Lead program can provide personal, community growth

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

You may know how to drive a tractor, but do you know how to balance a drink and plate of hors d'oeuvres while exchanging small talk at a cocktail party?

Maybe you’ve shown your calf at the State Fair, but how about visiting Asia to find out about the beef market?

Perhaps you’ve obtained a loan from your banker, but how about serving on the board of a trade group that will help shape policy to improve the economy of your entire state and industry?

Or maybe you’re reluctantly thinking of leaving agriculture altogether after your parents decide to retire and sell or rent their farmland to a neighbor.

Back in 1981, the Nebraska Agricultural Leadership Council, alarmed at challenges facing agriculture, joined with the Agricultural Builders of Nebraska Inc. and the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to found the Nebraska LEAD — Leadership Education / Action Development Program to address those issues.

There’s no time like the present, says Terry Hejny, director of the program and an alumnus of LEAD 20 — 18 years ago. In fact, it’s easy to wait too long, since the preferred age of participants is between 25 and 55.

The program is designed to raise skilled future agricultural leaders for the state by exposing them to diverse topics, issues, concerns, points of view and innovative ideas.

It’s also designed to school them in state, national and international affairs, and prepare them to be the problem solvers, decision-makers and spokespersons for the agriculture industry while establishing a network of highly motivated leaders.

Each class is open to 30 men and women with demonstrated leadership potential from each of five geographic regions across the state. They must have lived in Nebraska for three years and must be involved in farming, ranching or agriculture, complete a written application and interview with a district screening committee.

Through 12 three-day, theme-driven seminars from mid-September through early April, over two years, they will visit almost every public and private college and university in Nebraska.

The first-year focus is on local, state and national issues, with a 10-day national study/travel seminar in February.

The second year is focused on the international community and includes a 14- to 16-day international study/travel seminar.

In addition to a modest annual participant fee, the LEAD Program requires a serious commitment, including attending all seminars, full support by spouse and employer, a sincere commitment to self-improvement and an open mind and interest.

If you know someone who has participated, ask them about the program. They’ll tell you they’ve improved traits like self-confidence and a positive attitude, problem-solving and decision-making skills, public speaking skills and a belief they can make a difference.

Along the way, they’re built a network of contacts, a better view of the “big picture,” and opportunities to learn about a variety of leadership styles.

Oh, and skills in proper etiquette as well.

Contact kbraaten2@unl.edu to request an application, contact Hejney at (402) 472-6810 or thejny1@unl.edu, visit www.lead.unl.edu or look for the Nebraska LEAD Program on Facebook.

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