Mike Ruffing, the owner of Problem Solver's Consulting and a Leadership Upshur rep, addresses the Rotary of Buckhannon-Upshur Club Tuesday. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

How Leadership Upshur grew out of one business owner’s frustration with a lack of local leadership trainings

BUCKHANNON – Leadership Upshur’s 2023 season will kick off this October with a larger class than last year.

Mike Ruffing, a representative for Leadership Upshur, attended the Aug. 1 Rotary Club of Buckhannon-Upshur meeting to discuss the academy’s next class and highlight their goals.

“We are just about to enter our second year for Leadership Upshur, and we’re excited,” said Ruffing, who is the owner/founder of Problem Solver’s Consulting. “Leadership Upshur came about because we didn’t have a program here locally where people could develop leadership skills.”

The program helps develop leadership skills that apply to a variety of professions.

“It could be for their business, for the people they work for, for community engagement, volunteerism, if they want to be in public service, if they want to be politicians, it takes a certain type of leadership skill that you acquire over years and years of experience with your job, your community service, your activism – whatever it is that you do,” Ruffing said.

“There really wasn’t a way for us to impart those skills and that knowledge to the next generation that’s going to come through and start to fill those positions and be our next volunteers, our next politicians, our next managers of our businesses and all those things,” he continued.

Ruffing said he originally utilized the classes to educate employees from his own business Problem Solver’s Consultants.

“We moved here in 2012; I’ve had my company here since 2013, and I had to send my people to Harrison County/Fairmont to do their leadership programs, to get them the skills I needed for them to be successful and to work for me,” Ruffing said. “I got sick and tired of kicking all of our good people up to different counties and basically telling them to go somewhere else.”

The Upshur County Development Authority, City of Buckhannon and the Upshur County Commission helped fund the first session of Leadership Upshur last year. That upcoming session will be tweaked using feedback from the 2022 participants.  

“We had 12 people come through the program last year, we received a lot of valuable feedback, and we made some really good changes for this year, which I’m really excited about,” Ruffing said. “Right now, it looks like we’re going to have 14 or 15 people in the second class of Leadership Upshur.”

“[In the 2022 academy], we did have a pretty intensive book club where these folks consumed five full leadership books, along with their day jobs, their lives, in this nine-month program, and they said it was a little too much, so for this year we tried to make it a little bit more attainable,” he added.

The Leadership Upshur class meets once a month beginning in October 2023 and concludes in June 2023, with nine full days of trainings covering different techniques and leadership skills.

“Last year we had 18 guest speakers that came in and talked about leadership in different roles, whether that was leadership in the business world, leadership in politics, leadership in community service and we had amazing participation,” Ruffing said. “We did a really cool leadership retreat with Fish Hawk Acres at The Coop to help everybody go through a bonding experience and then we finished at the end of the year in June with our graduation out at the Fish Hawk farm; everybody that participated had nothing but great things to say about the program.”

The final day to submit applications for the 2023 class was Aug. 1, 2023.

News Feed

Subscribe to remove popups, or just enjoy this free story and support our local businesses!