From the Mayor 08/10/16

Reprinted with Permission of the Independence Daily Reporter

If this cycle of national elections accomplishes nothing else, at the very least it should provide us with a vivid reminder of our desperate need for great leaders. In my opinion, we are in critical need of great leaders at all levels of government. And nowhere is that more important than here in Independence. No city ever becomes great by accident. For a city to become great, it must have a long line of great leaders.

And remember, no one is ever born being a great leader. Like learning to speak French, it’s a skill that must be studied and constantly practiced.

During the last year, I and nineteen others had a fabulous experience participating in a program called Leadership Independence. It gave us a wonderful chance to learn a lot about our great city, as well as learn leadership skills that will help us to be contributing members of our community.

Founded in 1984, Leadership Independence has been a long-standing activity of the Independence Chamber of Commerce. While the formatting may have changed over the course of those 30-plus years, the desired outcome is still very much the same: equip citizens to love their community and skillfully get involved in civic matters. The graduates learn skills to help them provide leadership at home, in their occupations, in their places of worship, and in civic and volunteer capacities throughout Independence.

Several of us in the class had very little, if any, leadership experience. Others, such as USD 446 Superintendent Rusty Arnold, were already very experienced leaders. Everyone can benefit from this class. And age makes no difference. I don’t care if you’re 20 or 120, you will enjoy and learn a lot from this class.

There are eight sessions, one per month, taking place between September and April. The program features a combination of community overview experiences with leadership skills training. The skills training is sponsored by the Kansas Leadership Center and provides participants with the opportunity to learn how to help teams perform better, collaborate and build consensus, understand different communication styles, and how to exhibit leadership even when they aren’t in charge. The program showcases the wonderful businesses, services and entities that make up Independence. Each year, attendees walk away having learned something about this community they didn’t know – even those who have spent their whole lives here. 

Leadership Independence offers participants a “behind-the-scenes” view of governmental, educational, commercial and manufacturing enterprises. Class members interact with community leaders and build friendships that go far beyond the program. They get the opportunity to network with other leaders.

Each year, the class also completes a project. It’s a win/win for them and for Independence – class members get the chance to complete a project while practicing the skills they’ve learned, and Independence reaps the benefits of whatever project they pull off. The city’s current recycling efforts are happening, in part, because of a Leadership Independence project. Other past projects have benefited Ralph Mitchell Park and Zoo, the skate park, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, First Leadership program at Independence High School, and the Ash Youth Center.

At $350, the program does cost a chunk of money, but don’t let that keep you away; there are partial scholarships available if the cost is a barrier. Also, some of our local companies are willing to send an employee, so if you’re employed, you might check with your employer.

DON’T WAIT, as applications are due in about 48 hours—by this Friday. Applications are available at the Independence Chamber of Commerce, 616 North Penn Avenue.

Make it a personal goal to improve your leadership skills; Independence needs you.

Mayor Gary Hogsett