March was an exciting time for our chamber, our county, and our community. We saw new partnerships and collaborations built around the idea that together we are stronger and better. Trusting that a rising tide lifts all boats (see my February column), we are creating places in our community where everyone can belong. I found my inspiration for this month’s leadership column in the leaders found in barns scattered across the largest and smallest cities of our county. Last week, those leaders young and old came together as a county in the large metal barn sitting on the highway connecting Midlothian and Waxahachie.
Lifetimes of leadership lessons are there buried in the wood shavings, etched in the metal stands, and scratched in sand-filled show rings. I could write dozens of columns trying to capture the inspiring stories of discipline, trust, teamwork, selflessness, and resilience. You would be captivated by the hardworking kids, investing love, sweat, and money preparing their animals for the show ring and learning invaluable business lessons. You would see those same lessons chiseled in the hearts of the successful business leaders pouring tens of thousands of dollars back into the youth of today, fondly remembering their own walks through those rings decades earlier. You would hear grandfathers proudly introducing the kids they sponsored through the season, still investing heart, soul, and dollars, long after their own grandchildren graduated the programs. You might catch a glimpse of the gruff ag teacher trying to slip a hundred dollar bill from his wallet into the pot of money raised by the Ellis County Women in Business to support young women at the Expo with project #bringinghomethebacon. You purposefully wouldn’t hear even a whisper from the anonymous donors, working behind the scenes to partner with that newly-formed women’s group. But, you wouldn’t miss the hootin’ and hollerin’ of those women’s determined bid to win the auction for Pepper the Pig. And you would learn that Pepper was proudly raised and shown by Heritage Freshman Allison Bevers, who tragically lost her mother Missy two years ago this month.
I’ll get back to the executive suite interviews, the library of leadership books, and philosophical discussions about leadership theory soon. For now I am still trying to absorb every last detail of the character lessons that came to life in that large metal barn, where egos are checked and generosity flows quietly from those seeking no credit for their kind and selfless acts.
As my friend Clint Almand explained, these “new” traditions of partnering the business community with the youth expo actually date back to the 1880’s when the county expos and local chambers came together as the epicenter of commerce in communities across Texas. I can’t wait to see where we go with this rediscovered powerhouse of the Ellis County Youth Expo, the Ellis County Women in Business, our school ag departments, 4H and FFA families, and of course the chambers from across the county. If you want a front row seat at the very best leadership summit around, grab your bid card and join us at next year’s show and sale. Based on the warm welcome we received this year, I promise the “regulars” will make you feel like you belong.