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Cultivating Leaders in La Plata County

While the New Oxford Dictionary of English defines leadership as the “action of leading a group of people or an organization,” it is so much more, and I think anyone can be a leader in any situation.

I believe good leaders park their egos and allow for failures, which can be great opportunities to learn.

They publicly recognize those who work with them and let them know they’re appreciated. Leaders hire individuals for their talents and abilities, put trust in them and then get out of their way. Leaders take risks, challenge the status quo and motivate others to achieve something new and better. Leaders also recognize their own and others’ social styles, which gives insight to understanding interactions with others, resolving conflicts, and improving relationships and individual performance.

The Chamber’s Leadership La Plata’s program helps develop personal and professional leadership skills, while broadening knowledge of our community. This year marks the 34th graduating class (2022-23), and we are so thrilled that more than 570 individuals have gone through LLP over the years.

Let’s first look at the history of Leadership La Plata. Ideas of developing a leadership program for the area date back to 1980 when Steve Parker moved from the Front Range to Durango and suggested the idea to then Chamber executive director, Jasper Welch. Steve saw the success of leadership programs in Denver and thought a similar program in La Plata County had great potential.

In 1988, Leadership La Plata was officially organized with the help of founding members: Steve Parker, Jasper Welch, Harold Green, Richard Ballantine, Bill Mashaw, Kay James, Joel Jones, Tom Compton, Alice Joiner, among others. The first graduating class was in 1988-89 with the likes of Ed Morlan, Rita Warfield, and Bill Brown, just to name a few. For a complete alumni directory, visit LeadershipLaPlata.org

Currently, we are recruiting for the 2023-24 graduating class, and we’re asking you to help spread the word. Classes are up to 18 individuals who come from diverse backgrounds, various areas of La Plata County and are associated with different industry sectors. Applicants must be at least 25 years old and reside in La Plata County for at least a year or have worked in La Plata for at least five years.

The class kicks off with a mandatory retreat the second weekend in September, along with one class monthly through May. Class curriculum includes leadership development and team building, along with an exploration of community-based topics such as arts and culture, business, diversity and regional issues, education, environment, government, health and human services, and public safety/criminal justice.

Each class is unique with tours or hands on experience that allows for classmates to learn about the community while developing friendships. I participated in the 2007-08 class, and I am very grateful for what I learned and the individuals I met, with whom I probably would not have crossed paths otherwise.

LLP has been an invaluable part of my own leadership development. Because of the training I received, I have more confidence to reach out to others that I don’t know, and I’ve developed better conflict resolution skills over the years.

We invite you to be part of this fulfilling program! To learn more about Leadership La Plata and to apply, visit LeadershipLaPlata.org. Applications are due on May 31 at 11:59 p.m.

Jack Llewellyn is executive director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce. Contact him at jack@durangobusiness.org.