The Leadership Floyd program, which kicked off in August, aims to foster the next generation of forward-thinkers and team players in Floyd. According to program facilitator Beth Burgess and Chamber of Commerce Director John McEnhill, nobody better embodied local leadership than Steve Kaylor, who conceived of the program before his untimely passing in March.

Kaylor worked as a journalist in Florida, as well as at the Bristol Herald-Courier and the Danville Register & Bee, of which he eventually became the publisher. He also served as the CEO and president of the Danville Chamber of Commerce. He retired to Floyd in 2016 and, according to McEnhill, immediately found ways to get involved with his new community. “He didn’t waste time,” McEnhill said. “Within his first year (in Floyd), he was on the Chamber Board.” Kaylor also joined the board of New River Community College and was involved with the Rotary Club.

“He was somebody who didn’t care what job he was given, he was more than happy to do it,” McEnhill said. “He was very humble. He would roll up his sleeves and pitch in.” Kaylor was not only a role model for generosity and leading with humility, however. He also aspired to create a formal training and networking program for the future leaders of Floyd—the program that would become Leadership Floyd. In 2018, Kaylor was elected as president of the Floyd County Chamber of Commerce for the 2019-2020 term, and it seemed like Leadership Floyd would be the flagship initiative of his term.

At the beginning of 2019, Kaylor contacted McEnhill from his winter home in Florida to report that he was battling cancer and would be unable to fulfill his duties as President. “He wrote to me to reaffirm his extreme disappointment that he would not be able to see (Leadership Floyd) through,” McEnhill recounted. “I wrote back and said, (the program) will always be your legacy.” Kaylor passed away soon afterward in March, at the age of 64.

Leadership Floyd is a year-long program of education, personal development, projects and hands-on experiences that seeks to address what McEnhill called a “vacuum” of leadership that “wasn’t being filled when somebody stepped out.” The program aims to foster connections between existing leaders in the community, as well as to educate newcomers about “what local government’s like, the nonprofit and private sectors, and how all these pieces work together to make Floyd,” McEnhill explained.

By the time they “graduate,” McEnhill explained, program participants should have a strong network that allows them to “pick up the phone and get something done quickly, because you’ve built that bridge. …It really does make a difference to be connected.” Burgess, as the program facilitator, is always in the room with participants—this year, 19 people signed up. For the most, participants are sponsored by their employers.

Burgess explained that the first three sessions this year will focus on self-evaluation—participants have already completed the “DISC” personality profile to learn about their most effective communication styles and how to leverage their personal strengths to form stronger interpersonal relationships. After their “self-study,” participants will move on to group work, in groups designed to have a variety of personality types.

As the program moves forward, however, Burgess and McEnhill say they’ll continue to be guided by Kaylor’s original concept and the principles they watched him exemplify. “(Leadership Floyd) truly would not have happened without his encouragement and involvement,” McEnhill said. “(His passing) was a huge loss, not only because he was a wonderful person, but he really was the epitome of a good leader. A shining example of the type of person we try to encourage and foster from this program.”

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