For the third consecutive year, Leadership Montana recently brought together two groups on opposite sides of a polarizing issue for a vigorous discussion. The American Prairie Reserve and United Property Owners of Montana sat down together in Lewistown as part of our flagship session in January.
Many across the state have observed this issue for several years and recognized deep divides forming around it. Over the years, I watched more and more Montanans become aware of the growing controversy and those deep divisions became more and more evident. Helping these two groups come together talk about their differences has been something that I have been incredibly proud to see Leadership Montana lead and I have personally found great value in facilitating.
An important element of this work is the willingness of each side to get curious with the other. It seems so much easier to just lean away from conflict, but if we want to change our engagement right now, we must remember that leaning into conflict with curiosity, gives us a better chance to understand more than when we hold firm to our certainty.
Conflict surrounds us every day. We face differences that when left unexplored, can easily grow into deep division leaving the very fabric of our society frayed. Sometimes I fear that these frayed edges of our society are beyond mending. Other times, I watch as people engage deeply in seeking to understand difference, using curiosity, and suspending certainty. These times give me hope for our future.
Meeting conflict with curiosity is hard, I know. It’s hard for me every day and yet I know that I am my best self when I use what Leadership Montana has taught me – what you have taught me – about embracing difference, slowing down to engage more closely in conversations, and leaning hard into three very simple words: Tell me more.
Be well and lead well,
Chantel M. Schieffer
President & CEO
Class of 2010, Masters 2019