Leadership Montana Program Reflection: Tim Guardipee (Billings) & Leslie Southworth (Lewistown), Class of 2022
Masters Class Session: Kelly Cresswell
February 28, 2022
Flagship Session: Molly Davidson
March 31, 2022


Tim Guardipee (Billings) and Leslie Southworth (Lewistown), Class of 2022

Session 4 | Lewistown, MT

Cohort 1: Tim Guardipee, Class of 2022, Billings

Our time during Lewistown reminded us of our current national situation where ideologically two different sides hold strong to their beliefs and passions. We got to see and hear from a couple of opposing forces that are speaking out and creating action for what they hold dear. What I appreciated about our own discussions, the community conversation, and land issues, we were able to have dialog in a manner that respected views, allowed discourse with no agenda.  When we as a society can respect, and I dare say love others individually even those we disagree with, it lessens the tension, fear, and hate and opens a broader ability to communicate. Not that we have to choose sides but we can view others with a different lens, one at times is hard for us to put on.

I appreciate the opportunity to discuss, learn, evaluate and understand. In Montana, we at times are insulated from the divisiveness that grips certain parts of America. We go about our daily lives putting in the efforts we care about usually in our own localities. We bustle about, we make happen, we innovate, we lead the charge and we care what we care about without regard to the national landscape.

Being in Lewistown and seeing the vibrancy the town has maintained and feeling the passion adds a sense of hope. Even when hearing about the fires, community concerns, food production issues, and land stewardship, a community can still have hope that what they do matters, especially for future generations. The value in the opportunity to learn and grow as a leader, which has the potential impact on future generations, is unquantifiable. That also gives me hope that we collectively as a group of individuals from all walks of life can be the drops of rain that bring abundant life to all that we have an influence on and care about.

Cohort 2: Leslie Southworth, Class of 2022, Lewistown

Our 4th gathering brought everyone to Central Montana under the clear blue winter skies, a truly beautiful setting to dive deeper into our conversations about gracious space. I am of course biased being born, raised, and residing in Lewistown. I was especially eager to dive into listening and learning about gracious spirit. In today’s world where it feels like the challenges are overwhelming and never-ending, it seemed many of us are seeking a way to have better conversations both in our work and those we interact with within our personal lives.

I couldn’t help but think about the background for our conversations on Cultivating the Spirit of Gracious Space. Central Montana is surrounded by the Judith, Snowy, and Belt mountains yet also borders the edge of the Montana prairie, a backdrop representative of vast geographic differences. It was in this setting where both cohorts of the current Flagship class were able to witness the power of gracious space and experience it firsthand as two organizations with opposing views shared the same space for a conversation. The conflict in values between those in the conversation was intense, yet we learned as they listened and responded to one another. We learned about the organizations and the land, witnessed masterful moderation, some enjoyed it while others did not, but we all learned something and that is the beautiful thing about this experience.

It is only through this amazing organization, Leadership Montana, these organizations trusted enough to share in the most vulnerable way so we all could learn. Amazing! The experience lent deeply to our conversations the next three days about intention, compassion, and curiosity. About the responses or behaviors, we display when our values are in or out of alignment and how our difference in values are often the root of conflict. Although there were big conversations in the room about important topics such as diversity and wage gaps, it was a conversation about cowboy hat etiquette that perfectly reflected the lesson on conflict.  Curiosity about the other led to understanding amongst the group. Be curious, as there is so much more we all could learn.