Community members were challenged to redefine what leadership looks like during a stop of the Kansas Leadership Center’s statewide tour Tuesday morning at Newman Regional Health.
Julia Fabris McBride, vice president of KLC, said representatives from the organization would visit with more than 600 Kansans at 27 locations across the state this summer.
“The goal of the tour is, first of all, to get out into the state and find out what are the great things that are happening in places like Emporia,” she said. “What do you have to share here in Emporia that would be useful for somebody in Garnett? I can imagine that there are people in the state who need to hear about how Emporia is growing new businesses that then get taken nationally.”
Attendees were asked what makes Emporia a place that can inspire other communities to engage in adaptive leadership opportunities. Some said it’s a combination of city initiatives, the Chamber of Commerce and local industry that has really set the stage within the community. In turn, companies like Dynamic Discs and DK Promotions are able to have an international reach through events like the Dirty Kanza and the Glass Blown Open.
McBride said she credits Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce President Jeanine McKenna with partnering with KLC to develop programs like Leadership Emporia.
“I can’t say enough about Jeanine McKenna,” she said. “From the very beginning she has said yes to collaboration with KLC. She’s said yes to thinking differently about leadership, to partnering with us, to teach the KLC leadership ideas. They’ve been a partner with creating KLC, so KLC is better because of Leadership Emporia.”
KLC is also looking for suggestions on how it can improve its outreach and strengthen its overall mission by speaking with alumni.
“There’s a great critical mass of people here in Emporia who have been through KLC programs, who are seeing the fruits of that in their work, and who are much better placed than we are in Wichita to say, ‘Here’s what you need to do more of,’ or ‘Here’s what you need to do better,’” McBride said.
McBride said KLC is interested in addressing the challenges communities face around the state by changing how people think about leadership. Traditionally, people tend to see leadership training as something reserved for a select few at the top. KLC has adopted a “for the masses” approach, which brings people from different walks of life together under the leadership framework.
In essence, leadership is for everyone — an approach that empowers people to work together toward a common goal.
“Say an organization has 3 percent of its people who would fit the traditional definition of ‘leader,’” McBride said. “The rest of the people in the organization don’t feel empowered to say, ‘OK, what are our challenges? How can I speak to a purpose that leads people forward in a productive way?’ It opens up a brand new way of thinking. If we — and I see this happening in our programs all of the time — somebody comes into a program thinking, ‘I’m not a leader. I’ll go along with this.’ And then they hear the idea that leadership is an activity. It means contributing to understanding a situation. It means intervening in ways that allow people to get new insights. It’s asking a question. They walk away having a different sense of their own space and their own power. Their organization then benefits from that.”
One of the local organizations that uses KLC programs is Emporia Public Schools.
Superintendent Kevin Case said the district has helped educators and staff become better equipped to handle different challenges, changes and more during the redesign process.
“As we’ve looked at redesign, one of the things that we’ve really been talking about is that — in order for change to be successful — we really need to make sure all of the stakeholders are involved,” he said. “So, making sure the staff is involved in making those decisions. We’re really trying to make sure teachers have a voice in what redesign looks like. We want to make sure that we’re helping all of our staff become leaders.”
Mark Adams, pastor at Embrace Church, said he has been through several of KLC’s programs and was sending members of his congregation to trainings this summer. Adams helped coordinate with KLC to bring the state tour to Emporia.
“I’m a big believer in their mission,” he said. “My goal was to bring them here because I know how hard it is for some people to get there.”
Adams said KLC has helped him gain the confidence to engage with people to whom he usually would not reach.
“Whatever sector you’re in, you have a group of people that you’re comfortable with or that you’re used to,” he said. “KLC encourages, and gives opportunity, to reach outside of that group to make progress on issues that would improve a community.”
McBride said those interested in learning more about KLC programs can visit www.kansasleadershipcenter.org, and that scholarships are available to help offset program costs.