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The Language of Leadership

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The Language of Leadership

by Sam Hinkle

Two conservationists and a rancher walk into a bar. This is not a joke, but roughly how the Quivira Coalition came into existence. The Santa Fe-based nonprofit was founded on the premise that in order to truly conserve and protect natural resources in the American West, groups that historically have very little in common need to find common ground. I had the opportunity to work with this group several times throughout my career, and I still volunteer with them to this day.

A key piece of my role with Quivira was helping to run an annual restoration workshop in the Valle Vidal of northern New Mexico. The workshop aims to restore sloped wetlands in key tributary areas by reducing the prevalence of individual, erosive streams. This not only preserves habitat for wildlife and water resources for those downstream (ultimately, towns like Albuquerque) but also creates forage for cows and the local grazing association.

These workshops were attended by cattle growers, Sierra Club members, government agents, boy and girl scouts, organic farmers, fly fishing enthusiasts and a stoic sawyer from Mississippi—a motley crew to say the least. When it comes to natural resources in the West, these groups are often divided, mutual exclusives that actively work against each other.  By creating a project that held positive potential for all groups involved, Quivira created the common ground needed to start the conversation of how these groups could work in cooperation toward a common goal. I had the opportunity, as a leader at the workshop, to participate in and help guide those discussions.

While working in the Valle Vidal, I found that leadership has a language. The syntax of leadership is that of questions. To create and expand common ground between differing groups, leaders need to guide through questions and tie together answers. It is simple enough in theory, but simple and easy are not the same thing. While difficult, through this formative experience in the Valle, I had the opportunity to practice this style of leadership.

As a 1st Year Fellow, I want to be this kind of leader in my role with El Pomar. I hope to ask questions, synthesize answers and work toward richer, common goals. I look forward to doing this for the benefit of the people of Colorado and the legacy of Spencer and Julie Penrose.



Sam Hinkle joined El Pomar Foundation as a member of the 2019 Fellowship Class. As a Fellow, Sam works on the Pikes Peak Heritage Series, Awards for Excellence, and Communications. Sam also supports the San Luis Valley region. Read more about Sam here