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Servant Leadership and silence

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Jim Hunter explains the principles of servant leadership to law enforcement and public servants in the Boone Creek Farm Design Center.
By Shari Harris
Friday morning, law enforcement personnel and public servants from multiple organizations in Texas County, Dent County, St. Louis County and the City of Nixa gathered west of Licking at the Design Center on Boone Creek Farm®. Jim Hunter, world-renowned speaker and the author of several best-selling books, was the presenter of a four-hour course on Servant Leadership.
The course was hosted by members of The EZ STREET Company, a business that brothers, Dag and Lars Seagren founded 25 years ago. Together, they welcomed the group to their family destination getaway. Brandie Wilson of EZ STREET introduced Hunter, who has provided servant leadership mentoring for their company for the past sixteen years.
When asked why they wanted to host the event, the folks at EZ STREET reported it was a way to give back to the community. Wilson, who spearheaded the conference, said, “We want them to go away with something they can use in their personal lives, at work and in the field.”
Hunter inspired attendees with his presentation. He defined leadership as: “The skill of influencing people to action, with character that inspires confidence and excellence.”
Hunter stated, “Leadership’s about identifying and meeting people’s needs.” An example of this was giving appreciation. Hunter identified appreciation as a need people have, not just a desire.
Other tenets of his course included that everybody is a leader and we need to get people to own it. He used the example of industry in Detroit over the decades and how lack of competition after WWII allowed a dearth of leadership to form, as bosses could and did treat people as literally “hired hands” and did not engage employees’ minds. As other countries rebuilt from the war, they utilized business leadership principles and became strong competitors to Detroit, which is now a shadow of its former prominence in industry.
Hunter urged attendees to, “Be the boss you wish your boss would be.” He exchanged “boss” with many other titles, such as father, mother and neighbor, further emphasizing his message that leadership isn’t just at work, or just for administrators, but it is in all roles and at all levels.
After the conference, the attendees were treated to lunch at the main house. A large addition to the home is under construction, but was sufficiently complete to host the crowd. Dag Seagren emphasized the importance of “breaking bread” with others to the servant leadership process.
The Seagrens created their retreat/conference destination deep in the Texas County woods. Things often taken for granted by full-time residents of the area are vital components to making this an optimal site for such gatherings. One particular feature likely unrealized by locals is silence. Several of the staff present for Friday’s event mentioned the contrast between the noise of a city and the silence of the countryside. Tom Francione, EZ STREET vice president, reported he initially felt “awkward” in the silence. Hope Licor, who has been with the company for 13 years, reports when she first came to the farm, she felt very anxious when she drove into the heavily wooded areas that surround the site. The silence continues to be noticeable to her, despite many visits, with Licor sharing, “You can hear yourself think.” Perhaps it is this ability to hear your thoughts that is the most beneficial; they have found that the environment stimulates ideas. The silence is nothing new to St. Robert resident Elisha Baker, who has worked at Boone Creek Farm since May, yet she still reports the place is, “Amazing.”
EZ STREET hosts groups for intimate meetings and brainstorming sessions, including through video conference calls from the site – to connect those who aren’t there at the time. They host teams from their company and last week hosted a four-day retreat for the board of directors of a private school in Miami. They can accommodate corporate retreats with up to 15 people.
The Seagrens have been coming to Boone Creek Farm since 1976, when an old hunting cabin was the only living quarters. Over the years, the family moved from St. Louis to Miami, but continued to summer in the woods west of Licking. The current home is where the Shelty or Slaughter home was established in the 1800’s. Twenty-five years ago, Seagren and his brother, Lars Seagren, founded their high performance cold patch asphalt company. The multinational company “serves infrastructure repair professionals by providing a product that is faster, easier and less expensive to use.”
The home includes bunkhouse style lodging for guests, designed to encourage people to be out of their room and interacting with others. A spacious kitchen area invites guests to gather in a setting that, by its nature, evokes positive feelings. The addition will have a banquet hall area and is fronted by a large patio.
The family commenced a legacy project on their property, planting 1,400 black walnut trees. They work with the University of Missouri and the Forestry Service, who study their walnut plantation.
A woodshop on the property is utilized to make many items for the home and guests often make something there to take with them. Examples have included cutting boards and picture frames, as the experience of making something with your hands further inspires the creative process for all guests.
Outside the woodshop are a band sawmill and a kiln for drying wood. There is also a small forge designed for those wanting to experience knife making.
One project undertaken at the workshop has been seen by many in the area. The main countertop at George O. White State Forest Nursery was made at Boone Creek Farm from logs delivered to the shop by the nursery.
Johnny Brice, Robert Norris and Kyle Jolly, from Missouri Hometown Builders, have been working around the property on different projects for the past nine years. They are nearly there full time now, with construction of the addition to the home and irrigation of the trees as some of their duties.
Boone Creek Farm gives back to the community through their use of local businesses. Friend Lumber is a frequent stop due to their many, varied projects. My Little Cupcake has also been utilized, as well as local independent contractors.
Brothers Seagren are rightly pleased with the positive atmosphere at Boone Creek Farm. They expect and encourage growth from their employees. As Dag Seagren stated, “We’re not going to be remembered by the great things we do.” He emphasized the important thing is what we can lead others to do in their lives.


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