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MUSCATINE, Iowa – On Wednesday, 56 seniors from seven area high schools brushed up on some of the leadership skills they’ll need in the coming years, when Baby Boomers and the generations after finally hand over the reins of power.

They had an effective and experienced guide — Carole Harder, a motivational speaker and executive director of Global Leadership Connection, who divides her time between Cedar Rapids and Santa Ynez, Calif., a community outside Santa Barbara. She’s led more than 3,000 seminars on professional performance and personal development and on Wednesday she spoke to the young leaders at Muscatine Community College as part of the Muscatine Area Council on Youth Leadership’s Youth Salute to the Class of 2014.

Each student, recognized for academic prowess and for giving back to his or her school by participating in extra-curricular and service organizations, wrote an application and successfully completed an interview process before being selected.

On Saturday evening at Central Middle School, four $500 scholarship and five $100 scholarship winners were announced. The four $500 recipients will also receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the National Town Meeting on Tomorrow at Washington University in St. Louis next month.

Wednesday’s day-long event, held at MCC’s Bob Roach Little Theatre, included small group activities as well as a series of talks by Harder. Students got to know a little about each other in their small groups and through a display in the back of the room, where a portrait and brief biography of each student was posted.

Good leaders, as Harder showed the group, are good listeners. She demonstrated what she calls “half-an-ear listening” by engaging one of the young leaders in a discussion, then promptly wandering behind a curtain, clearly ignoring what he was saying.

The ideal way to listen, she said, is active listening — repeating what you hear to make sure you understand what the person’s telling you, and asking questions if you didn’t quite understand. “If you want to form great relationships,” Harder advised students, “be the best listener you can be.”

One of her favorite authors and lecturers, Denis Waitley, taught her the importance of current dominant thought — “what you think of most often is the direction you’ll go.” Harder said she decided at a young age “to be positive until the day I die.” She told the story of her own high school days, when she and others helped a fellow freshman out of a trash can, where seniors had unceremoniously dumped him.

That particular freshman grew up to be a bank president, she said.

“I don’t know if he wouldn’t have grown up to be a bank president if we hadn’t helped him out of the trash can,” she said with a smile, “but you never know.”

Harder sprinkled her talk with aphorisms she wanted the students to take home with them. Among them:

  • “One of your greatest powers is your power to choose.”
  • “You’re responsible for all your actions.”
  • “If you have a good time today, it’s because you got involved.”
  • “Leaders take people to places they wouldn’t go otherwise.”
  • “Your very best friend is you. If you don’t like yourself, you won’t let others like you because you don’t think you’re worth it.”

By mid-morning, one senior, Eliot Henderson of West Liberty High School, said he thought Wednesday’s event had value for at least two reasons: the people he was meeting and the lessons he was learning. Henderson, a wrestler and football player who also participates in his school’s student language and dual language program, among other activities, said he hopes to study engineering at Stanford University beginning next year.

“I think (Harder) will really help us become better leaders,” he said.

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