More than 200 emerging business leaders gathered recently at the University of Southern Maine’s Portland Campus for a day-long discussion of leadership, ethics and business.
The event — the 2nd annual Timothy B. Hussey Leadership Institute — drew representatives from a variety of local businesses for discussions ranging from courage and entrepreneurship to influencing without authority and leading culture change.
Creating future leaders is one of the USM’s broad goals, President Glenn Cummings told attendees.
“For us to be part of this conversation — what does it mean to be a leader? — means that we get stronger and smarter about how we can pass that on to every student that we have here,” Cummings said. “How do we create vitality, innovation and change and still hold onto our values? This is a really difficult challenge for all of us.”
The question was part of the day’s event, which incorporated panelists and attendees from Chenmark, IDEXX, L.L.Bean, Maine Med, MEMIC, Pierce Atwood, Sea Bags, Wayfair, WEX, Wright-Ryan Construction and many more.
The day’s featured speaker was Mary Gentile, a University of Virginia Darden School of Business professor, who spoke on the topic of her book, “Giving Voice to Values: How to Speak Your Mind When You Know What’s Right.” She has also developed a “Giving Voice to Values” curriculum that is being piloted in more than 1,000 educational and executive settings. It has been featured in Financial Times, Harvard Business Review, Stanford Social Innovation Review and McKinsey Quarterly, among other publications.
Most leaders know how they ought to act, but fear of retaliation or failing to make a lasting change, tend to prevent leaders from making the right choices, Gentile told the USM crowd.
And merely finding the will to act morally too often fails, she said. Instead, she counseled attendees to practice doing the right thing until it’s habit.
“An intellectual approach is not that effective,” Gentile said. “What really seems to work is rehearsal. Practice. You have to build this kind of muscle memory. I call it a ‘moral muscle memory’."
The Timothy B. Hussey Leadership Institute honors the legacy of Tim Hussey, one of Maine’s most esteemed business and community leaders, who passed away in 2016. He envisioned an annual gathering that would engage, educate and empower emerging Maine leaders to “change the world” by conducting business in a way that is values-driven and good for the community.