MASON CITY — Making contacts and meeting new people were just some of the benefits of the Leadership North Iowa program, said Brandy Kozlowski, one of the hundreds of North Iowa employees who have taken the training over the past 34 years.
Sponsored by the Mason City Chamber of Commerce, the 12-week course is given annually, January through March, to identify and develop future leaders in the community.
The class is held once a week during business hours, said Allyson Krull, marketing and leadership development director at the Chamber.
“The training was very thorough,” said Kozlowski, director of human resources at Diamond Jo Worth in Northwood. “It was nice being new to the community and getting to meet people and tour local businesses. Due to the contacts, I have been able to join civic groups, including the Mason City Chamber and Jaycees.”
Kozlowski, who completed the course in the spring, studied leadership and management and toured North Iowa businesses such as Lehigh Cement Co. in Mason City, Poet Bio-refining in Hanlontown and the Historic Park Inn in Mason City. She was referred by Diamond Joe General Manager Kim Pang.
Pang said he has referred four employees to take the leadership training over the past five years.
“I think it’s important to give to future leaders of the community,” he said. “I think they come back with a group of peers that they can actually call as a resource.
“Business leaders recognize employees that have potential and encourage them to be part of the bigger process. The class gives them the tools to be promoted. Leadership class provides many models that point to that direction.”
Pang, who has participated on a panel of employers to give tips to the Leadership class, said he has stressed the importance for future leaders to find a mentor “to help mold you.”
“I’ve had three people (who served as mentors),” he said. “These people, through good and bad, have given me good advice.”
Pang also shares his business card with the class participants and invites them to feel free to call him. He encourages them to be a networking source for others they meet.
Participants in Leadership North Iowa are typically referred by employers who view them as having potential for advancement in their career, Krull said.
They study subjects such as citizenship, mastering the media and ethics in leadership.
Business leaders talk to participants about topics such as what helped them in their careers, how they might handle various scenarios in the workplace, leading by example and recognizing how your attitude affects other employees around you.
A graduation ceremony is held at the end of the 12 weeks at which a past participant speaks.
The Leadership North Iowa program also includes a community impact project chosen by the class, Krull said. Most recently, the class created Lullaby Lane in the Lullaby Land portion of Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery in Mason City as a place to lay to rest the cremains of babies lost to miscarriage. Class members collected donations, secured bids and oversaw the construction and marketing of the project.
“They wanted a more visible marker there,” said Krull.
Past classes have created disc golf signage in East Park, painted bedrooms for youths at Francis Lauer Youth Services and raised funds for the Rotary Club’s Layettes for Nicaragua project.
It is hoped that when class participants return to their work sites they will be more engaged in their community, have a greater appreciation of North Iowa and possibly be more committed to staying in North Iowa.
“Feedback has been positive,” Krull said. “It’s a great networking project.”
The cost of the program is $375 or $500 to non-Chamber members. The fee is typically paid by the company. Fee includes a one-year membership to the Mason City Jaycees.
Companies need not be located in Mason City to participate. There is a limit of 30 students per class.
Employees interested in the Leadership North Iowa program may talk to Krull at 641-423-5724, and should also talk to their employer.