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From the Director’s Desk: Impatience can be good, and other words of wisdom

April 28, 2022

Recently, I had the honor of being asked to speak at the Quad Cities Business Journal’s inaugural event in our region, 90 ideas in 90 minutes. I, along with eight other speakers, were asked to share our 10 best ideas for the workplace, life and leadership. While you can read my 10 best ideas here, I wanted to highlight some of my biggest takeaways from this esteemed panel of leaders.

Millennials are impatient – and that’s a good thing. President Steve Bahls (Augustana College) noted that this age group, more than their predecessors, are impatient for change – whether it’s embracing diversity, demanding work-life balance, or focusing on the environment. Impatience for change can be a lightning rod for progress when people take action. I’m technically in this cohort and recognize this impatience in myself. I started the Illinois Airports Council because I was eager for change at the state level and wanted to target legislation that hinders airports’ ability to advance their work. Removing duplicative processes, questioning the status quo and finding ways to better collaborate with the state are just some of the ways I’m trying to put my impatience to good use on behalf of Illinois airports.

Make time to reflect (W. Kenny Massey, CEO, Modern Woodmen of America). This is hard for me as a father of three young kids, so it’s an important reminder that I must prioritize time to sit and reflect on my week. As an airport, we support commercial travel, general aviation, cargo, and an industrial park. More than 1,400 people come to work on airport property. In all the hustle and bustle, it’s tough for me to take time to reflect but I understand the value of making sure I’m still headed on a path that’s productive, healthy and meaningful.

Having great ideas doesn’t make you an entrepreneur. (Jim Thomson, chairman, LandJet). Successful entrepreneurs go further than ideas – they take action. I believe that commercial space travel will happen in our lifetime and that the Quad Cities should be at the forefront by becoming a space port. I’ve shared this idea with pretty much anyone who will listen, including Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker. Jim’s remarks made me take stock of what I’ve done to help move that idea forward so once I returned to my office, I started making calls. It’s a long road, but I’m committed to doing what I can to uphold the Quad Cities’ legacy of innovation in aviation.

Don’t be the smartest person in the room (Katie Castillo-Wilson, founder & CEO, TapOnIt). This resonated with me, as I like to joke that I don’t do much at the airport because I’ve got a team that handles everything. The truth is, if you surround yourself with bright, capable people, you become better as a result. If you’re always the smartest person in the room, there’s no opportunity for growth. The airport staff is lean but extremely effective. It starts with trust from the top down and a belief that you have the right people for the job. MLI is the community resource that it is because of smart, dedicated people and I’m just lucky to work with them.

One thing that all the panelists had in common was passion. I believe you should be passionate about your work – it keeps you fresh, sharp and invested in your industry. I started my career in aviation as a commercial pilot. I realized it wasn’t for me but the passion for aviation remained. I still fly for fun and introduce as many people as I can to flying. I want to see this industry thrive and that’s what fuels me – from working with elected officialspursuing new routesinvesting in our terminal and being an all-around advocate. My role as executive director is one I take seriously and requires every bit of experience I’ve gained over my career. If there’s one thing I want QC residents to know is that I want to see this airport thrive.

-Benjamin Leischner, A.A.E., Executive Director

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