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Wanted: A Breadth of Leadership and Skills in the Green Economy

By Luke Hollenkamp

A few days ago I was helping a friend write a personal statement for a potential summer internship. The group he was looking to work for within a large federal agency contained mostly technical staff, each with a scientific degree or long history of working in an environmental field. However, my friend had a background in the liberal arts and is pursuing a degree in public policy at the Humphrey Institute. It was problematic for him to explain to the potential employer how his lack of a scientific background was not a hindrance within this culture. Perhaps we could even spin it as a resource for the group.

As we brainstormed on how he can best approach this disparity between his technical skills and environmental passion, we hit on many topics that are also important in the green economy. As we explored in my friend's personal statement, the success of a group is often dependent on the breadth of skills, not just depth. He can contribute an understanding of the political system and landscape that environmental decisions by the agency are being made within. Additionally, though he may not be able to crunch numbers like others around him, he has exceedingly strong written and verbal skills which may be lacking within the organization. Most important in his statement, he illustrated how he uniquely would contribute to the group's mission by providing skills and talents which as strong as their technical expertise, but helpfully different. He also stressed that a well-rounded group was more likely to succeed since it could draw upon a diversity of assets.

The Cross-Sector Leadership for the Green Economy: Integrating Research and
Practice Conference
is another fine example of this concept of breadth as strength. The conference itself is a microcosm of what is needed to further successfully develop the green economy. Just as a conference of only academics or only practitioners would fail to capitalize on the skills and experiences of the other, the larger green economy cannot succeed without broad participation. And though the conference has an enormous depth of expertise among individual sectors, its true strength is in the swath of unique experiences that will be shared and explored. I hope that my friend lands the summer internship and proves firsthand how he can uniquely contribute to and strengthen the group's work. I am also very much looking forward to watching the conference's broad array of experience weave into a meaningful roadmap for future green economy success.



1 response to “Wanted: A Breadth of Leadership and Skills in the Green Economy”

  1. user-pic

    Of course your friend with cross-disciplinary perspectives will be a valuable addition to the large federal agency populated mainly with technical experts. There is a reason why MBA curricula are beginning to emphasize "integrative thinking" more, and organizations with cross-cultural markets and staff especially are valuing those leadership skills more highly. I believe that way of thinking is one of the U of M's Center for Integrative Leadership's foundations. Thanks, and best of luck to your friend.

    Al Watts

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