communities across the state.
The fourth seminar is held in Cheyenne during the legislative session and includes a stint at the Wyoming State Capitol and meeting with Wyoming’s Governor, as well as a tour of the Wyoming Supreme Court and overview of the state judicial system. The group has the opportunity to watch the State Legislature in action and visit with agency directors and representatives of the agricultural organizations.
During the first year of the program, participants spend a week in Washington, D.C. This seminar includes meetings with Wyoming’s Congressional delegation and numerous federal agencies. In addition, a day is spent in an inner-city classroom discussing what it is like to be a farmer or rancher with grade school and middle school students. The Wyoming L.E.A.D. program also includes a 10-day international study tour to learn more about the global aspects of agriculture. This allows each class the opportunity to learn about the culture, agricultural opportunities and economy of a foreign country.
Wyoming L.E.A.D. is a joint partnership between the non-profit Wyoming Agricultural Leadership Council (WALC) and the Wyoming Business Council (WBC). Individual participants contribute a portion of the program costs through tuition and individual sponsorships. WBC provides financial support for the program, develops the curriculum and administers the program. WALC raises funds for the program, selects class participants and sets program policies.
Leadership at all levels – local, state and national – is becoming increasingly important. I encourage you to be a part of this exciting opportunity by being a participant in the Wyoming L.E.A.D. program yourself or by nominating someone who deserves this opportunity.