Nearby Noxubee County is taking a novel approach to leadership.

The county's economic development office has partnered to present a leadership development program designed to provide Noxubee business and political leaders with the essential skills for decision making and, perhaps most importantly, taking action.

Dr. Vaughn Grisham, director of the McLean Institute for Community Development at the University of Mississippi, conducted the opening session for Leadership Noxubee this week.

The county leadership development program is a partnership between the Noxubee Economic and Community Development Alliance and Mississippi State University.

"Leadership training helps people see the big picture," says Dr. Grisham. "It helps put fire in the belly."

Leadership development is the prerequisite to good community and economic development.

Dr. Grisham has helped establish leadership development programs in more than 300 counties in 33 states and two Canadian provinces. He is the author of four books and more than 100 articles on leadership development.

Neshoba County would be wise to make such an investment in leadership development.

For Noxubee County, - with one of the highest unemployment rates and a huge challenge with poverty - starting a leadership development program was one of the priorities identified by residents in a strategic planning exercise.

"It is a powerful tool for self development and to help diverse groups learn how to work together," said William Oliver, president of the Noxubee County Board of Supervisors.

Noxubee County officials recognize that leadership training is essential.

"All of us want to live in a community where things get done," said Brian Wilson, executive director of the Noxubee Economic and Community Development Alliance.  "That's what happens with leadership training."

Getting things done is the aim.

While in Neshoba County we can look back decades and see progress in decisions like building the county coliseum, the switch to the unit system form of county government, airport expansion or even more recently the depot renovation, a sort of stagnation has set in.

The most telling sign has been the inability over the last five years to get a new hospital built, perhaps the single biggest economic development failure ever in Neshoba County. We are going to regret for decades not having an adequate medical facility already under construction.

The head of Kemper County's economic development office called their new hospital a total community effort. At best, the hospital here has received lip service.

If leadership training is indeed tied to getting things done, Neshoba County should invite experts in for a refresher because, if the hospital is any indication, our best leaders may be at rest in Cedar Lawn.

Our community knows how to get things done, no doubt, but that fire in the belly must be ignited again and soon.