Category Archives: Emerging Leaders Academy

Noel Rasor – Emerging Leaders Academy Reflections

ELA Director, Noel Rasor, highlights the achievements of the Fall 2016 ELA class, as well as reflects on the program itself.

ELA Director, Noel Rasor, highlights the achievements of the Fall 2016 ELA class, as well as reflects on the program itself.

Comments Delivered by Noel Rasor, Emerging Leaders Academy Director

On January 11th, 2017


Good Afternoon. My name is Noel Rasor. I’m the Assistant Director of the University of Kansas Public Management Center and the program manager of the Emerging Leaders Academy. On behalf of the Public Management Center staff, I want to extend a warm welcome to our guests, the families, friends and supervisors of the ELA graduates—we truly appreciate your setting aside the time to be able to be here with us this afternoon to celebrate the work these individuals have put into this program over the past 5 months.

Beyond this, we truly appreciate the efforts on the part of all of our guests this afternoon that made it possible for the individuals here in the front to complete this program. You’ve taken the phone calls and handled the urgent matters while these folks were away for class. Families, we know that many of you added a few more items to your own never-ending to-do lists at home to cover things while they spent some time in the evenings preparing, and I suspect many of you helped them track down old copies of certificates and reports that they wanted to add to their portfolios. So, ELA class, please stand and turn around and join me in thanking your supporters for making your participation possible. I know I speak not only for the PMC but also for the graduates when I say we have deep gratitude for the investments all of you have made in your emerging leaders and in your trust of the Public Management Center to offer something of value to these individuals.

As a program that is meant to support the need for succession planning in public sector organizations, ELA targets promising non-managerial staff in government and other public service agencies to help them identify and hone the skills that are necessary for success in higher level roles. But by design this time spent in reflection and skills building also has immediate benefits for the participants and their departments. This is nearly always the case: when we remember to list our eyes from the road and look to the horizon, it offers us insight that we can bring to the here and now. Today’s program recognizes and celebrates the efforts of this group of public servants to elevate what’s important—thinking about goals, values, skills-building, their own strengths and those of the others, and the future– to co-exist with what all that is urgent in the everyday.

Looking to the horizon in ELA involves a lot of opportunities to engage with peers around topics and issues that show up in and shape all of our workplaces. While Public Management Center instructors bring important expertise and great content around topics like communication, ethics, leadership, and managing up, those of you who have been through a PMC class know twe believe that a good class is one in which participants learn as much from one another as they do from any of us as instructors. We structure our classes around opportunities for participants to engage and connect with one another as they leverage the many experiences they bring to class with them. I take tremendous pride in our ability at the PMC to create this environment from the first hour on the first day. Humans may be competitive, but we are also profoundly social creatures with big, active brains. We want to learn and we want to connect. When those of us “in charge” at any given moment create environments that allow for connection to happen, people step into that opportunity with eagerness, and everyone is better off because of it.

So thank you for being here today to help us recognize the efforts and accomplishments of this group of public servants in the Emerging Leaders Academy.  I’m so glad to have you with us to celebrate the achievements of these leaders who, we trust, will be a driving force in your organizations in the future.



I want to bring us to a close this afternoon with some thoughts about how what these individuals achieve in the context of this program shows us about finding our way forward in these tumultuous times of rapid change and competing world views.

One of the things that I most love about the opportunity to teach in our programs like ELA and CPM is that they bring together such a huge mix of people who hold such a variety of public service roles. Sitting together at a table in this group we might have a sheriff’s deputy, a lawyer, a DMV specialist, an accountant, and a fleet mechanic. At the next table you’ll find an executive assistant, a firefighter, an epidemiologist, an IT tech, and a building inspector. And the next table has yet another mix…all this to say nothing of the personalities of these individuals, or the many skills and passions they have outside of work. They bring backgrounds in theater, cheer squad, acoustic music, and tae kwan do. They serve as volleyball coaches, Boy Scout leaders, election poll workers, nonprofit board members, and Sunday school teachers. They organize BBQs to raise money for friends with cancer, and coordinate community groups to paint murals. We have a pilot, an Elvis impersonator, and a member of Box of Crickets (as the English translation is what I can pronounce), voted the #1 Latin band in Kansas City. All this is on top of the work they do managing the stuff that comes with family obligations, and I’m sure this list only scratches the surface.

