James Barnes, Dixon, Glen, Van Osdell, Mary Ann | 11/11/2008 1:27:24 AM
A good leader knows how to resolve conflict, build collaboration, run meetings and identify assets in the community.
Those are just some of the modules taught in the LSU AgCenter’s Leadership Plenty class in Lake Providence.
Twenty-two participants who completed the class in May came together Oct. 23 to assess what they learned and how it applies in the real world.
The class was taught in nine modules over nine weeks by an LSU AgCenter team of experts – Dr. James Barnes, Glenn Dixon, Dora Ann Hatch and Sheila Haynes.
Barnes, director of the LSU AgCenter’s Delta Rural Development Center in Oak Grove, said community representatives came to the LSU AgCenter after an analysis by the Community Development Institute showed East Carroll Parish needed a leadership committee.
The LSU AgCenter used the Pew Partnership Leadership Plenty curriculum and recruited participants and financial support from local businesses to meet their request, Barnes said.
“Results were above what I thought,” he said. “They learned to deal with conflict, run meetings more organized and recognize diversity – all cornerstones of what we taught.”
The group was encouraged to participate in a community project for economic development, education, recreation or natural resources following the class.
Melvin Williams became president of the East Carroll Scholarship Foundation, which recruited members, obtained nonprofit status, held fundraisers and provided scholarships to 14 high school graduates.
“This encourages our kids in East Carroll Parish,” he said.
Melvin Williams said the LSU AgCenter class taught him organizational skills.
“I know better now how to carry out the meeting and keep it in order without getting sidetracked,” he said.
Effective meeting-management skills are essential for leaders as they negotiate the complex interests of the community, Barnes said, adding that a leader should be organized.
Ashlynn James, the only high school student who participated, became president of her senior class at Lake Providence High School.
“Pretty much the whole class taught me how to lead meetings and get over any hardships,” James said of her participation in the LSU AgCenter program.
“Youth leadership training is important because so many of the same people wear many hats over and over again in small communities,” said Dixon, an LSU AgCenter agent in East Carroll Parish. James “brought another perspective to approaches and concerns.”
Rene Williams said she learned prioritizing and how everyone plays a part in the organization.
“Culture affects the organization,” Rene Williams said.
Other group factors include age, personality and diversity, Barnes said. The challenges and opportunities for a community leader involve learning how to manage conflict and to channel its energy in a positive way, he said.
Parish tax assessor Geneva Odom said she learned critical thinking and listening skills.
“I learned to listen and not think of what to say to come back,” she said.
Leadership training helped participants recognize the wealth of capacities people in the community possess as well as uncover their own unique skills. By identifying self interests and understanding and acknowledging the interests of others, organizations are able to build and sustain strategic partnerships, Barnes said.
Anita Perry, a member of the board of the Lake Providence-East Carroll Chamber of Commerce, said she now knows what steps to take to start a Clean City program and how to draw people in.
Ambitious visions are not realized in a day, but it is important to make measurable progress, celebrate accomplishments and revise plans if necessary, Barnes said.
“They did refer back to what they learned in the classes,” Dixon said of the class’ assessment. “They could have dismissed it. Some people are assuming leadership roles. I hope we built their confidence as leaders.”
The LSU AgCenter is planning additional leadership education classes in Northeast Louisiana, including parish-based and regional programs. One program, Leadership II, will meet three times a year in Oak Grove to work on community projects.
Writer: Mary Ann Van Osdell (318) 741-7430, ext. 1104, or firstname.lastname@example.org