Preparing the Leaders of the Future

Tom Tidwell, Chief
Senior Leader Program 7, Graduation Ceremony
Washington, DC
— November 4, 2010

It’s a pleasure to be here this morning. The quality of your projects, the amount of thinking that went into them, shows what a remarkable group of leaders we chose last year to participate in this program. I am glad we did. I am proud of this group, and I am sure you will agree that it’s been a remarkable journey.

It began in Albuquerque, where you got together to discuss the future of leadership in the Forest Service. Then you went to the Cradle of Forestry and Grey Towers, and you also had the opportunity to come to Washington and visit with members of the ELT.

I want you to know how important we think this program is. This program is so critically important because it’s about the future. It’s about the future of our agency and the future of conservation in America. We are facing tremendous challenges, as you know very well, because you deal with them in your jobs—loss of open space, fire and fuels, invasive species, regional drought, outbreaks of insects and disease, and the overarching challenge of climate change. It is no exaggeration to say that the challenges ahead are as great as any we have ever faced in our hundred-five-year history.

Rising to these challenges will take visionary leadership, and leaders aren’t born. People learn to be leaders. It takes a lot of hard work to gain the understanding we need to be effective leaders. It means taking risks and doing your best. It means accepting failure and learning from it. Most of all, it means continuously developing yourself and continuously helping those around you to develop themselves—that mentoring and coaching that you saw modeled in this program.

So I would like to close by saying thanks from all of us in the ELT. On behalf of the entire Forest Service, I would like to thank each one of you for participating in the Senior Leader Program, for all your hard work over the past year, which I know came on top of your regular jobs, for extending our culture of leaders engendering new leaders, and for preparing yourself to lead us into the future.