Convening young leaders: Michigan 40ish Under 40ish

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By Dan Wyant

Last night we kicked off the inaugural meeting of the foundation’s “Michigan 40ish Under 40ish,” a group of young leaders from a variety of disciplines.

The impetus for this group started with a blog I wrote last year about how to develop successful policy and solve critical problems. Among other things, I pointed out that it was important to identify talent early on and bring young leaders to the table — something I don’t see happening enough in either public- or private-sector organizations.

It’s also critical to build relationships with nontraditional partners. Again, this is something that isn’t happening enough. The vast majority of existing leadership programs are structured to take care of our own. Ag people talk to ag people. Environmental leaders talk to other environmental leaders. We don’t cross-pollinate, we don’t reach across the aisle, we don’t stop to listen and understand before we try to be understood. As a result, we have divisive politics and divisive policies.

To deal effectively with change and complex issues, organizations need to be intentional about grooming younger leaders and building nontraditional partnerships.

With that in mind, Kelli Saunders and I began compiling a list of young leaders in Michigan who we wanted to convene. This wasn’t a competition; there was no scoring system. Rather, we spoke with people from the diverse groups the Edward Lowe Foundation works with. We asked them to name three young people they considered the best and brightest within their sector — the ones who would be the next president of their company or industry association. I found it interesting that no one hesitated. They immediately knew of three or more people we should invite.

Eventually we accumulated more than 40 names of people in their 30s and early 40s (thus the term “40ish”) from very diverse organizations. Last night over some fantastic food and beverages (a quick shoutout to the foundation’s Chef José Ruiz along with Coco Anderson, Rhonda Ivens and Julie Pond from our guest services team), we held general introductions, passed out bios and asked the group what they wanted to do next. The goal is to create opportunities for people to connect, to strengthen existing relationships and build new ones — and see how different sectors intersect.

We believe this is a first step to what could be a national program. Policy matters. Leadership matters. And strong relationships are the underlying foundation of both successful policies and successful leaders.

Pictured above in front row, from left: Angela Ayers, Ford Motor Company; Dru Montri, Michigan State University; Amy Trotter, Michigan United Conservation; Alexis Horton, Department of Natural Resources; Attia Qureshi, Attia Qureshi Consulting; Laura Biehl, Resch Strategies; Samantha Pattwell, Dickinson Wright; and Kelli Saunders, Edward Lowe Foundation. Back row, from left: Greg Yankee, Little Forks Conservancy; Kyle Rorah, Ducks Unlimited; Nick Buggia, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation; Robert O’Meara, ITC Holdings Corp.; Mike Pattwell, Clark Hill PLC; Isaiah Wunsch, Wunsch Farms; Tom Zimnicki, Michigan Environmental Council; Dave Nyberg, Northern Michigan University; Dan Wyant, Edward Lowe Foundation; John Roberts, Emergent Holdings Inc.; Selma Tucker, Public Sector Consultants; Adam Carlson, Michigan Health and Hospital Association; Trevor VanDyke, Department of Natural Resources; Eric Brown, Great Lakes Commission; and Jesse Bernal, Grand Valley State University. (Not pictured: Luke Meerman, Michigan House of Representatives; Maggie Pallone, Public Sector Consultants; Jennifer Flood, Executive Office of the Governor.)

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Dan Wyant
President of Edward Lowe Foundation
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“To me, leadership is about building a team, trying to get the best out of others, and helping them be successful,” says Dan Wyant, president and chief operating officer of the Edward Lowe Foundation.

“If done right, the impact should be lasting.” In this series of articles, Wyant shares insights about leadership gleaned from more than three decades of managing entrepreneurial and conservation organizations in the private, public and nonprofit sectors.