What: Three-day intensive leadership workshop.

When: Feb. 19-21.

Who: CREATE Foundation (Coordinator).

How: Call 844-898. Deadline Feb. 1.

Where: Olive Branch.

Why: To expand leadership capabilities throughout the region.

Shingle: Habit forming

Hed: Leading the way

Deck: Program eyes personal approach to regional improvement

By Philip Moulden

Daily Journal

New age, new look, new leaders.

A program set to kick off next month for Northeast Mississippi citizens is designed to create a new view of leadership in the region, a concept to match the evolving world into the 21st century.

And the new leaders will be: Everybody.

Two intensive training workshops, one in February and one in March, will be coordinated by Tupelo's CREATE Foundation to help spread the concept of "principle centered community" leadership.

The move sprang from a leadership summit sponsored by CREATE a year ago and the resulting mandate to design a training model to meet area leadership needs and goals.

Operating under the philosophy "Leadership can be taught by anyone, learned by everyone, and should be denied to no one," an advisory committee began looking at nationally recognized programs to construct a local training model.

But as the effort moved forward, various experts convinced local officials they would be better served by selecting one specific program to serve as the centerpiece of the local effort, explained Buddy Parham, CREATE's director.

The vehicle chosen was developed by the Covey Leadership Center of Provo, Utah, and is based on its founder's concept termed "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People."

"So many people have the concept that leadership is being boss," CREATE advisory committee member Henry Dodge, president of Savings Oil Co., said last week. "Our whole idea is that leadership is for everyone. Covey identifies leadership skills that can be taught to anyone."

Corporations to communities

The Covey Center began the program to help its large charter corporations create new management structures. Its aim later spread to mid-size corporations through Covey Leadership Center Affiliates.

But center officials said they recognized a discrepancy in their approach, "a glaring need that we are now fully committed to meeting."

The company said that need was to reach out to small businesses, family businesses, single-owner firms, families and small communities. The resulting program allows smaller communities to buy one licensing agreement that will cover all its people. The licensee must in turn make a commitment to make Seven Habits training available for "every adult and appropriate youth within the community."

"An important factor will be practical application. Not just what you learn personally, but how you apply it within your personal life, your professional life, your community," noted CREATE advisory committee member Karen Holliday, a financial writer and marketing consultant.

The Northeast Mississippi area is among a half-dozen communities involved in the program and is the first regional effort.

Its success will be measured through long-term assessments, but officials in the first community involved remain highly enthusiastic after the first two years.

"Absolutely, it's very successful here," said Karen Burnett, executive director of Columbus Quality Plus, an adjunct of the Columbus, Ind., Chamber of Commerce.

"It was just powerful to see how the principles made a difference in their (participants) lives," Burnett said following recent filming by the Public Broadcasting System and CBS that focused on some of the 3,000 people who have taken the course thus far. Once the principles are accepted, "the whole atmosphere changes," she said.

Feb. 1 deadline

The first workshop is scheduled Feb. 19-21 and the second March 20-22. About 40 to 45 participants are expected for each. Both will be held at the Holiday Inn Conference Center in Olive Branch.

The cost is $795 per person, which includes meals and two nights' lodging. People wanting to participate in the first workshop must contact CREATE by Feb. 1 to assure that preconference tasks are completed on time.

"We anticipate that first class filling up very quickly," said Michael Clayborne, CREATE Foundation community development consultant.

A third workshop is scheduled May 13-15 for selected individuals (facilitators) who will carry the principles back to their companies or communities to teach others. In that way the program can be spread from the initial workshops to every worker and manager in every nook and corner in the region, organizers say.

"The quality of the program will not be diminished, just the cost," Parham said of the local facilitator concept.

"It's an ongoing thing. It's really a three-to-five-year process before it becomes a part of the culture," Dodge noted.

CREATE officials said they selected the Olive Branch location to remove participants from everyday business or family distractions.

"This will be an intense training period," noted Dodge. "We think it's important to go off-site (out of the area) for that intensity."

The workshops are open to anyone on a first-come basis, although organizers are working to assure diversity by region, race, organization, and job level.

Breaking old views

A major part of the program is to break down resistance to change, Dodge said. It encourages trust, thereby permitting people up and down a corporate or community ladder to look at new ideas without suspicion.

"You're constantly envisioning what the future is," he said. "I think we have to get to this point if we are going to stay on the leading edge of the curve, and that's where we need to be."

"It's really going back, back to the old value system of trust and honesty," said Zell Long, a committee member and development officer for the city of Tupelo. The trickledown effect on coworkers and family members from those who participate can be immediate, she said.

"Their skills are very different than what we normally consider leadership skills," agreed advisory committee member Ken Davis, vice president and medical director of North Mississippi Medical Center. "The needs for the future are very much collaboration, cooperation and empathy."

"Really, it's about redefining the role of leadership," added Parham.

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