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On Leadership: Key Takeaways from WSB’s Leadership Speaker Series

By Wisconsin School of Business

January 10, 2022

crest and Weikel title on graphic

What qualities define a good leader? As legendary football coach Vince Lombardi put it, “Leaders are made, they are not born.” At the Wisconsin School of Business, developing strong leaders is a core value and driving force behind business education. Each year, the M. Keith Weikel MBA Leadership Speaker Series at the Wisconsin School of Business invites some of the biggest names in industry—many of whom are distinguished alumni—to share their career insights, business acumen, and life experience with the Wisconsin MBA student audience.

Read on for excerpts about leadership from some of WSB’s featured speakers.

Help others shine

For Adonica Randall, president and chief problem solver of Abaxent, an MBE/WBE-certified technology solutions company, management means helping others learn to shine as they pursue their own professional goals and growth. It’s about coaching others, not just leading.

“A coach assumes that ‘I see some things and together we’re going to work on optimizing you.’”

Prioritize people

If you’re a manager, your time and attention can be pulled in a million different directions if you aren’t careful. But don’t let the pendulum swing too far the other way, either, where you’re prioritizing your to-do list over people, says Chris Westfall, a business coach, U.S. elevator pitch champion, and a regular contributor to Forbes magazine.

“Put down the phone to pick up the conversation. I write about why people leave organizations, and the reason the research points to is that they don’t feel heard or understood. Take a deep dive into listening. Get curious about the people around you.”

Make time to mentor

When Kohl’s Chief Financial Officer Jill Timm started with the company over 20 years ago, she was an accountant and the brand was 200 Midwest stores with no web presence. Today, Kohl’s boasts 1,200 stores nationally and offers an omni-channel customer experience. As she grew with the company, Timm learned about leadership from key mentors like former Kohl’s CFO Wes McDonald, and she looks for those mentorship opportunities to share what she was given.

“It’s not going to be about your expertise at these levels, it’s going to be about how you mentor, how you lead, and how you decision-make.”

Take decisive action

Many might say they’ve traversed some corporate battlefields, but former Marine and Business Badger Jake Wood (BBA ’05) has experienced the literal ones, too: he served in Afghanistan, received the 2018 ESPY Awards’ Pat Tillman Award for Courage, and was named a CNN Hero. Wood, now founder and CEO of Groundswell, also founded Team Rubicon, a global nonprofit that assists in disaster zones. He shares how a ‘bias for action’—being action-and solution-oriented and not easily deterred—helped the early members of Team Rubicon make a difference when disaster struck in Haiti.

“We didn’t have much of a plan. We certainly didn’t have many resources. But what we did have was a bias for action, the training and the experience that we brought with us from the Marine Corps and our time overseas, and this deeper desire to help people.”

The M. Keith Weikel Leadership Speaker Series at the Wisconsin School of Business enables Wisconsin MBA students and alumni to interact with and learn from accomplished business leaders. Executives from both the private and public sectors are invited to campus to address students.

The series was established in 2004 with a gift by John J. Oros (BBA ’71) and his wife, Anne Wackman. Today, the series continues as the M. Keith Weikel MBA Leadership Speaker Series thanks to a gift by M. Keith Weikel (PhD ’66) and his wife, Barbara.