I’ve always believed one of the most important elements to being a good leader in addition to relationship-building, is to develop important connections, connections within the community and within Great Plains Technology Center. Connections offer tremendous opportunities for leadership development. A critical component to leadership is to learn to connect with those whose support helps us to be better leaders. One of the most rewarding connections I have made as superintendent is playing a role in developing the future leaders of Great Plains Tech through our Aspiring Leaders Foundational Academy, ALFA
In January I shared some of the insights our current ALFA class discussed about the importance the connections they’ve developed have meant to them. This month I’m sharing more of their thoughts.
Connections with community partners
“One of my favorite activities the ALFA group has done with our community partners was our visit to FISTA. As a science teacher, getting to see cutting edge technology being developed and used locally is a rare treat. At FISTA, we learned how defense contractors will be able to develop and test their research, such as drone technology, and how that research ties in directly with Ft. Sill. The proximity of FISTA to Fort Sill will allow these contractors to test and refine their products much more quickly. Fort Sill now houses the drone college for the U.S. military, so this research is vital for their ability to continue to develop the offensive capabilities of drones while also developing strategies to defend against an enemy drone attack.” —Matt Lewis
“Participation in the 2022-23 ALFA class has helped cultivate relationships with several community partners. Leaders from local business and industry, higher education, and Fort Sill have generously shared their time and wisdom with ALFA class members. These community leaders provided insights on how to develop relationships, become involved, and be servant leaders in our organizations and community. Students, faculty, and general staff have abundant opportunities to build positive relationships with our city government, non-profit organizations, advisory boards, businesses, and other community agencies. Participation in the ALFA class has broadened class members’ avenues for personal and professional growth, service, and collaboration with community partners.”—Joan Cole
Connections with other departments on campus
“Because ALFA is diverse, with class members coming from all over our campus, we have had the opportunity to learn about how other departments operate. Because we have all gotten to know each other as individuals, I feel more connected to their departments as well and feel more comfortable approaching other departments for assistance when needed. In my role as Database Administrator, I serve all departments; however, one thing that ALFA has shown me is how interconnected each department really is even if we do not realize that in our day-to-day activities. That interconnectedness is based on the commitment we all have to our students and their success.” –Michele Hess
Connections to GPTC administrators
“ALFA class members had the opportunity to connect with our administrators many times throughout the class. I was fortunate to shadow Joelle Jolly, our Deputy Superintendent, several times. Mrs. Jolly is busy with a variety of responsibilities. Besides getting significantly more than the required daily steps, my most eye-opening takeaway is that administrators must develop a much broader perspective than I currently have. As a classroom teacher and in my role as Instructional Specialist, I often view my campus through a comparatively narrow lens. Shadowing the Deputy Superintendent illustrated for me that even seemingly simple actions have ripple effects for students, teachers, departments, and our community. Leaders must preempt as many of these effects as possible when making decisions from the mundane to the monumental.” –Michelle Churchwell
“A highlight of participation in the ALFA class has been the connections created between class members and our administration team. Each of our administrators brings different strengths and abilities to the table. Their positions can sometimes make people hesitant to approach them, but during my time in ALFA, I have come to realize how genuinely approachable our leaders are. They have a warm and inviting side that we may not always get to observe. They are sincerely invested in strengthening the connections they are making with us and helping us grow as leaders and individuals. I am honored to learn from all the community leaders we speak to, and I especially love seeing the leadership styles that each of our own administrators brings to our campus.” –Rebekah Crespo
I am enormously proud of these future leaders of Great Plains Technology Center. They are learning that leadership isn’t simply a matter of setting goals and expectations and directing others to meet them, but it’s vital to the life of the organization for everyone to connect with others, to help understand ourselves and others better. It’s all about honest dialogue, trust, understanding, and engagement. We can achieve that by positive relationship building within our organization and within the communities we serve. Together we can inspire and build a culture where all of us can grow and flourish.
Clarence Fortney is superintendent of Great Plains Technology Center.