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What is a leader?

Contributors: What is a leader?

What is a leader?

We asked the people who helped put this issue together at Dakotafire Design Night to answer this question. If you’d like to answer it as well, go to

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“Leaders use whatever resources they have to make their corner of the world a better place. When they come to the limit of those resources, leaders build up the people on either side, so those neighbors are better able to use their own resources to do the work they are called to do. Those neighbors build up neighbors, who build up neighbors. Eventually those empowering ripples could reach around the world.”

Heidi Marttila-Losurepublisher & editor, Dakotafire Media





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“A leader is a person who moves an idea forward into action.”

Paula Jensen, funds development director,Grow South Dakota


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“To me, our best leaders have the courage to speak up and ask the powerful questions of us. They are patient enough to sit through good learning as a not-knower, and empathic enough to listen to all the voices. They also see connections and relationships that seem to be hidden from view, and because of that, they help us break through worldviews and assumptions that are holding us back.”

—Joe Bartmann, process host & community coach, Rural Weaver LLC

Photo of Joe Bartmann by Abby Bischoff, Flock Studio



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“Leadership is right action, born of sound judgment, that motivates others to make communities better. What distinguishes between leaders and followers? One word: sleep.”

—Jason Uphoff, executive director of the Arlington Community Development Corporation







Great leaders take action, inspire others, create buy-in and mentor future leaders.”

—Liz Hannum, coordinator for the Center of Excellence in Entrepreneurship and International Business, Northern State University

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“A leader is someone who sees the need of a friend or neighbor or the entire community and isn’t content to sit silently and watch. A leader steps up and becomes a part of the solution, helping plan and implement the work that is necessary to better the situation and inspires others to do the same.”

—Wendy Royston, staff writer, Dakotafire Media





“A leader gathers people around a common vision and knows when to move forward or change course to manage projects to completion. A leader does not cling to a project for personal elevation, but rather knows when to hand off ownership in order to create the best results.”

—Jamie Horter, rural community developer & artist

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