“It’s not about the role. It’s about the goal.”
That is how Lauren McMillan defines leadership. As a junior at the University of Illinois studying Agricultural Leadership with a concentration in Agribusiness and Media, this young livestock enthusiast knows a thing or more about being a leader. She caught the bug for leadership when she attended her first National Junior Hereford Association Faces of Leadership Conference and decided then she wanted to pursue these opportunities more.
“In high school, I didn’t really understand leadership. I thought it was about a role or a title, but now that I’ve been put into real-life leadership experiences, I understand more it’s about achieving the common goal,” McMillan said.
Leading by Example
The young Hereford breeder from Tiskilwa, Illinois, embraced those leadership lessons from her first Faces of Leadership Conference – the youth leadership event hosted by the NJHA – and followed her dreams several years later, running for the Junior Hereford Board. Today, she serves as its Leadership Chair. She also served on the first ever Sure Champ® Leadership Team in 2020.
She practices leadership in several organizations within the College of ACES (ag college), admitting that she isn’t the best at saying no. She is the vice president of Collegiate Farm Bureau, ACES Council president, involved in NAMA and a member of the 4-H House Cooperative. She also started a club for her major.
The Ag Leadership major is combined with Ag Education and Ag Communication at the U o I, according to McMillan. Her freshman year, she noticed there was an Ag Ed Club and an Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow on campus, but no Ag Leadership organization. She worked through the proper channels during her sophomore year, and this year is happy to report being a founding member of the Illini Emerging Leaders Club, which now has members and regular meetings and events.
As the vice president of the University of Illinois Orange Krush, the student led fan base for the men’s basketball team and a campus philanthropic organization, McMillan has been able to apply the leadership skills she has learned in her junior Hereford experiences and other ag organizations to work.
“Working with others outside of ag has been a huge learning curve, but I’ve been able to apply my leadership skills as part of the seven-member council who leads 3,000 student fans at the men’s basketball games,” she said. “But it’s so much more. Through the Krush Foundation, one of the largest student-run philanthropic organizations in the country, we raise money for our community. I just found out we have currently raised $98,000 so far, so we are way over our goal, which is awesome! I have been able to communicate and work with the Department of Athletics, students and community.”
McMillan said working with the Orange Krush has allowed her to broaden her outlook and really allowed her to apply her motto of working toward a common goal, not just a role.
Parents know Best
McMillan credits her parents Kyle and Jodi as her biggest role models when it comes to their leadership styles. She points out that both have very different ways of leading, and each way is ideal for the particular situation that they are in.
Jodi is more of a slower paced, analytical leader. As an ag in the classroom instructor this is the best way for her to work with other teachers and students. Kyle is more of a faster-paced, task-based leader, ideal for his leadership role at Bayer.
A Bright Future
One of the projects that McMillan is most excited about is the BOLD Conference that the Junior Hereford Board is hosting this spring. An idea in the making, she said this event for older members was one of the passion points she talked about when running for the Board.
“This elite leadership experience is for the 18- to 21-year-old members and will give them a chance to learn more about leadership. It is application based, and we are only accepting 20 people, so we can really develop their skills,” she said.
McMillan said interest in the Building on Leadership Development event has been strong and she is grateful for the support from the HYFA board and GKB for hosting it.
On a personal level, McMillan is using her skills in a spring and summer internship with CAT, headquartered in Peoria, Illinois. She is a Marketing Intern in global distribution. She is looking forward to expanding her outlook even more working with dealers on a world-wide level while learning more about marketing.
She plans to attend graduate school to further her education and hopes to find a career working with her two biggest passions – people and agriculture. McMillan said she hopes internships like the one she has this summer will expose her to see if she is interested in a career in communications and marketing.
A natural-born leader, she shared her advice to those who want to get involved.
“Always be open minded, positive and ready to jump into anything,” McMillan said.
From Hereford cattle to leading the largest student fan base in college men’s basketball, this young lady has jumped into everything and is truly Krushing her leadership skills.