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Cover Story | Leading the way: When it comes to great leadership, we asked some great leaders for their thoughts

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Leadership begins with ownership’: Skills to inspire are rooted in service

WENATCHEE — Our current leaders must nurture future leaders. Encourage their compassion and understanding. Help them to recognize community needs. Teach them to analyze, focus and excel.

But where do we start?

Leadership begins with ownership,” said Shiloh Schauer, executive director of the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce and a longtime student of leadership theory and practice. “Our leaders must care about our community, fight for it, invest in it. That commitment comes from a feeling of ownership — knowing who the people are, how the economy works, why we live here, play here, raise families here.”

She emphasized, “A committed leader who — deep down — feels that kind of ownership will more clearly see our future, where we’re headed and how we can get there.”

This summer and fall, the Wenatchee Valley’s current business and civic leaders will be fostering leadership in a number of ways:

The community advocacy group Our Valley Our Future has launched dozens of game-changing initiatives that will require new people to step up and take charge. Projects to better the environment, improve transportation, add recreation, increase housing and boost the economy are all underway. Other projects still need “champions” to move them ahead.

Wenatchee Valley Business World announced a new roster of future leaders Aug. 1 at a breakfast event honoring 2017’s “30 Under 35,” some of North Central Washington’s best and brightest up-and-comers.

Next month, the Chamber begins its 16th annual Community Leadership Program, a 9-month-long community-awareness effort that emphasizes knowledge of local industries and civic efforts, character development, ground-level leadership practices and connection and networking.

It pretty much all comes down to a single question,” said Schauer. “How does a great community stay great?”

In many ways, she said, a community moves towards greatness through the collaboration of its leaders in varied fields, from across many disciplines. “It’s the realization that major accomplishment in the community will take more than one person,” she said. “Leaders united in their goals is what works best.”

Schauer quoted author and speaker James C. Hunter, a proponent of servant leadership: “Leadership is the skill of influencing people to work enthusiastically toward goals identified as being for the common good.”

One problem faced by a community such as the Wenatchee Valley, she said, is that so many people question their own abilities to act in leadership roles. “It’s like a vast inferiority complex when asking people to step forward and lead,” she said. “But that’s because most people don’t understand the dynamics of it all.”

Leadership, she said, “is a skill that can be learned. It’s not rooted in lofty positions of authority or perceived power. It’s rooted in service. Simple, down-to-earth service.”

All that’s required, said Schauer, is for a person to work for the common good. “To be honest, kind, committed, forgiving — many people call this ‘love’ — builds a foundation that can inspire people to do wonderful things through service and sacrifice.”

She pointed to some of NCW’s past leaders — innovative orchardist Grady Auvil, bulldog newspaperman Rufus Woods (the elder), Stemilt Growers founder Tom Mathison — “as giants who built this place” first through generations of family and second through involvement by the broader community.

Take Norma Gallegos, for instance” said Schauer. Gallegos has worked for 20 years to improve the lives of immigrants in the Wenatchee Valley and U.S.. “When I think of service and sacrifice, I think of Norma. She is one person, one dynamic source of energy and focus, whose personal passion for helping others improves this community on a daily basis.”

One skill leaders such as Gallegos have learned, said Schauer, is “vision-casting” — the ability to dream about what’s best for themselves and the community. “Peace not conflict, health not sickness, abundance not scarcity,” she said. “It takes focusing not on the bad things in life, but on what can be — sharing, collaborating, creating, succeeding.”

Servant leadership — “giving yourself through service and sacrifice” — helps build character that inspires confidence, said Schauer. “It motivates people to work with you, even risk themselves for you, to achieve some pretty amazing things.”

Overall, everyday people doing extraordinary things to shape this valley “is common practice once you start looking,” said Schauer. “All it takes is for that person to bring their own personal values to work for a worthy cause.”

She added, “And there’s no more worthy cause than building community.”