by Emily Frazier, Helena – Class of 2021
I approached our 3rd flagship session with a mix of excitement and discomfort. Excitement over seeing most of my cohort, visiting Butte –frankly, leaving my house—and knowing that every meeting of Leadership Montana has left me feeling invigorated, thoughtful, and changed. But the discomfort was also real—with COVID cases mounting statewide and a third of our cohort out due to quarantine or COVID testing, there were risks to attending.
By the end of the session, however, I realized the real risks I had been asked to take had been internal.
Our sessions on “Inviting the Stranger” culminated in an anonymous exercise that left me feeling exposed and raw, but on behalf of someone else. Looking around the six-foot-spaced-apart circle, I could see my emotions reflected in the faces of others. The experiences of others, some very traumatic or disheartening, had become personal in a way that would have been impossible to anticipate.
This is the meat and the magic of the Leadership Montana experience—these moments that connect you in vulnerability and compassion, that awaken a new understanding not only in your own heart, but very clearly in the hearts of everyone else in the room. This program has challenged me in ways I didn’t expect at every session, but built a place where it is safe to be challenged and to explore what those challenges could bring.
Leadership Montana’s flagship program marries these impactful moments into a well planned and balanced experience. The heaviness of moments of intense emotion are paired with lighthearted encounters—banter and good food during dinner at Lydia’s, tours of the Butte Underground, and the gift—made more poignant in 2020 than ever before—of being with others in-person.
Emily is the Executive Director of the Helena Area Community Foundation.