The Leadership Missouri class of 2023 visited Silver Dollar City in August of 2023. (Photo by Missouri Chamber of Commerce)

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For a little while in 2017, Springfield’s Shanda Trautman took a walk in the shoes of a World War II-era American leader. It was a professional development lab experience, of course, that happened in Kansas City some 80 years after the end of the global conflict. 

“I got to do a White House simulation up at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum,” said Trautman, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Old Missouri Bank. “I was secretary of state. We had to go through World War II as a team. Who gets to do that?”

Leadership Missouri participants like Trautman are among those who’ve had that opportunity and others like it across the state since the program’s founding in 1990. Each year’s series of leadership training days starts in May and involves seven monthly, two-day sessions at various locations in Missouri.

Trautman is one of the Springfield residents who has participated in the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry program. According to its website, Leadership Missouri aims to identify current and emerging leaders throughout the state, enhance their leadership skills and deepen their knowledge of the state’s opportunities and challenges.

But despite ranking as the third-largest city in the state, Springfield has sent a little more than 50 participants to the program over the years — an average of less than two per class. Boosting that number is possible, Trautman said. 

“The more they’re in Springfield and commit to coming to Springfield every year, the more involvement we’re going to have,” she said. “The Missouri Chamber is business-friendly and they have the connections to make the program outstanding.” 

A look at Springfield’s participation 

The Leadership Missouri class of 2023 visited Prime Inc. in Springfield in August of 2023. (Photo by Missouri Chamber of Commerce)

Although records are incomplete, at least 57 Springfield residents have graduated from the program, said Megan Davis, director of communications for the Chamber. The number of Springfieldians in the program has varied between zero and four participants each year. The 2023 class features nine participants from St. Louis and seven from Kansas City. 

By contrast, other cities in southwest Missouri have graduated fewer people in Leadership Missouri’s history, Davis said. That list includes Branson (four), Joplin (five), Nixa (zero) and Ozark (four). 

The 2023 class visited Springfield and Southwest Missouri in August for a tour that included stops at Missouri State University, Ozarks Technical Community College, the efactory, Prime Inc. and Silver Dollar City. 

Jeff Coiner, chief information officer at Missouri State, is the lone Springfield participant in the 2023 class. In the program so far, Coiner and his cohort visited businesses across the Missouri and enhanced its knowledge and skills by speaking with experts. 

“We visited DT Engineering in Lebanon and then in Kansas City we visited with some of the leadership there,” Coiner said. “One of the people in our group this year is a City Council member for Kansas City, and she did a great job of organizing that. 

“I’d say the best thing we’ve learned is that the state of Missouri has a lot of really great opportunities, a lot of good communities and a lot of people who do great things.” 

Enhancing that business focus locally could help grow Springfield’s participation at the state level, Coiner said. In fact, Brad Thomas, president of Silver Dollar City Attractions and a Leadership Missouri alumnus, provided a behind-the-scenes tour of the park for the group recently. 

“I think there’s a number of local businesses that if they got involved, provided tours and got more connected with the people who run Leadership Missouri, I think that would be a good way to do it,” he said. 

Still, the statewide program has broadened horizons for Trautman and others. 

“You know, we can get so localized. Leadership Missouri expanded my mind on a state level,” Trautman said. “We have a whole bio-ag corridor in St. Joseph and are a top exporter of vaccines for animals. That was something I didn’t know before.” 

How to apply for Leadership Missouri 

Missourians can apply to join the class of 2024 at Leadership Missouri’s website. The participant tuition fee is $2,300 for Missouri Chamber member organizations and $2,800 for non-member organizations. Scholarships are available in amounts up to $1,000.

Kevin Agee

Kevin Agee received a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in professional studies from Missouri State University. He is a former reporter and has worked as a content strategist for MSU and a Kansas City firm. More by Kevin Agee