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Community leadership: Does it run in the family?

sprig by Posted in Rural Capacity Building

[pullquote] Leadership Insight

Are leaders born or created? “There is a lot of research (and personal witness) that could bend your thinking either way but this is what I believe from working in rural communities throughout Minnesota. They are both – people have personality traits and life experiences that give them the ability to lead. And some have the courage to take the first step.” Becky Adams, Leadership Program Recruitment Coordinator[/pullquote]Two brothers. Two different leadership paths. Both Blandin Community Leadership Program (BCLP) alumni who have chosen to serve their rural community as mayor.

Was it nature or nurture that laid their leadership stepping stones?

Possibly a bit of both.

“I had been in the military for 32 years. During that time, I learned a lot about leadership,” said Pat Baustian, Mayor of Luverne, MN and 1998 BCLP alumnus. “I always wanted to get involved in government and had the opportunity right after I went through BCLP.”

Pat was appointed to the Airport Board from 1998-2002, then ran for city council. After two 4-year terms as an Alderman, he ran for mayor and was recently elected to his third term as mayor.

“It’s great to see the energy people bring when they have a desire to make your community better – whether it’s in infrastructure or on Main Street,” said Pat. “Great things can happen when you can get people together to work toward a common goal. I’ve been able to do that better now having gone through Blandin leadership training.”

Pat’s brother, Mike, agrees that rallying people together for the good of the community is vital to its health.

“It takes action from all community members to make a community strong,” said Mike, Mayor of Jasper, MN and 2008 BCLP alumnus. “It was time that I did my part to give back to my community and the Blandin Program put me in the frame of mind to take up a leadership role.”

After attending BCLP, Mike ran, and was elected to, Jasper’s City Council. During his six years on the council, he witnessed many acts of community leadership that encouraged him to step up as mayor.

Pictured: Mike (left) and Pat (right) Baustian. Photo courtesy of Rock County Star Herald (click for newspaper article)

“Last June we had a flood. Everyone pitched in and helped with what they could. Nobody was on the clock, people just showed up to help. Times like that are when our community shines.”

Both brothers say that the greatest learning they took from leadership training was to listen with intention.

“You have to be a good listener,” said Mike. “If you just let people express their views, you can usually come to some kind of conclusion.”

Pat echoes, “You’ve got to be able to listen, understand and talk with those who might doubt you.”

As both brothers exercise their leadership skills as mayor, they’re taking time to appreciate the opportunity for co-learning.

“My brother and I both enjoy being part of our communities, helping to solve problems,” said Mike. “If we can learn from each other, it’s just a bonus.”

Click here for more stories about community leadership in rural Minnesota communities and here for more about the Blandin Community Leadership Program.


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