As impressive as all this is—and let me assure you, this group is pretty impressive—I think they are simply a representative sample of all the talent and skills and passion that surrounds us every single day in our organizations. So that’s the first point that we should all find to be a hopeful and encouraging reminder: our government agencies are staffed by dedicated, passionate people with amazing abilities to address the challenges we face.

But there’s something more noteworthy at this particular moment in time: the extent to which these individuals found common ground and developed real friendships that reach across the divides in their experiences and perspectives. They discovered that they have common experiences in dealing with difficult colleagues, using clunky technology that sometimes makes their jobs harder instead of easier, in being proud of providing good service, in keeping mental lists of all the things they want to and are slowly tweaking to make government work better for its employees and its citizens, in their cynicism because of what they’ve seen and experienced, and in their inextinguishable optimism because of what they’ve seen and experienced. When we create settings for people to come together and connect, they find common ground.

It feels important to call all our attention to this at this very fraught moment in our culture when our attention is so often drawn to what divides us. And I’m quite certain there are some profound disagreements among this group in political perspectives, policy orientations, and beliefs about what is needed to create a strong future for our communities and our country. But quite frankly, mostly this didn’t come up. We were busy thinking about the circumstances in which we and others thrive in the workplace and how we go about creating that. And with that focus, we achieved what I think is a sure sign that something is going right in the class: some self-admitted softening around the edges among a few of our most cynical, road-weary professionals.

All this, I believe, shows us a way forward in these difficult times: be open to finding the goodness in others, and throw kindness around like confetti while you look for it. When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose to be kind. This smooths over the differences, highlights the common ground, and ultimately moves us toward a more perfect union.

Thank you so much for being here today. I hope you’ll stay and join us for refreshments, and I look forward to the next time our paths cross in the future.

Emerging Leaders Academy graduation – Faculty Reflections from Director Laura Howard

PMC Director, Laura Howard, gives her reflections about the course from the instructor perspective.

PMC Director, Laura Howard, gives her reflections about the course from the instructor perspective.

Comments Delivered by Public Management Center Director, Laura Howard

On January 11th, 2017

Good afternoon, everyone.  I am so pleased to be able to share some reflections on the occasion of this Emerging Leaders Academy Graduation Ceremony. It’s been great to participate as faculty in this Emerging Leaders Academy.  I’ve been privileged to get to know in a small way some very dedicated public servants

I have watched individuals learn and grow from session to session. Learning something one day and applying it at work the next day. I have listened to individuals and observed their dedication to both personal growth and organizational success.  I’ve seen folks moving eagerly, outside of their comfort zones.   I have listened to individuals learn new ideas or strategies to advance in their own workplace from people who work in entirely different organizations.

Before I introduce our keynote speaker, I’d like to say a few words to our graduates and to their organizations.

Your organizations chose well when they chose you.   As you finish this Emerging Leaders Academy, I would urge you to:

  • Continue on the journey to recognize, use and leverage your strengths; [Remember, Gallup has found that when people understand and apply their strengths, the effect on their lives and work is transformational. People who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged in their work and three times more likely to say they have an excellent quality of life.]
  • Own your career – be the protagonist of your own career, not a supporting character;

In his farewell speech, I heard President Obama share some thoughts that I think relate well to the idea of owning your own future – President Obama said:

Show Up, Dive In, and Stay At It – Persist, and Sometimes You’ll Win. 

These are wise words – Showing Up is the first step.  You’ve done that.   And when you show up, don’t sit back passively – dive in with your ideas and passion.   And know that sometimes things are hard, and success takes persistence, and sometimes a different path than what we have planned.  Show Up, Dive In, Persist.

