Leadership training empowers community members to make a difference

There are many county/regional leadership programs available that help communities strengthen local leadership capacity.

It takes great leadership to create thriving and prosperous communities, and Michigan State University Extension works with and supports community leaders to help them strengthen their leadership capacity. MSU Extension through its Facilitative Leadership program, teaches new skills to leaders who have a desire to transform their communities and better prepare them for the future. 

 One local leadership program, Leadership Gladwin County (LGC), started its new year in September with 12 participants. I led the class through a team-building process that included introductions, icebreakers, the “Real Colors Personality Instrument,” discussion on various aspects of leadership, and other exercises.

“In essence, the day was about pulling together a foundation as a team so we can work, learn, and grow together,” said LGC Coordinator Dawn Wiseman. LGC provides an opportunity to enhance leadership skills for individual growth, organizational effectiveness, and community development. The purpose is to develop leaders in the private and public sectors of the community and give opportunities for becoming more familiar with resources and opportunities in the county. 

 Wiseman also added that she still benefits from the experience she had three years ago as an LGC participant. “I learned about the resources and treasures this county has to offer,” she said, “and I can tap into those resources when needed. I’m also still networking with many of the people I came to know – and they are invaluable.” Wiseman urged Gladwin County residents to take advantage of the program. “It’s a nice networking opportunity and a great way to build professional connections,” she said. “But it’s also personally rewarding.” 

Leadership Otsego County is designed to identify emerging leaders in Otsego County interested in future civic leadership roles. It provides participants with the essential leadership skills to plan for and respond to future Otsego County challenges, while helping them to gain an understanding of the various sectors of the community and the needs within each sector.

Leadership Otsego County is focused on developing a diverse network of informed community leaders. It provides benefits at three levels:

  • Community – Graduates will be more effective in their efforts to productively serve and better our community through enhanced individual commitment, increased knowledge and understanding of community issues, systems and decision-making processes, and expanded connections and contacts.
  • Employer/Organization – Graduates will add value to their employers/organizations through improved personal leadership and communication skills, deeper knowledge and broader perspective, and increased connections within the community.
  • Personal – Graduates will experience personal and professional growth and gain enhanced leadership and communication skills, a new and more diverse network of friends and community contacts, a greater knowledge of their community, and increased involvement in community activities.

Although only two programs are highlighted in this article, many exist throughout Michigan.  Individuals interested in participating in a local leadership program could start with contacting their local Chamber of Commerce or contact MSU Extension regarding Facilitative Leadership and related programs. Extension educators trained in leadership and community engagement offer trainings in several areas including board development, meeting management and facilitation, strategic visioning and planning, in addition to general leadership skills educational programs.

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