Leadership Montana Blog: Gratitude a message from Chantel Schieffer
To the Class of 2023
April 30, 2023
New President/CEO
June 30, 2023


Message from president/CEO Chantel Schieffer

In this, my last of some 108 monthly newsletter reflections, I combine two passions of mine – leadership lessons and Foo Fighters concerts. 

In March 2022, my favorite rock band, the Foo Fighters, suffered a shocking loss with the death of their longtime drummer, Taylor Hawkins. The Foo world was in a tailspin, unsure of what the future would hold…unsure of how to move forward. They spent the next year quietly healing while honoring the life of their dear friend.

I was in an Uber in Los Angeles on September 27, headed to Taylor Hawkins’ Memorial concert, when my friend and colleague Jerry called from the hospital in Missoula. He had a medical crisis sparked by a tumor that needed to be removed. I can still feel that pit in my stomach as we hung up. I texted him encouraging words through the night while watching a celebration of life unfold before me, hopeful for the best but also fearing the worst.

A few weeks later, we would learn that Jerry had brain cancer. A few months after that, he would be gone from this life. The Leadership Montana world was in a tailspin, unsure of what our future would hold. How would we know where to go without our North Star?

The first time I walked into a Leadership Montana classroom without Jerry, I had no clue what I was supposed to do. I was nervous, sad, scared, and mad all at once. I forgot how to stand in front of a group and guide us through our lessons. I recognized that same swirl of anxious emotions last week when I saw the Foo Fighters in their very first concert since Taylor’s death. I watched as these seemingly larger-than-life literal rockstars navigated what it meant to once again form a new team. Forming, again.

This felt simultaneously strange and familiar. Soon though, tentative movements gave way to spontaneous sparks of joy mixed with tears of pain. The band, a new drummer, and a few thousand fans…we were in the messy middle, together.

Finding our way, together.
Forming, again…together.

At center stage for all of this new team building was gratitude – a remarkably deep appreciation for each other and the stakeholders who kept showing up when it really mattered.

I watched in awe as this team formed right before my very eyes. It was possible, in fact, it was necessary, to learn to play together in a new way. For the first time in a very long time, I had hope for the future, and my thoughts turned to Leadership Montana.

We are forming, again. With new teammates, fresh visions, and new energies to carry us into the next version of our organization, our work will feel simultaneously familiar and strange, and it will be exactly what we need it to be – new.

Joining the team as the new Lead Trainer will be Carmen McSpadden. I can think of no one better to carry on Jerry’s legacy than his training partner for the past decade. I am grateful that she has said yes to this role. While Carmen focuses on the Leading in Montana curriculum, Hatton and the Gracious Space Trainers (is that a band name?!) will guide our participants through our civil discourse work.

Our new team will be led by our new President & CEO Kelly Heaton, who joins the organization in June. If you don’t know Kelly yet, I am so excited to introduce you to her. She is phenomenal and perfectly suited to lead us to our next great chapter.

The new Leadership Montana team. Forming, again. I am so excited to see where they take us. I will be right where I belong, too…front and center, cheering from the bottom of my heart.