Leading the Way – Leadership Siouxland

If you listen to the news at all, regardless of what station or source your information comes from, you most likely feel like I do – overwhelmed by the problems, tragedies, and issues that seem only to be compounding rather than diminishing.  We hear about the increase in mental illness and how people are generally becoming angry, frustrated, and fearful. 

Divisiveness and isolation abound. The problems seem so large that it is hard to imagine that a single person could make a difference, so the tendency is to simply do nothing. Deep in our hearts, we all know that doing nothing is not the right choice. It is important to learn about ourselves and discover our talents and strengths, and ultimately our passion. Only then can we become leaders that will make a positive difference in our own lives and the lives of our family, co-workers, and our community.

As the Executive Director of Leadership Siouxland, I strive to ensure that the nine-month program provides thought-provoking material and introduces the class to information and resources to help them better understand their strengths and talents and discover what they are passionate about. The intent is to inspire each participant to enhance their leadership skills and become engaged to better their community.  

The 41 Siouxlanders that recently graduated from Leadership Siouxland are well on their way to making a positive difference. The class was formed into seven “connection circles” (Teams) early on, and each circle completed a project in conjunction with a mission-driven organization. At graduation, the circles shared their accomplishments with the group, and it was amazing to hear their passion and how rewarding it was to be involved in creating good in the community. In addition, each graduate shared what they learned from the program and how it affected them.  

Team Alloy (the name was chosen because an alloy is a combination of more than one metal, which makes it stronger than a single metal – just as a team is stronger than one individual) collaborated with a newly formed mission-driven organization in Siouxland – YANA (You Are Not Alone). This organization is dedicated to helping people keep their minds strong, sharp, and whole. It works to raise awareness about mental health and support youth or adults struggling with depression, and to prevent suicide through outreach events. The Team is helping YANA put on a basketball tournament as a “back to school” event in August, as a way for youth to meet socially at an event that will provide resources, education, and fun. 

The team members shared how their participation in Leadership Siouxland created awareness of the many mission-driven organizations in Siouxland and how to get involved. They spoke about gaining a new perspective through the various diversity and generational differences sessions and how the experience humbled them and made them more appreciative and tuned into other people.

Team Leadership SUX thought outside the box. They discovered that Siouxland lacks support groups for individuals with breast cancer. Since 1 in 8 women in the US will develop breast cancer, they saw the need to create a forum (Breast Cancer SUX Tea Parties) that would provide a monthly event for women recently diagnosed, receiving treatment, or survivors of breast cancer to support each other.  This new support organization will continue to build awareness and provide on-going support. 

 These team members shared that they learned different styles of communication and leadership that they are putting into practice daily, resulting in better relationships with co-workers and colleagues.  Networking with classmates from various businesses and professions and learning how they handle similar challenges and obstacles was refreshing and helped everyone re-energize and re-focus.  The importance of self-care and celebrating little moments of success was also impactful.

Team Mission Possible collaborated with the Siouxland Coalition Against Human Trafficking (SCAHT).  Their project was to help spread the word about SCAHT and its services. Each group member completed awareness training with SCAHT then approached various Siouxland businesses, providing them with educational materials in English and Spanish and introducing the businesses to the possibility of receiving awareness training from SCAHT. These team members stressed the value of networking to expand your knowledge and open your mind to other ways of viewing a situation. Taking time to care for yourself makes you a better person, co-worker, parent, and partner.

Team Sioux Team 6 was named such as a play on Seal Team 6 because they wanted to give the same intensity and professionalism to their project as an actual Seal Team would.  These team members found a lot of value in completing the Gallup Strength Finder as it helped them better understand themselves and focus on their strengths vs. trying to improve their weaknesses.  The group also found that the exposure to community speakers broadened their understanding of Siouxland. The team partnered with Meet the Need Siouxland, a new mission-driven organization that is striving to ensure that when an individual is struggling, they are connected with the appropriate organization that can best meet their needs. The team proactively contacted local agencies and then compiled a comprehensive spreadsheet listing the various resources each agency has at its disposal. This will be put into a “resource guide” that will be invaluable to various agencies in Siouxland.

Team Bruguier’s Bunch took their name from Theophile Bruguier, the first white settler on land that later became Sioux City.  Bruguier’s farm and trading post included several log cabins and teepees used by his friend War Eagle and his family.  One team member shared that the program has inspired him to create his professional development plan.  Another team member indicated that she now understands better how non-verbal communication needs to be managed to ensure the “message” you are projecting to others is what you intended.  Learning more about the history of Siouxland and all the wonderful opportunities to get involved, was also important to these team members.  Team Bruguier’s Bunch partnered with the agency Sleep In Heavenly Peace, an agency committed to providing beds to ensure that no child in Siouxland has to sleep on the floor.  They learned that the agency struggled to find volunteers to build and deliver beds.  The group discovered the main issue is a lack of awareness within Siouxland of the agency and what it does.  They created a very professional educational video that can be used as a marketing tool and will significantly help educate the community on how easy it is to volunteer and what a rewarding experience that would be.

Team Siouxvenger Squad took their name to show their willingness to get involved and, like superheroes, fight to help youth in our community.  This team collaborated with Siouxland Youth for Christ and helped that organization, which works with youth ages 11 – 19, to transform a space within their Youth Center as a “clothing closet.”  The group collected donations and then created a process guide that the organization can use going forward to collect more donations and how to handle surplus donations and recycle used items.  Members of this team are committed to continuing to partner with Siouxland Youth For Christ and be involved with the organization’s mission going forward.  Team members expressed that the Leadership Siouxland program made them much more aware of the great needs right here in Siouxland and how each person can make a difference regardless of their leadership style.

Team Shared Outcomes was excited to partner with Wet Nose Rescue, formed in 2019 as a rescue shelter for Plymouth County, based in Le Mars.  The organization finally opened in 2022 to shelter cats and dogs.  The Team was instrumental in helping this new organization organize and build a cat colony and additional housing for cats, organized the storage room, cleaned the area, and helped sort supplies.  The Team learned that many non-profit agencies are strapped for volunteers and funding and lack the resources to handle many necessary business functions.  The team recognized that this is an opportunity within Siouxland – to help connect agencies with professionals in the business community that can lend their expertise to help the non-profit function more effectively.  Team members spoke about the value of exposure to different speakers sharing information about Siouxland that educated the class.  The importance of self-care was also mentioned as a great take away, as well as the session on change management.

Reflecting on the 2022 – 2023 class (my sixth graduating class as Executive Director), I realize how much I learned.  Each class opened my eyes to the great people we have in Siouxland and how dedicated they are to become better leaders.  I think this quote from George Washington Carver sums up my thoughts on how we can all make a difference in the world – and what our purpose should be:

“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong.  Because someday in your life, you will have been all of these.”

As Executive Director of Leadership Siouxland, Peggy Smith has the privilege of working with and learning from amazing Siouxlanders committed to enhancing their leadership skills and making a positive difference in Siouxland. Contact Peggy to learn how you can join the 2023 – 2024 class.

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