Becoming leaders

Published 6:20 pm Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Leadership Vicksburg is a yearly course that is used to shape the future leaders of Vicksburg. 

The program runs from October-August, meets one Wednesday every month, and has a variety of participants from different backgrounds and careers in Vicksburg.

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The program is meant to be a way for people within the community to improve their own leadership skills and help secure the future of the city of Vicksburg with capable leaders. The involvement is community based, with local businesses not only getting involved in helping with the program, but also sending their employees to learn in it.

The program is born out of the Warren County Chamber of Commerce. They work with a number of local businesses like Ameristar Casino, which hosts parts of the program and offers to share expertise with the participants.

“Our involvement is really direct and we, to some extent, support the volunteers that actually do the day-to-day operation of the program,” Pablo Diaz, the president and CEO of the Warren County Chamber of Commerce, said.  “Our involvement really comes in promoting the program across the community, promoting it across all of the employers and supporting the effort to explain to employers the value of having a pipeline of leaders that understand the community, its issues, its opportunities and threats, and then hopefully step up to the plate to leadership positions in the future.”

The Chamber of Commerce partnering with the businesses is not only beneficial for the programs, but provides a great opportunity for personal advancement for the businesses’ employees.

“Involvement from local businesses is important, not only to help out in terms of they might sponsor parts to the programs, which they do, but also for the businesses to understand that they need to be sending their employees to be part of the program so that their employees can understand the community in which they live in, and get engaged in the process of making it better,” Diaz said.

Diaz said one of the strengths of the program was that it didn’t just look at leadership in a broad sense, it also focused on specific leadership traits that are needed for this town.

“To transform Vicksburg, and to really look into the future and help us as a community decide on what direction we want to take this community so it can be successful in the 21st century,” Diaz said.

The basis of the program revolves around The Leader In Me, a school program that is dedicated to teaching students Leadership and Life Skills. The program draws heavily from the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey.

Kelda Bailess, who teaches ninth and 10th grade biology and chemistry at River City Early College High School, was trained to teach and implement The Leader In Me program with her students and volunteered to help with Leadership Vicksburg.

“It impacts every aspect of your life as a professional, as a leader in Vicksburg, as a parent, and as a family oriented person,” Bailess said. “Any person can improve the quality of their life by doing these seven habits, establishing these in their daily life.”

Leadership Vicksburg has drawn plenty of praise from this year’s participants, who have already seen positive results. Recently, they toured Anderson-Tully’s sawmill to learn more about the lumber business.

Charlene Mosley, a project manager with the United States Army Corps of Engineers, said she joined the program because she wanted to develop her leadership skills and have an impact on her local community.

“Thus far its helped me at evaluating my life and looking at time management skills, customer service, and helping incorporate that into my family as well,” Mosley said.

Meanwhile, Cheryl Roland, a casino host at Ameristar, said she applied for the program because she wanted to work with future leaders and get to know more about Vicksburg.

“So far, it has helped me learn things about the city,” Roland said. “The history, what the functions are, how I can learn to prioritize. It also helps me interact with other people and learn social graces.”

Roland saw the program as an opportunity for her own personal growth and advancement.

“I’m a front line team member, I work hourly, but I wanted to show that even a front line team member can make a difference in the community,” Roland said.  “I didn’t want to be just someone that clocks in and clocks out. I care about this community and I want to become a better person.”

Diaz said the opportunity was essential to keeping up with a rapidly changing modern world, and to ensure Vicksburg’s success in it.

“There has never before been a time of so much change that is as fast and continues to accelerate in terms of technology, communications, computing power, all different things that are happening to everyone and every community,” Diaz said. “How do we react to it or be proactive about it is going to make all the difference about what communities are successful or not in the future. Those decisions have to be made by leaders, and those leaders hopefully are people that have gone through Leadership Vicksburg, that understand the community, its history, its challenges, and that can formulate a plan to take advantage of the changes and position Vicksburg needs to be able to succeed in the 21st century with all these new changes. That’s why it’s important.”