And to the organizations and employers, first I would say thank you for identifying and investing in your emerging leaders.   Thank you for understanding the importance of this investment not just to individual development but to organizational success.   But, just as I’ve encouraged the graduates today, I would also urge the employers and sponsoring agencies to:

  • Use these graduates; they’re ready and eager to contribute to the agency as a whole;
  • Let them take risks; give them permission to succeed and to ‘fail forward’’;
  • Look for engagement opportunities;
  • Look for ways to explicitly link the individual development goals of your emerging leader to your organizational goals;
  • Give your emerging leader a chance to help solve some of the biggest challenges you are facing as an organization – let them see behind the curtain; create opportunities for them to share their insights and ideas, and to volunteer for new challenges – this might mean creating ways for them to have a meaningful effect across your whole organization;
  • In the same way that you made a significant investment through sponsoring participation in the Emerging Leaders Academy, recognize and act on the fact that these emerging leaders are a critical organizational asset, that needs to be nurtured and managed accordingly.

Finally, to the graduates, on behalf of the Public Management Center and all the instructors, thank you for the chance to connect with you over these last several months.  It’s been our pleasure and privilege to be part of this process and to be heartened again by the heart and spirit of those invested in the challenging and rewarding work of public service.

Congratulations again, keep us posted moving forward, and know that you are now and forever part of the Public Management Center Family.

Lawrence Public Library Director advises graduates to lead through vision

Brad Allan, Director of the Lawrence Public Library, gives the graduation address.

Brad Allan, Director of the Lawrence Public Library, gives the graduation address.

Comments Delivered by Brad Allen, Lawrence Public Library Director

On January 11th, 2017

Thank you for having me here today and congratulations on your graduation from the Emerging Leaders Academy. I’m honored and humbled to be here with you today. I would never have thought anyone would ask me to give a speech at a graduation, so thank you Noel and everyone at the Public Management Center for this invitation. I guess this is what happens when you are recognized as a leader, so I guess this must mean I am one. It’s a bit surreal I’ll have to admit, but here we are. So let’s make the best of it.

Here’s what I want to say to you. When you are called to lead, lead, and work hard to do it well. One very important thing I’ll say, make sure you want to lead–or are at least willing to take on the responsibility involved in leading. Simple enough, right? Well, maybe, but you’ve already taken a great first step enrolling in this formal leadership academy.

To be honest, I never saw myself as a leader or ever really aspired to become one. I hope that’s OK to admit here. I’ve always been a fan of finding a great leader and helping them, providing the best work and expertise I could to serve their vision. So it’s confusing how I ended up where I am. I’ve always liked being a technical expert, and while I’ve always needed leaders who allowed me to speak my mind, I didn’t want to be the one to make the final decisions that have an effect on so many others. Whoops. Well, here I am now, and perhaps someday here you will also be. Or perhaps you already are.

So a little background on my accidental arrival at leadership and why I’m still doing it and hope I’m doing it well.

I entered the world of formal leadership for the same reasons many others have, I imagine. I didn’t like the ways things were. I had a vision of what I wanted–or maybe didn’t more honestly put, a vision of what I want. I applied for a job as a library director here in Lawrence because I saw an opportunity to create something from the ground up. A new building was being built. It was an opportunity to create something new and different and hopefully better and more fun than the norm. I had a moment of ambition I guess you could say, sitting In Seattle worrying I was in a dead end job. Much to my surprise, I got the job and all the responsibility that comes with it.

I try to accomplish two things at work. First, provide the best library I can to the community I serve. Many people may have many different views of what that actually means. So I use my best judgment, and even more importantly, I seek the counsel of those I work with and those I serve because those are my best tools for deciding what the best library for my community would be. I also make sure to regularly ask myself why I do what I do. I’d encourage you to do the same.

The second thing might sound a bit silly, but I decided I would try being a boss, a leader, whatever, in hopes that I would be a good one, and that there would be one less bad boss out there ruining people’s lives. Bad bosses have been one of the biggest stresses in my life, and as you probably already know, they are the single biggest reason people quit their jobs, even ones they like. I figured that even if I could just be a good boss, I could slightly improve the lives of the few people that worked for me.

So, given these two things, I see my job as a balancing act between running the best library possible and providing the most enjoyable, and hopefully fulfilling, working environment I can. Sometimes, these things coincide beautifully. Sometimes, they don’t. I see my job as bringing these two goals into harmony the best I can.

