This spring, I had the opportunity to join Lift360’s Leadership in Action Breakfast as their newest Skilled Volunteer. Betsy Biemann, the new CEO of Coastal Enterprises,


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“Next Generation Leadership” – a Lift360 Breakfast Review

posted on June 9th, 2017

This spring, I had the opportunity to join Lift360’s Leadership in Action Breakfast as their newest Skilled Volunteer. Betsy Biemann, the new CEO of Coastal Enterprises, Inc.(CEI), presented the talk that morning: “Next Generation Leadership.” CEI is a mission-driven investor that helps to grow economic and environmental sustainability for shared prosperity in Maine and in rural regions across the country. Primarily, their work integrates finance, business expertise, and policy solutions. Going into Lift360’s Breakfast, I didn’t realize how much Biemann’s talk would pertain to me both personally and professionally as a new, young person who came to Maine “from away” to attend Bates College four years ago.

A recent Bates graduate with an interest in professional bike riding and nonprofit work, I have now decided to stay in Maine and live in Portland with my girlfriend Casey, also a Bates alum. Biemann, in a poignant and inspiring speech, presented her insights on what needs to be done to attract young workers (much like Casey and myself) to Maine. That morning, she asked: how will we cultivate a “next generation” of leaders who can learn from and eventually replace a retiring generation of Maine leaders? How can these younger leaders maximize their impact on the community across all sectors? Uniquely positioned to speak to leadership transitions, Biemann (CEI’s new CEO) along with Keith Bisson (CEI’s new President) now step up together to fill the shoes of the organization’s founding leader, Ron Phillips.

For those interested in leadership succession and job growth in Maine, I offer key take-aways from Biemann’s talk:

HARNESS OPTIMISM – An artist sees the beauty of a blank canvas; an empty space has the potential to become anything. Openings in leadership positions across the private, public, and non-profit sectors can be an opportunity for new leaders to take a different approach. Biemann spoke to her desire to see Maine’s next generation of leaders navigate pressing issues, such as climate change and the rapid pace of technological innovation.

EMBRACE CHANGE – Every generation faces the complexities of the changing social world. Biemman identified four qualities great leaders should strive for in order to adapt and maximize their impact on the community:

Collaboration – Successful organizations and leaders collaborate across sectors to move their work and purpose forward. Companies, nonprofits, and governmental organizations that tap into the power of collaboration will be better positioned to tackle the tough challenges they face.

Communication – Communication is the oil that lubricates the moving parts of an organization. Effective communication may seem like common sense, but it is paramount to every facet of an organization.

Shared purpose – Understanding that we are all connected has a direct effect on how we do business with each other: a business should not only consider their stakeholders, but also their impact on the community and the larger whole. Consider the world as your stakeholder.

“Bridging, innovating, and weaving” – Leaders must be able to bridge generations and sectors. Innovators must adapt constantly to the rapid pace of change—consider, for example, the development and role of the smart phone in communications, or in the online market place. Weavers must become interdisciplinary in their studies, thinking, and approach. 

GROW ATTRACTION – How do we lure new people to Maine? Biemann joked that she has only been in six traffic jams since moving to Maine from New York City – and they were all in Maryland. Maine offers a high quality of life and a lower cost of living. Attracting the young or ripe-of-age to Maine is a matter of framing the positives of Maine life.

From my experience living in Portland for one year—an area which contains 1/3 of the state’s population and has a distinct character—I believe that Maine offers an optimal balance of life. My partner Casey can attest to this balance; she is trusted with much more responsibility at her position at CIEE than at her previous corporate job in Manhattan, and she rarely burns the midnight oil in Portland.

As a new person to Maine, I don’t lay claim to the title or identity of “real” Mainer, but I deeply feel the essence of Maine: the mystique of Maine’s coast, punctuated by small harbors and timeless lighthouses, and the rugged wilderness of rural Maine. I believe that these notions of Maine are most apparent to outsiders—especially for people who return to Maine because of this allure. Maine’s mystique and timelessness may be the state’s greatest strength to attract young workers and future leaders.

For Lift360, this is Camden Black Ingersoll, Skilled Volunteer Reporter.

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