Forum focuses on leadership roles

Participants learn value of trusting others while accepting opposing viewpoints

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— Some local members of the Rocky Mountain Chapter who are participating in the Amer-ican Leadership Forum are hoping they can end the days of assuming that leadership is defined by a person's position rather than their actions.

"It pushes you to question the basis for your thinking and how you perceive others," said Town-send Anderson of the Orton Family Foundation.

The goal of the forum is to help participants understand and put into action leadership skills that assist in developing trust, personal relationships and a better understanding of cultural and social differences.

Only 24 people are selected in the Rocky Mountain region each year to participate in the program.

Cyndy Simms, Townsend Anderson, Rob Dick, Mike Roberts, Walter Daub and Dianna Sutton were among the first group of people from Steamboat Springs who were selected to participate in the forum because of their proven ability to demonstrate leadership in the community.

The program includes four two- to four-day sessions, beginning with a wilderness experience that teaches people to trust their lives to fellow group members.

"You have to get to know each other really well when survival is necessary," said Cath-erine Sweeney, executive director of the ALF's Rocky Moun-tain Chapter.

Through the sessions, people from all regions can identify problems surfacing in their communities and network on a large scale to find possible solutions.

"The regional approach is critical to problem solving and finding solutions," Anderson said.

Sutton, president of the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, said working with other people from the Western Slope has helped her to identify problems such as housing and migrant work forces, issues that either already affect Steamboat or might in the future.

She said recognizing potential problems gives leaders time to come up with solutions and ideas.

Anderson said the ALF works at the grassroots level, is self-creating and sustaining and will continue to grow through the network of people involved.

Creating better leaders out of people who already assume leadership roles in their community is only the first step toward creating a vast problem-solving alliance.

"(With ALF) there is a new network of leaders with the same kind of transformation and understanding," Sweeney said.

To reach out to the community, forum members design a community outreach program that puts their leadership into action. She said the high level of commitment that people put into the program is what makes it unique and meaningful for those involved.

"They've all got such high levels of consciousness and want to see things change for the better," she said.

ALF has taught people how conflict resolutions can be solved through personal relations and consideration for another perspective.

"The success of community building is going to rely more on relationships than science," Anderson said. "Old-school decision making with a handful of people doesn't work anymore."

The leadership and personal development training offered to select members of the community will also be offered to the community through group projects and events sponsored by ALF.

This year ALF will sponsor Dr. Hugh O'Doherty, a professor from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Har-vard University, to speak about his firsthand experience with terrorism in Northern Ireland.

He will discuss how through leadership and a true consideration of another's point of view, peace and conflict resolutions can be reached.

"Authority is a resource that someone can use well or badly," O'Doherty said. He said a leader is a person that can understand the perspective and feelings of an opposing view.

"When avoiding contact with the other, you never have to question your point of view," he said.

He said people have to be prepared for the vulnerability of questioning their values and beliefs. Through the willingness to understand another culture, dialogue between opposing parties can be established in hopes of reaching a resolution.

O'Doherty, who focuses his studies on terrorism, said an individual's identity plays a strong part in the formation of terrorist groups or conflicts. He said the feeling of being oppressed and a victim to a situation is often the underlying motivation for a group to act out in violence as a means of addressing their anger and point of view.

"Peace is not going to occur in the hot spots of the planet without adding consideration of feelings and why people have developed these feelings into the equation," he said.

Although the topic of terrorism seems daunting, the basics of human communication and understanding are key to ending violence.

Sweeney said the topic of conflict resolution, whether it is related to terrorism or other local conflicts, requires that same kind of leadership to reach a resolution.

"Most important was to increase sensitivity toward who I am and who other people are, to make things happen," said Dick, executive director of the Regional Affordable Living Foundation. Dick said the for-um has changed how he lives his daily life. "It changed how I perceive and what I do," he said.

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