lead·er·ship: noun The state or position of being a leader.
As I read the very definition, I couldn’t help but be amused. The STATE of being a leader.
In September, I received an email congratulating me and announcing that I have been accepted in Class X of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Arkansas program. I knew the program was highly regarded, and that it was certain to be an educational experience. All of this was to be expected. But I very quickly learned: expect the unexpected.
Leadership Arkansas is a unique program designed to take a comprehensive view of the economic and political challenges that face this State. It has given me a much clearer understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of each region of my home state. By gaining a better comprehension of these characteristics, we can build a better home for all of us.
I expected to meet a strong group of established leaders from across our state in the program. I did not expect to meet the director of the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery, the CEO of Entergy Arkansas, or the CEO of a Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Arkansas Small Business Persons of the Year. Leadership Arkansas consisted of 58 men and women from across the state, Fayetteville to Magnolia, Blytheville to Texarkana.
Leadership Arkansas is full of diverse people, all with different interests and backgrounds, however all of us have the same goal: improving Arkansas. With the experiences and knowledge we have gained through this nine-month program, we can take this new found awareness to our local communities and, through that, impact the state as a whole.
In our 9-month program we gained many experiences, many that I never would have expected. Each of our sessions had a theme to help us better understand Arkansas Infrastructure. Our stops included Fort Smith, Little Rock, El Dorado, Blytheville, and Fayetteville/Bentonville. It included touring factories, saw mills, military bases, our state Capitol, steel plants, the West Memphis Southland Gaming facility, schools, universities, listening to panels of experts, and seeing some of the largest companies in Arkansas including Tyson and Wal-Mart headquarters.
But even though so many of those opportunities presented us with educational opportunities, more importantly they presented us with chances to learn about and engage with each other. And that is probably what I’m most grateful for.
Through the Leadership Arkansas program, I have done more than collected safety goggles from tours. I have a new grand appreciation for what it means to be an Arkansan. I have always loved living here, and I envision staying in Arkansas for many more years, and perhaps the rest of my life. So since this is my home, I have to take a step to improve my beloved state.
My job allows me to work with government agencies, schools, and corporations all over the state. Giving me the opportunity to find new causes and make impacts. I do not have to be the CEO of a major company or work for a company with hundreds of employees to make an impact. I just have to find the right place for me to help build our business and our community. The rest will fall into place.
After all, leadership is the STATE of being a leader. So why not start here in my home state?