National Junior Angus Association (NJAA) members from 33 states and Canada participated in the LEAD (Leaders Engaged in Angus Development) Conference, Aug. 1-4 in Billings, Mont. The 215 youth and advisors enhanced their interpersonal talents while learning more leadership skills and touring the “Big Sky” country of Montana. “Take it to the Top” was this year's theme for LEAD, which is funded through the Angus Foundation and designed for NJAA members 14- to 21-years old.
Motivational speaker Alvin Law kicked off the conference with a strong message, challenging the youth to look at all sides of situations they are in; noting that life always has two sides.
“Reality sometimes really sucks, and it doesn't always have an answer,” said, Law who was born without arms as a result of the drug Thalidomide.
“Attitude isn't something we are born with; it is something we develop. Most people look at the wrong side of life and need to stop judging themselves by looking in the mirror,” Law continued as he encouraged the audience to look inside themselves for their own special gift. “It's not what you don't have; it's what you do have. In each and every one of us is an amazing ability.”
Law demonstrated his own amazing abilities by playing a self-composed song on the piano with his feet. He also played a snare drum, holding the drum sticks between his toes and talked about overcoming his own daily challenges in doing everyday tasks armless.
The first evening concluded with a welcome from Montana Junior Angus Association President Emily Kading and an overview of Montana history and Angus industry success by Andy Rest, American Angus Association® regional manager.
One and a half days of touring the diverse state of Montana followed the opening session. The four buses of young Angus leaders made stops at the NILE (Northern International Livestock Exposition), Billings Livestock Commission, and Genex Hawkeye West bull stud, all either in or near Billings. The group also learned about feed efficiency research using the GrowSafe technology at Midland Bull Test at Columbus. An afternoon of rafting the Stillwater and Yellowstone rivers was a highlight for many of the attendees, most of which had never been to Montana.
Other tour stops included ORIgen Genetics, Huntley; the Little Big Horn Battlefield, and Vermilion Ranch, where the group heard from long-time livestock marketer Pat Goggins. “LEAD is a wonderful event for young people,” Goggins said with conviction as four of his own grandchildren participated in this year's event. “This is the cream of the crop, and the Angus future is in good hands.”
The NJAA board of directors conducted four workshops that covered etiquette, interviewing skills, industry knowledge and the current agriculture market. “Angus Jeopardy” was a parody of the popular game show, where teams provided the questions to topics such as “ROV Shows,” “Registrations” and “AAA Board.” “Money Talks” was a workshop that discussed the current economic factors affecting agriculture and provided small groups real life scenarios to consider. The attendees were given the chance to record their future career strengths, weaknesses and goals before completing a mock interview in the workshop, “Will you Crack Under Pressure,” where they refined their personal interview skills. Dining, airplane and relationship etiquette were the focus of “Mind your P's & Q's.”
During the final session of LEAD, Kim Anderson challenged the group to evaluate their personal leadership style. She compared people to thermostats and thermometers—either reflecting the climate around them or setting the climate for others.
“Our challenge as leaders is to be more like a thermostat and set the climate,” challenged Anderson, a Leadership Program Specialist with the University of Georgia Fanning Institute. She added that thermometers are reactive and it is always better to be proactive like the thermostat.
In addition to the workshops, speakers and tours, LEAD is an opportunity for youth and advisors to exchange ideas to take back to their states, while building life-long friendships with others with a similar interest. LEAD is planned annually for NJAA members by the NJAA Board.