by Anna Mitterling, Wildlife Cooperative Coordinator, MUCC
Several months ago I applied for to attend the Great Lakes Leadership Academy. Throughout my career with DNR, MSU, and now MUCC, I have heard nothing but recommendations to attend the academy someday. Last year, I was in my review meeting with MUCC, and they asked me what sort of career development they could help facilitate. I let them know I was interested in more leadership training, and having more tools in my toolbox to manage meetings more effectively and communicate better. We discussed the Great Lakes Leadership Academy, and decided I would apply. So I did! And several weeks later was invited for an interview, and later offered an invitation to participate in three, four day sessions. I excitedly accepted, and then wrote letters to my partners requesting funding to cover the expense. I am blessed to have the financial backing of MUCC, QDMA, and PF to participate in this academy, as well as as a generous scholarship from a donor to Great Lakes Leadership Academy.
The first session provided a chance for us to get to meet the 23 other students who were in the class with us. The backgrounds of the cohort mostly centered around natural resources, but we had a few people who assisted with grants in the City of Detroit, as well as individuals who assisted people in developing skill sets to make them marketable in the job arena. It was really neat learning about the different jobs that are out there, that all relate to making our world better - whether by planting grasses, managing state game areas, directing technical departments at a university, or starting off their career as a graduate student. There were many perspectives and experiences to draw from.
The key center piece of the academy was the “Common Good.” During the first session we sought to create a definition for this phrase. This concepted framed our discussions on leadership, and our motivations for why and how we promote and discuss programs that work to improve hunting, habitat, water quality, etc. by recognizing that there is a diverse set of individuals who utilize the various environments and tools provided by these programs, it it is important to manage discussions and decisions to keep these diverse view in mind.
The first session also helped us discover our main behavior styles and how they affect how we interact and are understood by other behavior styles. We learned that by understanding these styles we could enhance our interpersonal interactions and communications.
In session two, we built upon the first session in learning about emotional resilience and psychological flexibility. This really helped to not only understand emotions and responses at a personal level, but the importance of having leaders who are emotionally connected yet stable. By being aware of emotional engagement, reducing reactivity, and increasing your ability to act within your core values (the things that matter most), you are able to become a much more intentional and effective leader. For me, I learned that this does not mean you do not express anger or frustration, but you communicate those emotions in a way that is mindful and aware of the emotion and why it is occurring, double checking to make sure that expressing those feelings/thoughts is inline with the goals of staying true to who you are and the direction that needs to be taken to facilitate change for the common good.
Session three was still focused on learning new tools, but really oriented around the integration of the tools and concepts we learned in the past two sessions. The greatest value to me was the review and additional depth of self awareness in leadership. In addition, we learned more about framing team decisions and making sure that we are looking at scenarios from a high enough level perspective and that we are being inclusive for different views and values that are affected and involved in the decisions that are being made. The other tool I was really excited about, oriented around issue mapping. This tool seeks to understand the big picture down to the details of what the problem is, who is affected, which groups are involved, what risks are associated with the issue, and options for solutions. Being a visual person, and an analytical thinker, I look forward to using this tool to more deeply understand structures I work in, and interactions that exist within those groups.
The entire experience ended on thinking through how we could define our role and responsibility in shaping a positive future. This requires we understand our sphere and the influence we have within that sphere. We also were provided tools to enter into the areas of change we engage in, and move forward in promoting change in those arenas.
To learn more about the Great Lakes Leadership Academy, please visit their website: http://www.glla.msu.edu/