Bring Out the Leader in You

Reflecting on  the "Bring Out the Leader in You" Intensive Workshop

by Madeline McGarry, ISU Women in Ag student assistant


In the interactive workshop: “Bring Out the Leader in You,” Mary Foley Balvanz of American Farm Bureau and Heather Lilienthal of the Iowa Soybean Association walked attendees through the process of identifying strategies to overcome barriers when pursuing leadership positions.

A series of activities accompanied the advice provided by Balvanz and Lilienthal, including the use of team brainstorming, developing solutions to address numerous barriers to leadership and frequent opportunities for reflection.

Prior to the conference, Foley Balvanz previewed her goals for holding the session, and expressed optimism related to the interactive components of the workshop.

“It is empowering for women to work together and find that they have common concerns and frustrations,” Foley Balvanz said.

The group of approximately thirty participants focused on identifying their skills and goals in enhancing their leadership roles and cultivated a list of challenges that confront them when pursuing a position of leadership.

As a result, a number of common themes emerged from the collective conversation, from fear of feeling under-qualified or being confronted in challenging situations, to avoiding overcommitment and managing time effectively.

Balvanz and Lilienthal emphasized the importance for women agriculturalists to listen and ask questions in order to arm themselves with knowledge, which will allow for them to enhance their qualifications and confidence.

Lilienthal, who serves as director of producer services at the Iowa Soybean Association, has had years of experience in the field of ag communications. As a result, she stressed to attendees the importance of establishing a proficient communications skillset for remaining engaged and persuasive in professional roles.

“Communicating is not just forcing what you know on somebody...questions are huge,” Lilienthal said.

In addition to discussing the process of identifying leadership challenges and solutions to overcoming them, Balvanz and Lilienthal emphasized the need to be self-aware and discover personal identity when pursuing new endeavors.

“There are these barriers and some strategies, but part of it is to get yourself centered first,” Lilienthal said.

The three-hour workshop included an intermission for dinner and frequent opportunities to network with fellow attendees.