Representatives of the Kansas Leadership Center stopped in Parsons Wednesday to encourage residents to take advantage of its leadership training as a way to improve communities.
Julia Fabris McBride, KLC vice president, is among KLC representatives collectively driving 2,615 miles to host 27 free, one-hour events this week.
KLC is working to transform the culture of Kansas so that communities and organizations make progress on their toughest challenges. Its programs in Wichita, Kansas City and online help individuals and organizations exercise leadership. It also provides training and resources to local leadership programs, such as Leadership Labette. In addition to training individuals and teams, KLC offers organizational development grants, customized solutions for companies, community discussion events and published books and a nationally recognized civic leadership magazine.
“Over the last 12 years, KLC has trained nearly 10,000 individuals around the state and the world to lead more effectively. Of those KLC alums, 105 were from Parsons. Imagine what this city could look like if we had even more people in Parsons trained to provide greater leadership, more action and better outcomes,” said Ed O’Malley, president and CEO of the Kansas Leadership Center in a release. “We believe more leadership creates stronger, healthier and more prosperous Kansas communities. That’s why we’re hitting the road and discussing better leadership practices with Kansans in all corners of the state.”
Most of those attending in Parsons had participated in Leadership Labette and/or KLC training.
McBride said she was interested in hearing from Parsons residents about what is going great in Labette County and how KLC can help make things better. She heard Parsons is great about supporting young families and that it is a great place for events and activities. She heard about the successes of the Leadership Labette and Youth Leadership programs that are building connections across schools, cities and companies. It was shared how more companies are coordinating with schools to provide hands-on learning opportunities, acquainting students with various aspects of local businesses and encouraging entrepreneurship. Communities in Schools was mentioned and Labette Community College and high schools moving to fill the gaps in vocational work force. She learned of changing attitudes among people in the community through their participation in the leadership programs locally. She heard how churches are beginning to work together in the communities. She also heard there are people in leadership roles willing to take risks and jump into tense situations to be a rational voice that brings balance to conversations.
For example, Monica Simpson said, “We saw a huge shift from right off. The strong opinions they had and how they were willing to communicate those at the start versus at the end of the class. They had learned and grown and were able to have conversations about it. We see it every year.”
People in the community see the positive results, too, which is proven in some companies that continue sponsoring new employees to attend Leadership Labette.
“What better way to impact a community than to teach people civic leadership and help them understand the importance of it and talk through, ‘Why is the average age of a Lion’s Club member 78?” Leadership Labette facilitator Natasha Purcell said. “We talk about what is it that is holding us back from engaging and involving ourselves, because I think the everyday, average person will tell you they care about their community and just don’t understand how to engage, or don’t understand the impact if they did engage.
“We see a lot of that in our classes. At beginning of the classes they are like, ‘What can I do? There is nothing I can do.’ And by the end of the classes they are like, ‘Wow. There is something.’”
Attendee Jonathan Tower said society as a whole seems to be in a place of asking what it can have rather than what it can do.
He questioned how you instill in people to want to help each other, to create a community, team effort to know the difference made between “I” and “we.”
“You see that till you get in a crisis, then people have a tendency to rally for a while until it gets quiet and then everybody goes back off into their regular actions and starts arguing with one another, again,” he said.
McBride said every day in the KLC building she sees a lot of people like those who’ve participated in the leadership classes who are trying to work for the common good, who want to connect and inspire others to do more and be effective.
“It’s hard,” McBride said. “But I think some of the value of KLC is the energy of the people who are learning from each other and at minimum are seeing, ‘OK, there are others who are in the same boat and who are trying to break through something.”
As more and more people are educated in leadership skills, the greater the impact that will have on communities across Kansas, because those are the people willing to have tough conversations.
Persons can participate in the Leadership Labette program, which culminates in participating in the KLC program. From there, participants can advance leadership training through KLC’s Your Leadership Edge followed by Lead For Change.
Applications will open the end of this week for the next Leadership Labette class. Participants meet one day a month from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. September through February. In March participants go to Wichita for the Your Leadership Edge Program. The class graduates in April. Those interested can apply online or by contacting the Labette Center for Mental Health Services.