At the 2015 Maine Youth Leadership seminar on May 29, over 120 high school sophomores from across Maine convened at USM in Gorham to learn practical leadership skills from local executives and decision-makers, including Maine Senator Angus King, Emery Leadership Group President Patrick Veroneau, Hancock Lumber President and CEO Kevin Hancock, and Broadreach’s own President, Linda Varrell.
Between personal anecdotes, scenes from Jerry Maguire and stories about Joshua Chamberlain, each speaker wove their own leadership experiences into an overarching message to the group: beyond ranks, titles and noble qualities, leadership is about developing a vision, measuring strengths and weaknesses and inspiring collaboration to achieve a shared goal.
It all starts with taking a step back and assessing the situation. “Values, what you’re good at, and what you’re passionate about are the ingredients for opportunity,” said Linda Varrell. By taking stock of everything you have at your disposal — talents, passions, backgrounds, expertise — and then aligning yourself and your team with opportunities that capitalize on those assets, you position yourself to shore up your weaker areas with the strengths of others.
“You can lead better if you talk less,” Kevin Hancock put it bluntly. “You listen more, you share the stage, you allow others to step up.” By acknowledging what various individuals can bring to the table, you open yourself to new perspectives and inspire collaboration among team members.
Putting a finer point on it, Senator King advised building a team, “especially of people who will disagree with you.” No one wants a team of “yeppers,” and for leaders there is simply too much at stake to avoid the truth, even if it hurts. But it’s essential that those surrounding you are willing to stand by through hard times, particularly when action is imminent.
Recounting the Battle of Little Round Top, Senator King described the grim truth that young Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine faced that fateful day, with resources depleted and the fate of the Union on the line. Chamberlain acknowledged that he and his men faced imminent death, and so made his choice. “‘Bayonet!’” Chamberlain ordered, before leading his men in an unprecedented charge against the Confederates that King believes turned the tide of the Civil War.
“You may not always have the resources,” echoed Patrick Veroneau, “but you always have resourcefulness.”
The students were given a lot to consider throughout the day; we hope they’ll spend their summer months reflecting on this wisdom, and carry it with them going forward.
About Maine Youth Leadership
Since 1980, Maine Youth Leadership (MYL) has worked with Maine youth to seek out, recognize and develop their leadership skills. Their goal is to motivate Maine’s future leaders and create a network of civic-minded students who will better their communities through volunteering. Their programs encourage and assist students at critical times in their quest for self-identification and development and we provide give-and-take discussions with thought leaders and role models from across Maine society.
— by Josiah Petrin, Broadreach Apprentice