A leader sets the tone of the organization. I know that’s obvious, but it’s still important to articulate. What a leader says and how a leader behaves affects everyone in an organization. People look to their leaders to know what to do, how to act, how to understand what the rules are and what the organizational culture is like. Being mindful of your words and actions is a huge responsibility as a leader, and as a new leader, I think it’s really easy to forget that what you do and say has an impact like you never had before. So be mindful of that.

Earlier, I asked you to be a good leader, and I’m not sure how much advice I’ve given you in trying to achieve that, so in closing, let me give it a shot right now. I want to ask all of you to above all, lead with compassion and empathy.

Our world keeps changing and becoming more complex at an accelerated rate, and I don’t think it’s going to let up anytime soon. And until the robots come to take all our jobs–and perhaps that will happen sooner than we realize–most of us will continue to work. At jobs. For money. And our work will continue to involve bosses, people I prefer to call leaders.

So in this environment, I ask you to be the compassionate and empathetic leader our world demands. Work stress continues to increase. Life stress continues to increase. It is the job of leaders to provide the best environment for our colleagues to survive –actually, I’ll go ahead and say thrive–in the face of rapid, often overwhelming change and demands. Outcomes matter, efficiency matters, meeting board expectations matter, but none of those goals can be meaningfully achieved, or meaningfully celebrated if we lose sight of human factors. So, have compassion for yourself and have compassion for the human beings that surround you. Seek to understand and empathize with the day to day work struggles of those you lead. As a result, you will contribute to the positive feedback loop of making your workplace a place that achieves two important goals–its mission and vision, and to be a healthy, rewarding place for human beings to punch the clock and get their paychecks.

An organization is only as good as the humans and the human interactions that it consists of, so show your humanity to others and see the humanity in everyone you interact with. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and allow others to show their vulnerability. As a leader, these things are more crucial than they’ve ever been.

So be good to one another. Live long and prosper. Thank you for your time. Good luck and take good care.

Reflections from Emerging Leaders Academy Graduate: LaMonica Upton

LaMonica Upton, graduate from the Emerging Leaders Academy, speaks on behalf of her Fall 2016 ELA class.

LaMonica Upton, graduate from the Emerging Leaders Academy, speaks on behalf of her Fall 2016 ELA class.

Comments Delivered by LaMonica Upton, Livable Neighborhoods Liason for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, KS,

On January 11th, 2017

Good afternoon and thank you all for joining us.  THANK you to the University of Kansas Public Management Center for offering such a great program.  To the supervisors, managers, Department heads who thought it was worthwhile to expose your teams to such a phenomenal program.  Noel, I am so happy that it was YOU that lead us in this journey.  Your spirit and passion are reflected in the work of the PMC and they are BLESSED to have you.

ELA friends, what an AMAZING journey we are completing today.  We all travelled to this place via different vehicles.  For some of us it was:

Our turn – our organizations have a simple selection process “Your up next”

Good for your career path – taking a leadership class was a part of your “Goals” or a directive from the powers that be.

This is what leaders do – I should take this class and it will look great on my resume

Kicking and Screaming – Why do I need to do this, I’m not a leader, this is a waste of my time

Horseshack Moment – “Oooh  pick me, pick me”

The bottom line is that WE all ended up in the same place at the same time.  Kismet, fate, destiny, coincidence, fluke, chance or one of my favorite words to use “Serendipity”.

Reflect on these things:   We’ve learned a lot ~How will/can we use what we’ve learned?  ~Will it make a difference?  YES IT WILL!! If YOU use it!

As we move from this time and place to the next adventure in our professional and personal lives, Let’s strive to be Multipliers of professionalism, Unity, and Love and Diminishers of Mediocrity, Self-Doubt and Hate.  Fulfill your dreams of your GREATEST.

Trust yourself “Who you are”, Embrace the fact that you have something to offer

Don’t let others design your life for you, be intentional in finding situations that play on your strengths.

