Great Lakes Leadership Academy might be for you

Linda McLyman instructor for GLLA and author of the book Wise Leadership answers questions about leadership.

As a graduate of Great Lakes Leadership Academy (GLLA), it’s a privilege for me to go in depth with one of the program’s instructors. The GLLA at Michigan State University is a program for leaders associated with communities, food systems, agriculture, natural resources, environmental and manufacturing sectors that affect quality of life issues for Michigan residents. It is also targeted toward a diverse group who has demonstrated leadership ability and a commitment to their communities. This popular leadership program has evolved over a 13-year period and its current iteration can be found at the GLLA website. More than 225 people have attended this leadership training program and it always gets rave reviews from participants.

The Emerging Leader Program associated with the GLLA is taught in conjunction with Progress Associates and Wavelength, Inc. Progress Associates is a leadership-consulting firm owned by Linda McLyman and Daniel Leete, of Syracuse, N.Y.

McLyman began her career as a communication therapist and diagnostician. She made a career switch from communications to the area of psychology and leadership consulting work 25 years ago. During her studies she completed an extensive psychology program with the late renowned human potential expert Virginia Satir. Satir is widely regarded as the “mother of family therapy.”

I talked to McLyman on the history of the program hoping she could speak about the evolution of leadership development training as she sees it.

 McLyman: “Although I loved studying with Satir, I was not interested in becoming a psychologist. I was interested in learning how people work together at work. I didn’t want to work in a one to one setting. I wanted to work in the business world. I wanted to focus on why people wanted to work in various types of leadership roles. I was always interested in leadership.

 “In the 1990s my business partner, Daniel Leete, and I began to focus exclusively on working with leaders in natural resources agencies. Daniel worked with hundreds of people in these roles in the state of Michigan. Eventually, Daniel began working with John Robertson, who was the Director of Fisheries for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources at the time.

 “Robertson is currently the owner of Wavelength, Inc. and a key player in the GLLA program. Together, Leete and Robertson saw a real need to build a natural resource leadership academy for people in government and business. The need for excellent leaders was really apparent 13 years ago and it still is today.

 “Eventually, Dr. William Taylor a widely known figure at Michigan State University, was approached by Leete and Robertson to join this leadership project. Dr. Taylor wanted to pair MSU‘s Ph.D. students with leaders who were already working in specific natural resource type jobs. This was a great thing to do. PHD students brought excitement and beginners mind to the program. Non-students brought real world experience and expertise.”

 I also questioned McLyman about who would benefit from attending the Great Lakes Leadership Academy.

McLyman: “Anybody who works in teams and groups and has a keen interest in contributing as a leader in any walk of life would benefit from attending this intensive leadership program. Most people have to learn to lead well and also learn to follow well in collaborative work settings these days whether they want to or not, she added with a laugh. Gone are the days where most people work in a vacuum by themselves. People need the skills taught in this program in order for them to have the capacity to lead in a multitude of settings in a multitude of ways. This leadership program is applicable for people of various ages and a diversity of backgrounds. The philosophy of the program is that people can learn to lead from any chair.”

 I asked McLyman what she believed had been the biggest shifts in people’s interests about leadership in the past decade?

 McLyman: “About 10 years ago people working in the field of leadership development and organizational development began concentrating on teaching people more than just the theory and philosophy about excellent leadership. Leaders realized the need to teach other leaders more real world, practical, leadership skills. Leadership consultants also realized leaders needed to develop an array of skills to help them: make better decisions, collaborate more effectively, relate to many types of people, manage change, handle conflict and hold people accountable for attaining results. In other words, leaders needed a sophisticated toolbox of skills. On top of the practical skill development leaders needed to add on the skill of self-awareness or what some experts refer to as emotional maturity or emotional intelligence skills. All of these skills are taught in the Great Lakes Leadership Academy.”

Michigan State University Extension offers training for improved effectiveness in several areas. Training is available in board development, meeting management and facilitation, strategic visioning and planning, in addition to general leadership skills educational programs. To contact an expert in your area, visit the MSU Extension Expert Search or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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