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Updated: July 30, 2018 How To

Develop world-class leaders in Maine

George Casey

Maine is an interesting and provocative place to do business.

On one hand, there is a palpable culture that exhibits high work ethic and loyalty. It is kind of like flowers on Monhegan: they grow in very tough places and under adverse conditions, but come back every year, bright and beautiful as ever.

It is just the way they are.

On the other, there is a reticence that is couched in wariness and a bit of inferiority.

There are too many stories, whether true or not, of “out-of-staters” taking advantage of Mainers in commercial transactions. These perceptions lead to a healthy skepticism of people who are not known or from here.

When in doubt, believe that you are being hood-winked and don’t do the deal.

My father-in-law, who is 97, has lived in Maine continuously since coming to the University of Maine in 1941: that’s 76 years. But, being from Massachusetts, he is still considered to be “from away” and still gets a bit of a stink-eye because of it.

Yet Mainers are no less intelligent or driven to succeed than the populations of other parts of the country.

Respect and recognize the great traits that are here. Work ethic, honesty and humility are often near the top of the list.

So, how, as an organization, does one craft world class leaders from this stock?

I would offer a few hints from my work as both a leader and a consultant to leaders in Maine:

  • Understand the reticence and circumspection of those people and companies from “away.” Talk about it, discuss it and acknowledge that it might exist.
  • Maine is a relatively small state, from a business perspective, and the opportunities to experience a variety of management styles, business philosophies and modern management lessons are limited. Use peer-to-peer groups, both in-state and out-of-state, to open up the window on other ways to do things. Bring in outside speakers, trainers and experts to show the most modern thought, methods and techniques.
  • Open up the ability to train, learn and observe leadership in other locations. What may seem old-hat and natural in other parts of the country, might be novel here. Deep down, most Mainers want to learn and grow: they just need vehicles to help them do it.
  • Respect and recognize the great traits that are here. Work ethic, honesty and humility are often near the top of the list, based on my experience.
  • Finally, understand that many of us choose to live in Maine because of the lifestyle that it affords, and we oftentimes give up some of the creature comforts and opportunities that others have in more fast-paced places to accommodate that choice. Don’t buck the fact: embrace it.

By being open and honest, understanding some of the myths and realities that Mainers have, and being willing to open up new ways to learn and grow through exposure and observation, the well of leadership talent that is in Maine can be grown like those flowers coming out of the rocks on Monhegan: colorful, beautiful, reliable and dependable, year after year.

George Casey is CEO of Stockbridge Associates LLC and serves as chair of the Vistage chapter in southern Maine. He can be reached at

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