It is not simply enough to be Present!!! Amy Cuddy says that “Presence emerges when we feel personally powerful, which allows us to be acutely attuned to our most sincere selves.”  Our families, friends and communities need US to show up and when we do it gives others permission to SHINE!!!

Thank you

Reflections from Emerging Leaders Academy Graduate: Beth Benfield

Beth Benfield, graduate from the ELA program, with PMC Director Laura Howard, and ELA Program Manager Noel Rasor

Beth Benfield, graduate from the Emerging Leaders Academy, with PMC Director Laura Howard, and ELA Director Noel Rasor

Comments Delivered by College of Professional School Shared Service Center (CPS SSC) Grant Coordinator, Beth Benfield, University of Kansas

On January 11th, 2017

I can’t tell you exactly what happened in the five months, almost five months, worth of class and the connections we built.  I can’t talk directly about everybody in the class and what they contributed but hopefully this will give you a good idea of what went on with us.

The Emerging Leaders Academy brought together an assortment of personalities from diverse employers.  Although each one of us had a different reason for attending along with different expectations, we all shared the desire to improve our leadership.

From day one bonds started to form and we were made to feel at ease.  Remarkable what a little humor and honestly can do, so thank you Gary for breaking the ice and setting the stage.

Whether we struggled or exceled during our sessions, ELA cultivated a learning atmosphere covering old and new topics.  Along the way our perspectives changed, values were solidified, meanings explored and ideas communicated.  Strengths, abilities and accomplishments were shared while being celebrated with jazz hands and hoorays.

ELA has laid a foundation, provided tools and will remain a resource.  We will continue developing our leadership in current and future endeavors.  I for one will miss spending time with such an awesome group of participants and instructors.  Thank you for the opportunities and memories.

Reflections from Emerging Leaders Academy Graduate: Angela Harshbarger

Comments Delivered By Angela Harshbarger, Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, KS
On January 29, 2016

ELA Graduate Angela Harshbarger

During the graduation ceremony, Angela Harshbarger shares what she gained by participating in the Emerging Leaders Academy.
©2016 University of Kansas (source: Marcom)

We have made it to graduation. For those completing the class today, we are probably reflecting on the things that we have learned and the fun that we have had along the way. For our guests, you are probably wondering what it is exactly that we have been doing these past few weeks. What if I told you we have been working on becoming one-buttock players? Let me explain.

On our first day of ELA we watched a presentation by Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, titled The Transformative Power of Classical Music. In his presentation, Mr. Zander talks about how part of his job as a conductor is to awaken in others the possibility to love classical music. He compares the process to a child learning to play the piano. At first, the child drives the music by playing each note forcefully and with purpose. With time and practice, the child’s playing progresses and they begin to focus more on the melody, so that now every few notes are played with emphasis. After a couple of years the child is playing almost fluidly with confidence and passion.

So what changed? Remember, in the beginning the child was the driving force behind the music. In time, the child has come to appreciate the experience of playing. He or she is so moved by the music that their body shifts in response until they are now sitting so that they lean to one side, becoming a one-buttock player.

So how does this translate to leadership? For us, the last few weeks have been like learning the piano. In the beginning we were so focused on taking in the information about what good or great leadership looks like, but by the end we were more focused on the actual experience of being a leader. We have become open to new possibilities that leadership brings with it.

Our task is now to awaken those possibilities in others. In order to accomplish this, we spent some time learning about our own strengths, those things that we do that energize us the most. Imagine what we can be inspired to accomplish if we spend more time doing the things we enjoy. And, what if we were to take that same opportunity and apply it to those around us? What would it look and feel like to work with staff that truly wants to be where they are, rather than feels like they have to be? This is just a little bit of what I will take with me from ELA.

Noel Rasor, we are grateful to you and all of those involved in ELA for giving us this opportunity. To our family, friends and guests, thank you for supporting us today and always. To my classmates, our work is not finished. Learning the theory and the principles of leadership was the easy part. It is time to put it into practice.

