The Council Bluffs Area Chamber of Commerce utilized its mid-year meeting to mark the graduation of the 31st class of Leadership Council Bluffs and to hear from a local businessman about success.

The featured speaker was Travis Castle, owner of Castle & Associates. Castle joined American Family Insurance in 2006 and was assigned as an agent in 2007.

In his 12 years as an agency owner, Castle and his team have grown from a single office in Bellevue, Nebraska, to be one of the largest American Family agents in Iowa and Nebraska.

Castle, who currently lives in Treynor with his wife, Lori, and three children, currently operates five locations in western Iowa and eastern Nebraska. As the owner of a large — and growing — agency, he is uniquely qualified to talk about the qualities of successful leadership.

The Mapleton native told chamber members, the new graduates of Leadership Council Bluffs and Leadership Council Bluffs alumni that one of the most important lessons he learned growing up in a small town was the need to give back more than you take from a community.

Castle noted there are two types of leaders, intentional and abnormal. Intentional leaders like things to be in order, have clear and consistent standards, guide rather than direct those they work with, are mentally tough and work to develop people and earn their trust.

Abnormal leaders are humble, giving credit to others for successes but taking the blame themselves when things go wrong. They earn the respect of others by being hard workers, often the first to work and the last to leave. They tend to be people whom others want to be around.

Abnormal leaders embrace being uncomfortable, understanding that “reality” is always a grind, and things rarely improve if you’re waiting for “the perfect” to happen.

Effective leaders, Castle noted, create a culture of empowerment by making connections with team members.

“You can change the way things are done by creating an amazing culture,” he said. “It’s important for leaders to be able to openly admit they screwed up. It’s a leader’s responsibility to impact lives.”

Leadership Council Bluffs Class 31 graduates included: Leigh Bagshaw, CHI Health Mercy Hospital; Maria Belt, sponsored by the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands and currently with Carson Group; Danielle Bentzinger, Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office; Kimberly Bogatz, HGM Associates; Mike Brownlee, sponsored by The Daily Nonpareil and currently with TS Bank; Amanda Caton, Cobalt Credit Union; Tim Dickmeyer, Iowa Western Community College; and Kelly Dix Pottawattamie County Community Foundation.

Also, Ashley Flater, Micah House; Meghan Foje, Great Western Bank; Timothy German, Frontier Savings Bank; Jamie Gross, Crossroads of Western Iowa; Courtney Harter, City of Council Bluffs; Rosey Higgs, Nonprofit Association of the Midlands; Glennay Jundt, Habitat for Humanity Council Bluffs; Danna Kehm, Pottawattamie Arts, Culture & Entertainment; Katie Kyker, Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital; Rita Lausen, Council Bluffs Area Chamber of Commerce; Tracy Mathews, Council Bluffs Community School District; Emily Meador, Centris Federal Credit Union; Melissa Peterson, TS Banking Group; and Jeff Snow, The 712 Initiative.

Lynne Branigan was honored as the chamber’s Ambassador of the Year, and Vision Specialists, 2514 W. Broadway received the chamber’s Beautification Award.

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