By Sunni Heikes-Knapton and Ray Ledgerwood
When the winds of life blow our way, what do we do? It depends on who you are. Some complain. Others wait for change. The truly wise ones understand the conditions for what they are, and they adapt to persevere. These realists are our modern-day leaders, and they learned along the way what it takes to adjust their sails and to keep moving forward.
The winds of life blow in other settings too, including in the locally-led work of conservation districts. Adjusting sails in this arena means knowing your strengths and passions, practicing the approaches that work in different settings, and being equipped to work effectively when conflict arises. If you want to understand how to gain these skills, let us introduce you to the National Conservation Foundation’s (NCF) Next Generation Leadership Institute (NGLI).
This comprehensive program has now officially been launched and is currently seeking applicants. The next generation of conservation leaders are invited to apply to be in the first group of seven individuals to form the inaugural cohort. Together, they will develop their individual leadership skills for the future conservation district movement at the local, state and national levels.
NGLI has been a vision of the NCF for many years, and it recognizes the talent and potential of our current and future conservation district board members to lead our state and national associations. The concept was first introduced decades ago when a 1998 NACD District Operations Committee developed a white paper on the development of future conservation district leaders. What was seen then as a priority remains important today and has come to fruition in this new program.
Now their vision is being realized at just the right time for NGLI’s program to begin. The concept of civic leadership training is recognized far and wide for its valued roles and outcomes. Universities across the nation are encouraging students to become involved in “civic engagement leadership” based on well-documented individual, group and societal leadership benefits. Is there any greater cause than our future leaders using their civic engagement leadership skills to meet the societal needs of natural resource conservation?
Many of NACD’s past leaders have described a “spark,” an event, a person or a calling that began their conservation leadership journey and kept them motivated in positions all the way to the NACD presidency. For most of our NACD presidents, their journey occurred over several years, holding leadership positions at their local districts, area and state associations and NACD.
NGLI is poised to continue the development of our future conservation leadership. If you are our future state and national leader, apply now. If you know that next leader, your role is to endorse his or her potential within your conservation district and encourage them to apply. Those who sit at the helm today know that the wind will blow. Let’s help them be ready to adjust the sails and chart a course for the future of conservation. Find out more or apply today on NACD’s NCF-NGLI webpage.