gb&d: As a leader, who inspires you?
Doug Widener: Growing up, I had a lot of people—family and friends—who cared about the world and cared about other people, and I think that kind of compassion is a really important aspect of leadership. Also, environmental leaders—people like Rachel Carsonwho wrote a book that changed the world, or Theo Colborn who did the same thing 20 years later.
gb&d: What were some highlights of your leadership at USGBC-Illinois?
Widener: I was the first staff member with USGBC-Illinois, and I had never been at the executive level working so closely with the board. It was a great opportunity, but because it was so new to everyone, we all had to work on growing together as we transitioned to being a professional organization. The best way to achieve anything is through partnerships.
gb&d: What were some challenges—especially with the constant changes of green building—during your leadership?
Widener: The economy was probably the biggest challenge, but there are opportunities in every challenge. Also, successfully merging the Chicago and Central Illinois chapters was a challenge, but we saw the potential in unifying as a statewide nonprofit.
gb&d: What are some strategies you are going to carry over into your national role, and what will change?
Widener: I’m a big-picture thinker, but to get to that picture, you need to implement. We did that really well locally, and that’s something that I’m bringing to my team now as we launch this three-year plan. My leadership style is less to tell people what I think and more to listen to what others want to contribute, which allows you to capitalize on ideas from everyone.