As leaders, we face challenging decisions daily. Sometimes it feels like they come one right after another until we’re buried in indecision, frustration, and loneliness. Being a leader is hard work.
I was recently put to the test as I navigated conflict and challenge. I had two paths - one easy, the other hard. Half way down the “easy” way, I questioned myself wondering if this was really the most compassionate decision. Enter confusion, frustration and yes, even loneliness. While I could gather sage advice from everyone around me, the final decision was mine alone.
I turned around and dove straight into the other path which was as as welcoming as the weather we’ve had this week across Montana. One thing I appreciate about this winter storm is that it forces us to be quiet, to stop moving, and to listen.
And deep listening was the key to solving my challenge. By listening, was able to tap into the compassion and empathy that were buried under my frustration. With new clarity, I could plainly see that the two paths weren’t really “easy v. hard”; they were “easy v. right”.
Doing the right thing is generally also the hard thing. As leaders, we have constant opportunities to learn and grow from these challenges while modeling the way for others.
Heather Collins, Class of 2016, Masters Class 2019 - Bozeman
Interviewed by Rachel Haberman, Class of 2018 - Helena
Heather Collins is the Development Director at Eagle Mount in Bozeman. She and her husband Zac moved to Montana with their two girls 13 years ago. In addition to their regular jobs, they stay busy helping Zac’s parents with their hydroponic tomato farm.
Most people associated with Leadership Montana have life-changing experiences during the class and Heather is no exception. One of her favorite memories related to LM occurred in Whitefish when she connected on a very deep level with a classmate over dinner, the CEO of a hospital. It was someone she would never have had the opportunity to meet were it not for Leadership Montana – and a person whom she somewhat tended to place on a pedestal. This experienced helped her recognize that one can pre-judge people in both positive and negative lights. Rather than assuming someone is too far “above” her, she realized she needed to let go of that preconception, get to know them, let them get to know her, and in the process learn more about herself. It changed her perspective on how she views herself among her peers.
“When you pre-judge, you don’t have the opportunity to develop those kind of relationships,” said Heather.
Leadership Montana also had a huge impact on how Heather views conflict, something she disliked and avoided. She would often just shut down and walk away. Jerry Evans pointed out in one of his training sessions that responding that way basically tells the other person they are not important enough to deal with. This idea changed Heather’s view of conflict in all areas, but especially helped her communicate better with her husband. Heather said it so well: “You may not want the conflict, but having the conversation is worth it.”
Heather believes Leadership Montana’s chief role is providing a venue for creating relationships locally and statewide. This helps support and lift Montana up, continuing to make it a wonderful place. “Leadership Montana helps connect the right people to each other to ensure we’re doing everything we can for this community of Montana.” In fact, the things Heather most appreciates about Montana are the community and the relationships. Growing up in southern California she heard the word “community” but never truly understood what it meant until she moved here. “Bozeman and Montana are perfect examples of what community is,” said Heather.
Heather volunteers on the Leadership Montana Alumni Committee currently serving as the Class Rep Liaison and also volunteers on the Development Committee. Thank you Heather!
Join with Leadership Montana graduating flagship class members, Masters graduates, esteemed alumni, and honored guests as we together Celebrate Montana.
Evening activities will include Montana inspired cuisine, an auction benefiting Leadership Montana, and the presentation of the Tom Scott Excellence in Leadership Award to Mike O'Neill.
The special event has become one of the highlights the year as we gather to celebrate our participants, alumni, founders, and the great state we call home.
Thu, April 25, 2019 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM Northern Hotel 19 North Broadway Billings
by Eric Halverson Class of 2016, Masters 2019 - Missoula
Driving across Montana from east to west is nothing new. After all, I’m a Billings boy living in Missoula, but this route was different. My classmate Hatton and I were Lewistown bound. “I know how to get to Great Falls,” she said, “but you’ll have to help me a bit with the navigation from there.”
In typical Leadership Montana fashion, our conversation along the way was expansive and lovely. We both listened to each other, so deeply, in fact, that I suddenly found myself wondering why we were headed straight south in a beautiful canyon. “Hatton,” I said embarrassingly, “we need to turn around.” Of course, we were heading for Helena by way of Cascade.
After my slip-up and an extra hour on the road, we arrived in Lewistown. “We’re so close to Billings!” I noted as we passed Eddy’s Corner – familiarity at the end of an unfamiliar path.
The session that ensued was remarkable. The lessons of Pat Hughes, as my classmate Chuck would often say, “made my head hurt” in the best of ways. Courage is hard, collaboration is hard, and courageous collaboration is harder still. Nonetheless, I find tremendous peace in knowing that the lessons of Gracious Space and Leadership Montana have given me a framework with which I can begin to grasp these concepts. Further, I feel tremendous gratitude for the opportunity to work through these challenges under the guidance of Pat Hughes and alongside my fellow Leadership Montana alum.
Despite all the head-hurting hard work, I always leave Leadership Montana with a full heart. Connections with my classmates, it seems, always rise to the top.
Most of my classmates and I have only spent a total of 3 days together prior to arriving in Lewistown, but a stranger peeking into the Calvert Hotel lounge on Wednesday night or the Mint Restaurant on Thursday could only conclude that we were all fast friends. “Is that cribbage?” a classmate asked as I pulled out my board. “Dang right! Lookin’ to get schooled?” We were bantering like old buddies despite such brief time spent together. The path to this friendship, to this connection, was far from the typical way I’ve built connections before, yet it was a profound connection nonetheless.
Familiarity at the end of an unfamiliar path indeed.
FLAGSHIP CLASS REFLECTION
Session Five Class Reflection by Carl Nystuen, Bozeman
Class of 2019
During the recent Leadership Montana sessions in White Sulphur Springs and Great Falls we discussed the significance of change (both personal and work-related), considered the importance of building coalitions and reaffirmed that north-central Montana can fall well below zero in February.
As always, the community presentations and panel discussions – on subjects such as the proposed Black Butte Copper Mine in WSS, the youth movement in Great Falls and an eye-opening presentation from Malmstrom AFB – were impactful. However, we focused most on the concepts of change and coalitions.
What is change? Why do things change? How do you handle change within an organization? These are all meaningful questions. With the help of Gracious Space, we looked at the phases of individual transition on Thursday afternoon. The class, myself included, found this topic to be front of mind – with many of us facing major changes in our lives at this particular time. The conversations and presentations helped many of us feel more at ease with change – knowing we can be the leaders we know we are as we guide our organizations, families and own lives through these periods of transformation.
We closed the session by starting the first of three conversations about building coalitions to tackle the issues identified by our class as the major hurdles facing the state of Montana today. It seems that people have been talking about these issues for years without making much progress. However, on that snowy Friday morning, our class came together to begin putting ideas in place. We identified key stakeholders and problem solvers throughout the state, in areas such as culture, workforce, state funding and community development, who can join the conversation. We’ve started a discussion that we hope brings change to many of these areas. Stay tuned to this monthly newsletter for ongoing updates as we head to Glasgow and Billings to close LMT.
This month we showcase Silver Sponsor A&E. Thank you Dusty, Chris, and Ric for all that you do to help us build a better Montana!
Leadership Montana’s strength is due to generous individuals, corporations, and foundations who believe in our mission of developing leaders committed to building a better Montana. These partners are deeply connected to our work and success.
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Leadership Montana is a non-profit collaboration of leaders from business, labor, healthcare, higher education, non-profits and government coming together to form a strong partnership for the betterment of Montana.
Leadership Montana exists to develop leaders committed to building a better Montana through knowledge, collaboration and civility.