Michigan’s Need for Leadership Development

Challenges exist for leadership at virtually every level of Michigan society. Issues such as land use, water quality, rural and urban interactions, and the competing interests of recreation, manufacturing, food production, and quality of life create opportunities for conflict over a variety of public and private decisions. Organizational and community vitality requires a steady supply of empowering, motivated, and entrepreneurial leaders.

Michigan's Abundance

With a land base of 57,000 square miles, more than 11,000 inland lakes, and over 36,000 miles of streams, Michigan is blessed with an abundance of natural resources. Michigan touches four of the five Great Lakes which contain roughly 1/5th of the world's fresh surface water supply. With more state parks and prepared campsites than any other state in the union, miles of shoreline and sandy beaches, abundant wildlife and three national forests, tourism is one of the top three contributors to the state's economy.

The state ranks fifth or higher in the production of over 20 major food crops, boasts a significant livestock sector, and continues to rank among the top ten dairy producing states in the nation. Michigan is also a major manufacturing state, ranking first in 19 manufacturing categories including motor vehicles and cereals (statistics from http://www.michigan.gov).

Future Leaders of Michigan

Beginning in September of 2004, Michigan State University met with and discussed the need for a twenty-first century leadership development program with a diverse cross-section of stakeholders representing the food system, agriculture, natural resources, manufacturing, and environmental communities. This group agreed there was a critical need to develop the next generation of leaders to play key roles in the community, and at regional and state levels.

Although a number of leadership development programs existed in the state, the consensus of the planning team was these programs were focused on training leaders to advocate for special interest and had little or no association with sustainability issues. In short, the group concluded there was a critical need for leadership development that would focus on the issues and challenges associated with helping leaders from diverse constituencies transcend self-interest and create workable solutions for the common good.

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