The Leading Edge, February 2017
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It's all around us and no one is immune from it. In our homes, at work, and in our communities conflict creates division that pushes us away from "the other". Issues of local, state, national and international difference are more prevalent and are deepening the "us vs. them" approach.
For those of us committed to civility, now is the time when we must use the tools we've learned in Leadership Montana to engage in and facilitate productive, meaningful conversations. We must listen for the sake of understanding, welcome differing opinions into our conversations, and be open to finding common ground. This is the foundation of Gracious Space.
Creating and offering Gracious Space does not mean avoiding conflict. Rather it is a container for conflict and provides us all a safe place to have hard conversations without making them personal.
Of course we will never all agree. That's the point of diversity of thought, something we celebrate at Leadership Montana. But I believe that we can agree to have hard conversations and gain even more respect from each other.  
If you are interested in deepening your practice of Gracious Space and using those tools to teach this practice to others, we invite you to consider training to be a facilitator. We plan to bring Pat Hughes to Montana this summer to provide that experience for our alumni. Email me to learn more.
In the meantime, if we can be a resource to help you navigate these hard conversations, please reach out. We’re here and we’re listening…

Apply Now for the Class of 2018

Applications are accepted for the Leadership Montana Class of 2018 until April 15. Please share this newsletter with anyone you think should be a part of this organization. Click Here for more information. 

Class Reflection on Helena

by E.J. Porth, Bozeman

I felt like a 4th grader on a field trip as I stood in the rotunda and gazed at the ceiling, oohing and aahing at the beautiful stained glass in our state’s capitol.  I’ve always considered myself a politically engaged person but to some degree, the jargon and complicated world of politics has seemed out of reach, abstract, and a bit intimidating.

But standing there, in our capitol, I felt important.  There was a flurry of excitement as classmates greeted each other after a two month hiatus. We weren’t strangers in that building; classmates were running into their local representatives and waving "Hello" in the hallways and on the stairs. Suddenly it felt like our big state wasn’t that big at all.

We were ushered into the Governor’s office and had an intimate conversation with the Governor himself.  I reflected on how special it was that he took the time to talk to us, to listen to us, and to laugh with us.  Later that day I texted my friends in large cities around the country to share my experience. They were floored. Their Governors were out of reach, inaccessible and too busy for conversations like this.

I left Helena with an overwhelming sense of pride to be a Montanan, to live in a state where my elected officials are interested in what I have to say and save me a seat at a table.
Our session in Helena was not a text book lesson in civics. It was an experience in civics, real issues, real people, real conversations.   The mysterious veil of politics was pulled back to reveal a group of people working hard to make my life in Montana better.

At this point in the program, we’re noticing consistent emerging issues facing our state and we’re ready to start solving problems. The Helena session gave us a path forward and a toolbox to make our voices heard. I’m now able to see the steps that we, as leaders, can take to move the needle on these issues.  I’m empowered to know that my state is in the hands of real leaders, not just strangers in a textbook. 

Alumnus of the Month 


 Mike O'Neill
 NorthWestern Energy

Leadership Montana 2007
Board of Governors

Tell us about you… what do you do, where do you live, family life.

I was born and raised in Butte. Graduate of Butte Central and the University of Montana. I’ve worked for NorthWestern Energy (Montana Power) for close to 36 years in various capacities. Currently I’m the Director of Organizational Development and Labor Relations. I married my college sweetheart, Karen (Walker) O’Neill and together we have a grown daughter Katie, son-in-law Jack Woldtvedt and a 10+month old grandson, Riley, who is the center of our world these days. In addition to LM, I’ve very active for the past 35 years at the University of Montana serving on various Boards and committees. I’ve also served on a number of other Boards and commissions over my career. I like to golf, fish, and tinker around in my wood shop.


Tell us about a favorite memory from the Class of 2007?

There are so many… Our class visited Sidney, a place I had never been to before. I recall being very impressed with the people and the community. They were very candid about how the last oil boom and bust cycle impacted them both personally and professionally and that was the reason for their caution in infrastructure development related to the oil boom that was developing at that time. Being from Butte and experiencing the booms and busts of the Anaconda Copper Company while growing up, as well as the experience I had personally with Montana Power / Touch America, I really related with what these great people were going through and those feelings have always stayed with me.

 I also recall how welcoming the folks at the Cadillac bar were to all of us and how much we all appreciated their hospitality (and their mac & cheese).


What has been the strongest impact that Leadership Montana has made on your life, professionally or personally?

The strongest impact on me has been the concepts we learned in the Gracious Space training we all received. Those concepts have become second nature to me and have served me well both personally and professionally.

I would also say that the networking has been important to me. Some of the closest friends I have to date, I met though my class and/ or through my LM Board service. I can’t imagine my life today without these individuals as treasured friends.


What do you see as the role for Leadership Montana in our state?

Our “tag line” says it best. LM exists because Montana deserves great Leaders. LM fills an important role in helping organizations develop the leadership potential of their high potential employees. From Gracious Space; to learning more about yourself and what makes you tick as well as learning concepts that can make you more effective as an individual; to learning more about the value of diversity; to learning more about the communities we visit; to excellent networking opportunities.

It is not coincidental that so many of our graduates have excelled personally and professionally. The life skills LM exposes people to have made, and will continue to make, a huge difference for those people and for our state.


Finally, tell us what you appreciate most about Montana.

I appreciate that Montana is my home and will always be my home!!

I appreciate my wife of 36+ years and that she continues to be my best and closest friend. I appreciate the beauty of the mountains and the plains, especially when I can enjoy some of the beauty on a golf course. I appreciate the feeling of being on a river on a nice day with close friends. I appreciate NorthWestern Energy and I especially appreciate all of the people I have the honor to work with.

I’m especially appreciative of Chantel, Anna, and the Leadership Montana Board for continuing to make this program better each and every year so that others can benefit from this experience.


Alumni in Action

Ben Hursh (LMT 2014) has been named U.S. bankruptcy judge for Montana and will keep his chambers in Butte. Hursh will serve a 14-year term, which starts Feb. 1. A formal investiture ceremony will be held on Feb. 3 at the Mike Mansfield Federal Building, 400 N. Main St.
Kelly Heaton (LMT 2014), executive director of Domestic and Sexual Violence Services, was “honored and floored and shocked” to receive the Red Lodge Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year award.  Read the full news article here.

Sponsor of the Month

We are excited to showcase the Montana Chamber of Commerce as our Sponsor of the Month. As a founding partner for Leadership Montana, the Chamber of Commerce is important to the past, present, and future of our organization. Our appreciation to you!

Upcoming Events
All events are open to current class members, alumni, and friends!

Kalispell Alumni Event February 21, 2017

Billings Alumni Event February 23, 2017

Bozeman Alumni Event February 23, 2017

Save the Date
Annual Alumni Dinner April 27, 2017 - Billings 
The Confluence 2017 September 21-22 - Miles City 

To see a full calendar of events through May 2017, click here. 
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.
Montana Photos by The Wendt Agency

Copyright © 2017 Leadership Montana, All rights reserved.

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