I would like to finish with a quote by Peter Bergman, from his article “Why So Many Leadership Program Ultimately Fail”: There is a massive difference between what we know about leadership and what we do as leaders. I have never seen a leader fail because he or she didn’t know enough about leadership. In fact, I can’t remember ever meeting a leader who didn’t know enough about leadership. What makes leadership hard isn’t the theoretical, it’s the practical. It’s not just about knowing what to say or do. It’s about whether you’re willing to experience the discomfort, risk, and uncertainty of saying or doing it.”

Thank you.

What’s your Emerging Leaders Academy (ELA) story?

ELA GraduationWe routinely receive emails from our ELA graduates telling us their exciting news – promotions, new addition(s) to their family, moving to a different state for a better job fit, etc. Here’s just one example:

“Hi Noel, I have a success story for you!

As you may remember from my time in ELA, I was interested in promoting within the police department. I became eligible after five years of service and put in for promotion, with 39 other people. The promotion process includes looking at seniority, education, a written test score, and an interview.

I am third on the list for Sergeant and first on the list for Corporal! I anticipate being promoted to Corporal next month and then I am really hoping a few months later I will be promoted again to Sergeant. Very exciting!

Emerging Leaders Academy was a great help. Not only did it look good on my resume to have this class listed, but I was able to speak it in my interview. I could tell they were impressed that I attended the training, especially one that was six months long. I was able to speak comfortably on many leadership/supervision topics and I attribute some of that to your class.

Thank you! I appreciate your guidance and support.

Six months later, we received this news:

“Hello! I was promoted to Sergeant a couple of months ago! It has gone very well, and I continue to learn every day. I am hoping in the next couple of years that I can attend the Certified Public Manager (CPM) course. I will stay in touch with you guys so I can set that up.”

Did you attend ELA? What’s your story? Have you found a particular piece of ELA to be helpful in your job? Click here to comment

Reflections from Emerging Leaders Academy Graduate: Shawn Kirkwood

Good afternoon. Friends, colleagues, Kansas University PMC staff members and instructors, and most importantly, my fellow distinguished ELA 2015 graduates. It’s truly an honor to speak on behalf of the Overland Park, Emerging Leader’s constituency.

My experience with ELA this year has been awesome. From the first day of class on March 4th, I could sense that this learning experience would be different than any I had been involved in.  How did I know you might ask?  Well, for those of us in Overland Park, you might remember, the impromptu blizzard that greeted us that none of our local news stations predicted.  In my opinion, that was a sure-fire indicator that this learning experience would be an interesting ride. And an interesting, engaging, empowering experience it has been.

I don’t think I would be out of place in stating that if the Overland Park ELA participants represent the prosperity or demise of the public sector, the future of our respective governmental agencies couldn’t be brighter.

Before I move on, I would like for us to all to take the time to acknowledge and give a big round of applause to our fearless, empowering, thought-provoking, Linked-In invitation accepting, red headed, left-handed, encouragement guru, the Emerging Leaders Academy Director, Noel Rasor.  Noel has kept our classes interesting by pushing us to not only think or re-think about our current roles in government, but via the various sessions and interactive activities, like “Generations in the Workplace” and Laura Howard’s session “The Future of the Public Sector” we have been equipped with tools that allowed us to take a glimpse into our upcoming roles as government leaders, and innovators.

Personally, I enjoyed the sessions that made us explore ourselves as individuals and then took us below the surface in defining who, why and what we are in our roles as public servants. Two of our TED talks were quite impactful. First, Karen Tilstra’s, Yes, And, taught me that every ideal, good or bad idea deserves at least 1 minute of our time.  And Benjamin Zanders, “Shining Eyes” not only taught me how to listen to classical music but it cemented in me that most every ideal or request we receive as public officials is of the upmost importance to the person making the suggestion.

Ms. Terri Callahan’s session, “The Power of Attitude” had a tremendous impact on me, as she empowered us to check our personal attitudes at the door, remembering that as public servants, we should always display servanthood in what we do.  I want to thank our speed mentors, who took the time out of their busy lives to share with us.  Marilu, Gordon, Crystal, Leslie, Dave, Scott, and Patty were awesome.  I got the chance to sit with 3 of them and in that brief time I took away a nugget of wisdom from each of them.  Patty, I now have the words, “Be Nice” posted on my computer at work.   Crystal made reference to a brilliant quote “Straight roads don’t always create the best drivers”, what I got from that is,  no matter how we got here, we are here,  and we can and must make a positive impact.  Mr. Gordon Criswell, I learned a lot in our 10 -20 minutes together, but the one thing I took away was something he probably wasn’t trying to teach.  When in a small group of people, if you talk in a very low, deliberate, controlled pitch, you sound very wise and your audience to lean in and listen.

