By CHARLES CANTRELL
DEDICATED OKLAHOMANS: Enjoying their roles in Leadership Oklahoma are, from left, Lawrence Stasyszen, President, St. Gregory’s University, Lt. Gov, Jari Askins and State Rep. David Braddock.
Courtesy of Leadership Oklahoma
Twenty years ago, Oklahoma’s energy based economy had fallen on hard times. Downward pressure on crude oil prices was reeking havoc on one of the states primary revenue sources. Budgets for state services were stretched thin. The oil industry and related companies were reeling from a myriad of negative economic factors. The bad times prompted a group of state leaders to meet and begin a series of discussions focused on the premise that Oklahoma needed to build a statewide leadership development program designed to identify, teach and challenge leaders. From these gatherings a consensus grew affirming the belief that we all have a stake in developing long-term prosperity and confronting statewide problems through the positive changes that come from effective leadership. This core group of leaders also shared the conviction that leadership must understand the complex differences and relationships driving the diverse tapestry of Oklahoma and in turn seek to find the common ground on which progress can be achieved. The gatherings mark a new era for the state in which a concerted statewide effort would begin to inspire, nurture and retain those gifted individuals who with their talents and efforts help build a better quality of life for everyone. It was the beginning of Leadership Oklahoma.
At the time there were community organizations such as Leadership Oklahoma City and Leadership Tulsa already in place developing leaders to address issues specific to each city’s situation. Encouraged by the success of these groups, Leadership Oklahoma would use them as structural models while expanding the scope of their effort to include the state as a whole. Consequently, the criteria for membership included not just a proclivity for leadership, but even more importantly, the admissions committee sought out members based on geographic, economic, racial and even political diversity. This criterion assured factional representation of the social fabric of the state. Such a grouping would serve the goal of providing a forum for understanding various perspectives on any given issue. It was believed the understanding and sorting out of differences would eventually lead to discovering threads of commonality. From those threads would come a consensus, a plan and a way forward. Most importantly, it would serve the notion that we are all in this together and we all can and must serve the common good.
The success of these efforts are evident as more than 1,000 Leadership Oklahoma graduates have assumed leadership roles in a broad range of endeavors across the state. The roster of graduates includes names and titles such as: Mitch Adwon, President, Adwon Properties, Inc.; Dewey Bartlett, Jr., President, Keener Oil Company; Nancy Lewis, Vice President, University Services, University of Oklahoma at Tulsa; Howard G. Barnett, Jr., Managing Director, TSF Capital, LLC; Samuel Combs III, President, ONEOK Distribution Companies; Robert H. Anthony, Commissioner, Oklahoma Corporation Commission; Thomas K. McKeon, President and CEO, Tulsa Community College; Ken Busby, Executive Director and CEO, Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa; Sharon Gallagher,—University of Oklahoma at Tulsa; Brad Henry, Governor, State of Oklahoma; Steve W. Turnbo, President, Schnake Turnbo Frank, Inc.; Barbara Henke, Owner/Consultant, Human Resource Investments; Kathryn B. Hinkle, Community Volunteer. Also included among the graduates are many names not always familiar to the general public who quietly go about the mission of building a better quality of life for all Oklahomans.
Ann Ackerman, current CEO of Leadership Oklahoma and graduate of the organization’s first class, puts it this way, “The power of Leadership Oklahoma is its statewide, dynamic network of dedicated, resourceful graduates working together helping their communities and making a positive difference in the lives of every Oklahoman.”
For more information about Leadership Oklahoma see www.leadershipoklahoma.com.