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Idaho needs more young leaders – work to become one


Ben Quintana

Ben Quintana

In our communities and in our businesses, leadership is required to blaze new trails and create a better future. We need more leaders of all ages, but for the purpose of this column, I am focusing on an underrepresented population in our state – young leaders under the age of 40. These pioneers of our future must be identified and unleashed.

New high-paying jobs are not going to be created out of thin air. A projected budget shortfall of $340 million in Idaho isn’t going to be solved on its own.

Education and health care reform will not happen by chance. A comprehensive transportation system and infrastructure improvements will not magically appear without vision. These immense and pressing challenges will need to be solved by courageous leaders. Will you be one of them?

What is a “leader” and how do you become one? Leaders influence people and initiate change. They stop accepting the status quo and inspire people through action, creative ideas and innovative solutions.

Another more basic definition of leadership is a person with followers. If this definition is true, then all you have to do to become a leader is sign up for Twitter and gain one follower. Obviously, one Twitter follower doesn’t qualify you as a leader, but the truth is, everyone has the ability to lead in some capacity.

Since you’re reading this column in a business publication, you’re most likely a current or aspiring leader. You are seeking information to make better decisions and stay apprised of trends that will make you more knowledgeable – and hopefully more profitable – in your business pursuits.

If you don’t consider yourself a leader, please stop for a moment and ask yourself why. Whether you know it or not, you do have the ability to lead. All you have to do is make the choice.

How will you choose to lead this year? What will it take for you to be a leader in your business and/or community? What would happen if you started leading the way you wish you were led? Are you leading with honesty, trust and integrity? Start today.

A small, but growing group of young civic and business leaders have already begun to emerge in Idaho; however, more are needed.

Local and statewide young leaders who are helping to make a difference in their communities include: Boise City Council members TJ Thomson and Lauren McLean and Idaho state legislators Sen. John McGee and Rep. Brent Crane.

Also, several young entrepreneurs and business leaders are helping their companies succeed and compete in today’s rapidly changing business environment, such as: Ryan DeLuca, CEO of Bodybuilding.com; Jessica Flynn, CEO of Red Sky Public Relations; Ryan Woodings, founder and chief geek of MetaGeek; and Chris Taylor, CEO of Fisher’s Document Systems.

Discover your strengths, find your passion and learn how you can add significant value.

As Seth Godin points out in his book, The Dip, start quitting things you cannot be the best at and start focusing your time, talents and energy on getting through the dips in life and becoming the best in the world at what you were meant to do.

As you plan to start or continue developing your leadership skills in 2011 remember, leaders are readers.

Here are a few recommended books to help you find your path: Tribes by Seth Godin; Leadership Isn’t Rocket Science by Grant Thompson; The Character of Leadership by Phil Eastman; The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and Becoming a Person of Influence by John C. Maxwell; Leadership and the One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard, Patricia Zigarmi, Drea Zigarmi; Leadership Divided by Ron Carucci; The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr. Stephen R. Covey; and The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey.

Most importantly, once you start reading these and many other great books on leadership, you must take action and put your learning lessons to work. There’s no time to waste. It’s already the end of January. Make 2011 the year you decide to elevate your leadership skills to a higher level. Start now. Idaho needs you.

Ben Quintana works as Director of Public Relations and Leadership Development for the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce. He is the founder of the Boise Young Professionals. He can be reached at bquintana@boisechamber.org or (208) 472-5212.

About Ben Quintana