Seven Questions with Leadership Siouxland’s Peggy Smith

Peggy Smith
Peggy Smith (Photo by Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal)

Article by Ty Rushing, SIOUX CITY JOURNAL Aug. 27, 2017 — Peggy Smith has come full circle when it comes to her involvement with Leadership Siouxland.

In 1993, Smith graduated from the program that’s dedicated to helping shape the tri-state area’s leaders of tomorrow.

She also served a few terms on its board of directors. And, in June, she was named Leadership Siouxland’s new executive director.

Although the position is part-time — she works full-time at Wells Enterprises Inc. in Le Mars — Smith can personally attest to the program’s value and is excited about the opportunity to lead the organization which has had more than 900 graduates since 1987.

The Journal recently caught up with Smith to learn more about Leadership Siouxland and to discuss her new role with the organization.

Q. What is a quick way to explain what Leadership Siouxland is and your role in it?

A. “Leadership Siouxland is a community education program for helping to develop leadership skills and encourage community involvement. My role as executive director is to overall manage the program, work with the board of directors — we have a nine-month curriculum so I help organize the classes and participants. We have a class of typically around 30 participants and the class runs from September through May and meets typically in the evenings; our orientation session is a day session.”

Q. What about this position interested you?

A. “The chance to be back involved with an organization that I have a lot of passion for. I went through the program years ago, I learned so much I and I also developed a great network of resources that I have kept in touch with through the years that I still lean on. I just think that this is a very valuable program and the chance to be really active in it again was great.”

Q. How do you balance this position alongside your other job and your social commitments?

A. “It’s always an act of balancing, you’re exactly right. This job gives me the chance to be involved in the community and do some things that I really love doing that I don’t always have the chance to do in my current role so it’s a good opportunity to kind of have the best of both worlds, I guess. I like to be busy, I like to be involved and both roles work together well. … Also, with the support of my family, the great people I work for and with at Wells, and the wonderful board of directors for Leadership Siouxland.”

Q. What changes, if any, do you want to bring to the organization?

A. “Leadership Siouxland started out back when it was founded in the early ’80s as Leadership Sioux City and it’s evolved into Leadership Siouxland (but) still a lot of the focus is on Sioux City. So I want to make sure that outlying communities, people from outlying communities really add value and find value in participating in the program because it is meant to serve the tri-state area. Now that I am working in Le Mars, I think that will be helpful in really getting people to know that this is a program that is not just about Sioux City; it’s about all of our communities.”

Q. Why is leadership so important?

A. “Because each one of us has the opportunity to make a difference and it is by learning leadership skills and learning your own strengths — which is what’s really great about the strength finding program. It really concentrates on your strengths and you developing your strengths. So often we know what our weak points are and we concentrate on trying to improve our weak points instead of maybe really looking at our strengths and saying, ‘What can I do to expand upon the things that I do well?’”

Q. What are some immediate benefits people who successfully complete the program can expect?

A.”We concentrate on helping give the people who go through the program the opportunity to collaborate with others in their class and partner with a community agency to do a project. The projects are things that the team choose and they choose what they want to do, but it’s a way to have great impact on the community. The previous classes have done a really spectacular job of helping community organizations. … They can expect to have learned a lot about themselves and their own strengths, to have picked up some good tips and education around how to be a positive leader. The positive leadership program talks about things like gratitude, resilience and different facets of leadership. In addition to that, you form a network of people and resources that you can carry with you throughout your career and you learn amazing things about the Siouxland area. I am a native Siouxlander —as I said, I graduated from Le Mars Community High School — and when I went through the program years ago I learned all sorts of things I didn’t know about Sioux City and Siouxland in general. So you learn about economic development, the diversity of our community, the things that are available to take advantage of — the Art Center, the Orpheum Theatre — you learn about all the different things that are here that we may not always pay as much attention to.”

Q. What are you looking forward to most about working with Siouxland’s leaders of tomorrow?

A. “That’s a great question. Being able to contribute to their development and their learning opportunity and then to be able to see what an impact they can make by their involvement in the program, in the projects that they choose and the partnerships that they have with community organizations to get to see how our program can help people reach their potential, and make a difference and have a positive impact. You see that firsthand and to be part of that, that’s amazing.”