I would be remise if I didn’t mention how much, I believe, we as a group learned from each other. As I mentioned before, our Overland Park group was great and contained many awesome individuals.  From, the great attitudes/positive energy displayed by folks such as Angelene, Vince, Mike and Heather, to the restroom break sidebar insightful discussions I had with Calvin.  I learned tons of things about the public sector that I otherwise wouldn’t have known. Joe made me realize the importance of GIS work , while Jessica, as meticulous, nice, neat and perfectly aligned as she kept her classroom materials, it’s only fitting that folks like her and Jaime are in the planning business.  My City of Kansas City departmental co-worker Chad forced me to see the value the millennial generation adds to the public sector.  If I’m ever involved in a plane crash in the Pacific Northwest and all I have is some matches, bubble gum and a can of Crisco grease, I want William by my side.   Diane, our future politician was always encouraging, and often times made me want to switch tables as she found and shared, (with her table only) the most delicious after lunch deserts known to man.  Good luck in all your future endeavors.  Beatriz Way the David to my Goliath, size wise, was a person who I found I had the most in common with. We both share a love for documentaries, more than a few Strength Finder characteristics, and a passion for wanting to help our nation’s children and elderly population. Last but not least, Ms. Jess Finely.  Early on in ELA, she shared with me that she will be married soon and plans to honeymoon in Jamaica, at a similar resort as I did when I was married. Jess, a few words of wisdom, similar to the  Las Vegas catch phrase, what happens in Jamaica…………..takes about 6 weeks to get out your system…… plan accordingly.

In closing, ELA has been a rewarding experience and I am thankful for the professional and personal relationships I have gained. Noel, if there is ever anything I can do to assist you in making sure future ELA participants are given the same opportunities,  please don’t hesitate to call.

Thank you.

Reflections from Emerging Leaders Academy Graduate: Brittany Keegan

Brittany Keegan ELA Graduate 2015 Curator/Collections Manager Watkins Museum of History

Brittany Keegan
ELA Graduate 2015
Curator/Collections Manager
Watkins Museum of History

The Emerging Leadership Academy can be summed up for me in two words: strengths and collaboration.

We learned that to be successful we should focus on the skills that challenge and engage us. That, I think, is the key to the ELA’s success: we learned to develop strengths we already have. In doing so we learned about the strengths and skills of the people around us. This was never clearer to me than in the discussion of our Strengths Finder test. The importance of the assessment was not that it pinpointed our motivating factors, but that we saw how those factors have played out in our past achievements.

Learning my own motivational drives fostered a curiosity about the people in my life: what drives them? What different skills do we each bring to the table? In short, I became conscious of what steps to take to create positive partnerships and leadership.

In ELA, collaboration is the cornerstone for success. Many of us work for organizations that rely on outside partnerships. Working in the public sector means that many projects cannot be achieved without partnerships. Meanwhile, our daily work is a series of collaborations with co-workers, employers, and clients to succeed in a shared goal.

The discussion of collaboration was my favorite class moment. To learn about collaboration, we were divided into groups based on similar collaboration styles and asked to decide how we would survive a very specific disaster scenario. We engaged the problem as a group, we had fun, and we found a solution we all were happy with. It served to remind me that we are rarely the only person responsible for our projects or achievements. Sharing the work with equally motivated people creates a better work environment.

In the same class we learned that people will more than likely sit in a building that may be on fire just because others refuse to leave the building. While it seems ridiculous, learning that was an important reminder that we collaborate best when we bring our individual thoughts and experiences to the table. It is tempting at times to just agree with the group, but collaborations succeed when we each engage at our highest levels. But seriously, if you’re in a room that suddenly fills with smoke: just leave no matter what other people are doing.

