Stacey Anderson, Class of 2020, Helena
When you consider a certain truth of the universe — “what you see is what you get” — Leadership Montana seems to be intent on flipping that truth on its collective head. On the surface, Session 3 taught us the Gracious Space concept of “inviting the stranger” when considering the big issues of life, whether in the workplace or in our personal lives. The purpose of “inviting the stranger” is to make sure all viewpoints are authentically heard and considered in those moments when decisions are being made.
Seemed pretty straightforward, until it wasn’t given the next activity…
As a class, we all participated in an anonymous exercise that revealed the truth(s) behind our professional personas. Without exception, we learned that many of us come to class bearing stories of loss, histories of trauma, and are facing current and future challenges. This exercise, by far, was one of the most impactful activities I have ever personally participated in as an adult. We were all vulnerable in those moments together and, as a result, came to know each other more than perhaps we expected to given that we were participating in a program designed to strengthen leadership skills.
Which leads me to the biggest secret about Leadership Montana: how much we will change in our personal lives. On its surface, Leadership Montana is a professional development opportunity for business and industry leaders across Montana and, while we are learning about different leadership styles and the tools of the Gracious Space philosophy, I believe the most profound impacts will be felt in our personal lives. We are not only learning about critical issues in Montana, but we are taking a deep-dive into ourselves and understanding how our experiences and values can be influenced and improved through greater understanding of people who may not look or think like us. That understanding and willingness to open our minds and hearts to new people is what makes Leadership Montana a change agent for everyone who commits to the program.
Fundamentally, Leadership Montana is not what I expected — it is so much more. Thank you to everyone who supports this program and especially to all of the alumni who have become before the Class of 2020. Our shared experience and common language going into the future offers all of us hope that Montana can flourish because of our differences, not in spite of.