Virtual "Lead, Learn and Dream" Conference Nov. 17 Provided Encouragement and Education for Over 400 Attendees

  • Published: Friday, Nov. 20, 2020

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Hosts of the "Lead, Learn and Dream" Virtual Leadership Conference on Nov. 17 said the gathering was a great success with over 425 people registered and attending from across Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma. Additional participants were watching via YouTube Live and one of 14 Facebook pages that broadcast it live.

"As I shared at every break, this conference was designed to feature speakers of national and local reputation to create a virtual experience that would add value to attendees and help build their leadership capacity," said David Burton, a county engagement specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

Labor and Workforce Development Specialists Dr. Amy Patillo and Matt Pezold assisted with marketing and technology.

In follow-up surveys provided by 124 attendees, over 96% said the conference was educational and impactful. While several people made suggestions for improvement in 2021, most said the conference was inspiring, impactful, and a great pick-me-up.

One attendee wrote: "I am dealing with situations where there is a lack of leadership and very negative environments. It has taken a toll on my health, both physically and mentally, in 2020. I knew I wanted to attend this conference but didn't realize how much I NEEDED to attend this conference. It was a bright spot in some dark days. I can't speak for others, but I'd be willing to bet that others were needing some encouraging messages, too."

Among attendees that took the post-event survey, comedy seemed to reign supreme because comedians Michael Jr. and Steve Harvey received the highest audience scores, followed by the presentation by Naval Adm. William H. McRaven.


The conference kicked off with "Working Together" by Alan Mulally, former CEO of Boeing Airlines and Ford Motor Co., and author of "Relentless Implementation." He discussed teamwork and his working together process and what it did for Boeing and Ford. "Working together created a huge turn around in our employee surveys," said Mulally. "We went from a percent positive of feeling appreciated among workers at Ford, around 42% to 91% with these working together principles." His presentation can be viewed at

Second up was "More than Funny" by comedian Michael Jr., who explained how to take your life's setups (challenges) and then change direction in a way that brings fulfillment, revelation, and joy to you and those around you. "What some people see as a handicap may be a setup for something greater," said Michael Jr. "The truth is, your gift will make room for you." His presentation can be viewed at

"Leadership in Uncertainty" was the title of a short program presented by David Burton, MU Extension community development specialist. In that presentation, he details how Ernest Schakelton embarked September 1914 on a journey that did not go as expected. "It could have ended in tragedy but instead offers us leadership lessons for guiding people during periods of uncertainty," said Burton. His presentation can be viewed at

"Make Your Bed" by Naval Adm. William H. McRaven, U.S. Special Operations commander was a conference favorite. McRaven gave the speech that inspired his book by the same name. "It is easy to blame your lot in life on some outside force, to stop trying because you believe fate is against you. It is easy to think that where you were raised, how your parents treated you, or what school you went to is all that determines your future. Nothing could be further from the truth. The common people and the great men and women are all defined by how they deal with life's unfairness: Helen Keller, Nelson Mandela, Stephen Hawking, Malala Yousafzai, and—Moki Martin. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, no matter how good you are, you still end up as a sugar cookie. Don't complain. Please don't blame it on your misfortune. Stand tall, look to the future, and drive on!" His presentation can be viewed at

"Embracing the Near Win" was the topic of a speech given by Sarah Lewis, an art historian, who noted that in our pursuit of success and mastery, it is our near wins that push us forward. "Mastery requires endurance. Mastery, a word we don't use often, is not the equivalent of what we might consider its cognate—perfectionism—an inhuman aim motivated by a concern with how others view us. Mastery is also not the same as success—an event-based victory based on a peak point, a punctuated moment in time. Mastery is not merely a commitment to a goal, but to a curved-line, constant pursuit," said Lewis. Her presentation can be viewed at

"The Art of Neighboring" was presented by David Burton, MU Extension community development specialist. He noted that Americans are feeling more isolated and lonelier and part of the reason is that we have a neighboring crisis. "It all begins by turning off Netflix, getting up off your couch, and meeting your immediate neighbors and learning and remembering and then using their names," said Burton. His presentation can be viewed at

"Find Your Calling Where it Hurts" was a powerful presentation given by Shawn Askinoise, a Springfield resident and Mizzou grad. He went from being a defense attorney to a passionate chocolate maker. "Good works are beautiful in the eyes of God but not if I am so exhausted that my little lamp's flame is extinguished," said Askinoise. His presentation can be viewed at

"Developing the Leader Within" was a presentation by John C. Maxwell, a well-known leadership coach, and author. He discussed the quality of self-discipline and the importance of consistency in growing your leadership reputation. "Teaching it is easy, living it is difficult," said Maxwell. His presentation can be viewed at

"The Mind of a Master Procrastinator" - Tim Urban knows procrastination doesn't make sense, but he's never shaken his habit. He wants us to think about it before we run out of time. "The only thing that scares the instant gratification monkey is the panic monster, which works for deadlines but not for larger goals in life," said Urban. His presentation can be viewed at

"Worms Taught Me About Failure" - David L. Burton, a county engagement specialist for MU Extension, is experienced at failure, from his failed worm farm to his wrong car purchase. "Always be learning, talk about your failures more," said Burton. "Let failure be your teacher, not your undertaker." His presentation can be viewed at

"Lessons from Unexpected Places" - Kat Cole, worked her way up from serving tables to being President at FOCUS Brands. "My advice is that you focus on things that are small enough to change, but big enough to matter," said Cole. Her presentation can be viewed at

"What I learned when I conquered the world's toughest triathlon" - When Minda Dentler decided to take on the Iron Man, she had bigger aspirations than just another medal around her neck. "Follow your passion, and don't be afraid to take risks. The best things that have happened to me have come from being willing to take risks." Her presentation can be viewed at

"My Walk/Your Dream" - Steve Harvey is a motivational speaker, comedian, and TV personality. He knows a few things about seeing a dream come true. "I aim for stuff so big that the dream is bigger than the fear," said Harvey. His presentation can be viewed at


As is often the case, people's expectations often dictate what they get out of an event.

"At the start of the day, I told a story about a young boy that kept catching fish and measuring them against his hand and throwing the lunkers back in but keeping the small ones," said Burton. "Eventually, another fisherman asked him why he was keeping the small ones, and he said it was because he only at a 10-inch frying pan."

As Burton pointed out, the size of your expectations often determines what you keep and learn from a conference or educational event. But investing in yourself is essential.

"Any day is a good day to invest in your leadership abilities," said Burton. "MU Extension officers all types of leadership-related programs that you can find online. We hope some that attended this conference will be inspired to enroll in some of our other leadership programs."

Some attendees have shared their favorite topics and links to favorite speakers on social media using our unique tag for the day. #leadlearndream

David Burton can be reached at the Greene County MU Extension office in Springfield, Mo., by telephone at (417) 881-8909 or by email at [email protected]

Writer: David Burton

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