Lincoln, Neb. —Rural Prosperity Nebraska successfully organized a groundbreaking Leadership Chautauqua in Kearney, bringing together approximately 120 community leaders from Nebraska and Iowa for a day of transformative discussions. The think-tank-style discussions aimed to reshape community leadership development (CLD) in Nebraska, focusing on innovative strategies and collaborative approaches.
Lindsay Hastings, a professor of leadership development in the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication department, shared her enthusiasm for the event’s outcome, stating, “Ultimately, we wanted the Leadership Chautauqua to bring together peer networks of community leaders to have a robust think-tank discussion about CLD, and I think that was accomplished.”
The day-long session, funded by a North Central Regional Center for Rural Development grant awarded to Hastings, Mary Emery and Jordan Rasmussen, Rural Prosperity Nebraska’s executive director and program co-leader, respectively, explored various aspects of CLD. Topics included identifying the assets and challenges of existing CLD efforts, applying CLD research to rethink community leadership structures, addressing community leadership systems versus programs and exploring ways to widen the pool of prospective leaders.
Tyler Pribbeno, director of community development in Imperial, emphasized the importance of continual leadership development.
“To avoid any gaps in leadership, leadership development must be ongoing, particularly in Greater Nebraska with its smaller population,” he said. “As large numbers of Baby Boomers continue to retire, there is a real risk of a leadership void if we don’t continue to identify and cultivate new leaders.”
Stacy Miller, Knox County’s economic development assistant and Visit Knox County’s coordinator, highlighted the important of bringing new ideas into community leadership practices.
“The new ideas I gained from the Leadership Chautauqua emphasized the importance of inviting community members to join groups and determining their talents before assigning them to a project or leadership role,” she said. “This approach helps prevent situations where individuals feel overwhelmed, leading them to quit and leave. Remember, leadership is an activity, not just a position.”
Essential to the ongoing success and impact of this Chautauqua-based strategy is the creation of of work groups after the event, where community leaders can contextualize and share strategies in a community setting, pilots can be conducted, and CLD research can be enhanced. The results of this Chautauqua will further research on CLD, generating new ideas and practices.
The Chautauqua opened the door to a dynamic exchange of ideas and insights, fostering a collaboration among attendees. Rural Prosperity Nebraska is committed to building on the that momentum, continuing to drive positive change in community leadership development and making Nebraska a leader in leadership development.