Leaders offer MCLP Class advice about leading

What can you learn from five leaders who’ve experienced the challenges and triumphs of serving as business executives?  During their panel discussion Feb. 16 at Business Furniture Inc. in downtown Bloomington, the Multicultural Leadership Program Class of 2012 learned leadership is an art.  While managers manage processes, leaders lead people.  Organizations need both talents to be effective.

An important challenge for leaders is to treat each person the way they want to be treated, according to the panel. For example, knowing the different perspectives of different generations is important.

But as Willie Brown, retired State Farm executive, observed, there are also common rules for building relationships which most people appreciate. Regardless of age or technology involved, we need to be respectful of each other. Saying “thank you” is always good. Words should not be spoken in anger.  Admit mistakes and move forward.  Great leaders understand these rules and practice them.

For Deanna Frautschi, retired COUNTRY Financial executive, a key difference exists between leading in a for-profit versus a not-for-profit.  Leading during decision-making in a not-for-profit organization requires informal power (the ability to lead through care and concern).  Leaders in for-profit organizations can make decisions using formal power (their position within the organization).  Yet as leaders move up in any organization, the use of informal power becomes more effective and important in decision-making.

Frautschi recommends all executives (and executive wannabes) volunteer to work in a community organization; it allows leaders a chance to practice using informal power and also adds value to their community.

Steve Wannemacher, CEO and President of Heritage Care, Inc. shared that leadership is situational.  Leaders must know when to be directive and when to be consultative. At times a leader must even play the role of a follower.  It’s important to know when to take on each role. Often, an executive leader must select the role based on what would be best for the team in a particular situation.

About balancing work, family, and community contributions, Cindy Blackburn, Vice President of Human Resources at Afni, noted the types of boards and committees she’s worked on has changed as her lifestyle has changed.  When her children were in school, Blackburn was very involved in educational organizations.  Now that her children have graduated from college, she is pursuing other passions.  She advises people to select boards or organizations that match their passions, because it makes it more fun and meaningful.

Jon Voegele, Vice President of Central region sales at COUNTRY, shared the survival skills that helped him succeed in corporate life – communication.  Communication skills are important. Don’t underestimate the power of your words. Look for the positive in people. Everyone has a story. Everyone has skills; it is up to the leader to find them.