Volume 1, Issue 10

October 2012

Blue Ridge Conference


Reflections on the 2012 Blue Ridge Conference On Leadership

Wow! What a great experience on the Mountain. The 2012 Blue Ridge Conference on Leadership has technically come and gone, but I gotta tell you: I’m trying to keep it in the here and now because I’m not ready for it to be over yet.

When I look back over the entire conference, the word that comes to mind is story. The speakers and businesses represented on the Mountain all had compelling stories to tell, stories with focus and vision and clarity.

The Pre-Conference by Pete Blank told the story of the Walt Disney Corporation and their commitment to the vision and of the cast members and their commitment to Leadership. But Pete’s story was more than an infomercial for the House of Mouse: his was but the first message that stressed the importance of writing your own story and not trying to duplicate the story already told by someone else.

We were welcomed by Kurt Eckel, CEO of the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly, who shared with us the story of the founding of Blue Ridge Assembly and how the Blue Ridge Conference on Leadership began. Then Dr. Larry Little helped us learn our “animal type” and stressed how our stories are perceived by those around us while reminding us that leaders never minimize the stories of others. Whatever type you are or aren’t, ALL personalities contribute to a team’s success. So remember to embrace your turtle-ness, while recognizing the contributions of the monkeys, lions, and camels who surround us.

Colonel Jack Jacobs’ keynote focused on “leadership in times of turmoil.” There are times when our stories aren’t always easy or fun. However, they often show others what we’re capable of accomplishing when the odds are against us. Colonel Jacobs’ stories illustrated the point and he drove home his message with lessons learned, but sometimes learned the hard way.

Mark Miller told the story of how he came to Chick-fil-A and enlightened us on how “Great Leaders Grow.” As we grow and, in turn, help others to grow, our stories intertwine and affect us and those around us.

Jeanne Robertson shared many humorous stories herself, while showing how having a sense of humor is an essential leadership trait. If we don’t learn to have a sense of humor about ourselves, we cannot truly become a leader.

The breakout sessions were where the rubber met the road. Dr. Brenda White Wright had us tell our stories to one another to help demonstrate that listening to the stories of others is an essential leadership trait.

Major General Perry Smith explained the “rules and tools of leadership.” Just as there are rules to telling a good story (as explained in Dr. White Wright’s breakouts), so are there rules and tools to help us become better and more effective leaders. General Smith used his own stories to illustrate leadership in action (and sometimes a lack of leadership).

Melissa Hambrick Jackson talked about the importance of accountability in a leader’s life. We are all responsible for the actions we choose to take in our own personal stories and we often impact events in the stories of those around us. Dr. Danny Butler talked about how to recognize six principles of influence and how to ethically influence others through negotiation to ensure we don’t overpower someone else’s narrative.

And Sharon Lavoy explained the stories of the various generations -- Vets, Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials -- and also illustrated that, while we’re usually the heroes of our own stories, we are not always so in the stories of others. Similar to Dr. Little’s keynote, the moral of the story was to recognize and value the different characters who move in and out of our own life stories.

The Early Morning Spiritual Renewal Sessions with Dr. Jeff Heath helped to start off our daily stories with a dynamic, upbeat introduction, and music that raised the roof. And if you came to the “Minute to Win It” activity, you’d better believe we got a lot of great stories out of that experience!

The 2012 George D. Heaton Award Winner, Tommy McKinnon from Baptist Health, had a positive and upbeat story to share, as did our Student Challenge First Place Award Winner, Jeremiah James II. Not only were their personal stories positive and uplifting, but their recognized impact on the Conference was apparent.

In conclusion, it was a great conference. The weather was perfect, the rocking chairs got some serious use, and everywhere you looked, you saw smiling faces. New friendships were made, cherished friends were seen again, and the story continued.

Thank you all for your hard work, enthusiasm, and smiles. You’re the reason I’ve been able to keep the conference alive after the fact. When I look at the pictures and video footage from our time together, it all comes back. Stay tuned for some online presentation of said videos (or so I’ve been told).

As we re-acclimate to our daily lives, let’s not lose sight of the lessons learned. We are the authors of our own stories. We make choices every day to determine how good a story we leave behind. I’ve been working on improving my story and have been keeping the so-called “real world” at bay, even if only for moments at a time, with my Blue Ridge memories.

Remember: if you enjoyed your time on the Mountain, tell a friend or a colleague. And don’t forget to look for us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube!


Anthony Koch, Director, Training & Development

W. S. Badcock Corporation

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