Leadership, development and arm wrestling advice from David Lee of Imagine MKE│Ep.25

Last updated on March 9th, 2020 at 09:33 am

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David Lee’s wife asked him just after the couple moved to Milwaukee what he wanted to be doing in 10 years. The chief executive officer of arts advocacy organization Imagine MKE didn’t exactly have an answer.

“I was like ‘I don’t know, but I see myself having super interesting conversations with people about really important things to the city and we’re working together to make the city a better place.’ I didn’t know what I was doing. I had no idea what job that was, there’s no job description for that,” Lee said on the latest BizTimes MKE Podcast with Beth Ridley of The Brimful Life.

Lee was named CEO of Imagine MKE last year after a five-year run as executive director of Feeding Wisconsin. Going from a state association of food banks to what Lee called the arts and culture chamber of commerce is a bit of a change, but Lee’s career is full of twists and turns. He worked as a chef, compliance consultant, writer and director before joining the nonprofit world at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

On the podcast, Lee shares advice on leadership, professional development and arm wrestling.

“The trick is you want to push up,” Lee said, recounting a 2012 arm wrestling experience in Iowa.

Lee said being able to make so many changes is about knowing what you do well, curiosity and being willing to learn.

“As somebody who hires… I’m not looking for the resume that fits the job, I’m looking for a person who is interested, who is curious and who can learn. I don’t care what you’ve done, I care about what you’re going to do in the future,” Lee said.

He recounted how a music producer friend of his said he basically does two things well and repeats them over and over with different variations from song to song.

“Know yourself and know what you do well, and don’t try to fit into the destination you think you want to go to, make sure you know yourself so that when the opportunities come up, they’ll fit to you,” Lee said.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.