I look forward to whatever collaborations come from within this group. Everyone involved in ELA has great minds, great senses of humor, and, as the portfolio presentations proved, great accomplishments. Knowing each other, Noel, and the ELA’s guest speakers, I’m sure these collaborations will create long-lasting positive impacts on our communities.

Emerging Leaders Academy Graduation Speech: Mike Rounds

Celebrate: congratulate – give yourself a hand, you deserve it.

Honor: Thank you for having me today – I have heard a lot about the Emerging Leaders Academy and it is an honor to be able to share in your graduation ceremony today. One of my team mates in the KU HR Department is a graduate of ELA and I asked her what advice she had to prepare for my discussion with you today. As I expected, she provided some terrific suggestions. First she emphasized to be mindful of the diversity of the participants who come from a broad range of organizations across the greater Kansas City area (and not just KU). When I was reviewing the list of graduates, I was very impressed by the number of organizations represented and I am confident that the opportunity to share insights on the culture and strengths of each of your organizations has been an important part of your program. The network that you have established will also serve you well in the future.

She also recommended that I point out that, while attendance in ELA is an amazing opportunity, it is only one step in your personal and professional development responsibility that comes with a lifetime of public service. I have worked in the public sector for over 35 years and about 25% of that time I have been involved at some level in part or full time professional development. While all of us are extremely busy, I hope that you are already thinking about what you need to do next to continue to grow. One thing that is certain, and something I am sure that you have discussed during the program, is change – as the world has changed around me, I have felt compelled to evolve with it. I have been fortunate that I have always worked for organizations and leaders who place a high value on professional development and, the fact that you are here, is evidence that your organizations do as well.

Most important, Traci thought it would be useful to share a couple thoughts on leadership with you. I have spent my adult life studying and practicing leadership. Before I share my thoughts on leadership principles, I have come to 2 conclusions. First, while leadership principles are generally relatively straight forward, the practice or implementation of those principles is the most complex activity most of us will ever be involved in. As I mentioned, our environment is always changing and we have to be agile enough to take the principles we believe in and shape them to the situation in front of us. Now that I am working in the HR sector, we joke sometimes that our jobs would be simple if they didn’t involve people – but committing to life in the public sector is all about serving people and the complexities that go with that service. Second, growing my own leadership skills has been a journey and not a destination. I am closer to the end of my professional life than the beginning, but even so, my current position has demanded that I continue to grow. In a University environment, a premium is placed on collaboration and I have had to adjust this new environment. By adjusting, I have grown to appreciate the power associated with productive collaboration even though it is a new environment for me.

Since I have been to quite a few graduations and my suspicion is that you would prefer that I stop talking sooner rather than later, the vignettes that I want to share with you are very brief, but they illustrate 3 things that are fundamental to my beliefs and serve as the foundation of my leadership style.

  1. Anne’s story: Never underestimate the abilities of others.
  2. West Point epiphany: The power of dignity and respect.
  3. The baseball coach: Doing what you have a passion for.

I recommend that each of you should have a few fundamentals that govern how you lead as these principles influence how I think. The fact that you take the time to understand what is most important to you enhances the probability that you will stick to these principles even under pressure. As I mentioned, I would expect that your fundamental leadership beliefs will continue to evolve.

-At this point, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out, on behalf of the graduates, that it is important to remember and thank those that have made this opportunity possible:




-I hope as you depart with your families today that you will get an early start on your 4th of July festivities – as I thought about it, it is an appropriate time for you to be concluding your program since it connects you directly back to the public servants who founded the nation. I suspect, however, that many of you will be serving your communities over the 4th so your great communities can celebrate safely.

Finally (really) I would like to conclude with some thoughts from Rudyard Kipling’s poem If. There are a couple of excerpts that I feel capture what it means to be a public servant and the selfless service that goes with it. Many years ago Kipling suggested:

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowances for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, but don’t deal in lies,

Or, being hated, but don’t give way to hating

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with kings and not lose the common touch;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.

Congratulations and I hope that each of you head back to your organizations confident that you are prepared for your next unforgiving minute – whatever it may be.