CHICAGO — There are more than 58,000 books dedicated to the subject of leadership for sale on Amazon. Yet, it's still one of the most misunderstood topics in business, Mack Elevation Forum founder and managing director Dan Mack told an audience of almost 150 executives gathered here, Tuesday, at the Chicago Art Institute , setting the stage for the first-ever Future Leaders Summit.
Co-hosted by Drug Store News and Mack Elevation, the one-day thought leadership event presented seven big ideas on defining the key traits and characteristics required by the next generation of leaders, and brought dialogue and discussion to one of the biggest challenges facing American business today: how to create an environment where leadership can flourish and spread, and attract and grow the business leaders of the future.
With a roster of speakers that included retailers Family Dollar EVP and chief merchant Jason Reiser, Walmart EVP consumables and health and wellness Michelle Gloeckler, CVS Health VP marketing George Coleman, Massage Envy CEO Joe Magnacca and McKesson SVP strategy and business development Chris Dimos and others, as well as three separate panel discussions — including, a roundtable of millennials, guest-moderated by Emerson Group VP marketing Matt Poli — the event saw co-host Mack set the table for the day's discussion, noting that the days of "heroic leadership" are over.
"The best leaders call out leadership in others," Mack said. "Leadership is not about traits, it's about your life story," he added, citing Harvard Business School professor Bill George, "It's about serving others. If you don't understand my story, how can I reach you?"
The day kicked off with a lesson in brand authenticity from SoapBox CEO and co-founder David Simnick who talked at length about the difference between cause marketing and purpose-driven brands, and shared the challenges and mistakes the upstart soap brand made along the way in the company's journey to become the "no. 1 purpose-driven brand" in the personal care space. "Cause marketing is an afterthought; purpose is intentional," Simnick said. Cause marketing is about taking a product that has already existed and bolting on a cause because the brand needs a new marketing strategy, he explained, but purpose is "in the DNA of that company,” he said.
Walmart's Gloeckler talked about "Harnessing a Knowledge Organization." Motivation to lead comes from deep inside the individual, she said, pointing to the example of mountain climbers who fix their tents to the side of a sheer mountain face, secured by nothing but carabiners. "That desire to get to the top of the mountain must come from deep within," Gloeckner said.Sharing ideas for how organizations can harness the knowledge and expertise within their companies, Gloeckner borrowed a rule from Walmart founder Sam Walton — listen to your associates. "The key to success is to get out into the store and listen to what they associates have to say. It's terribly important for everyone to get involved," Walton once said.
In a highly emotional and incredibly frank discussion, Family Dollar’s chief merchant Jason Reiser talked about “Why purpose matters,” and presented several key characteristics of a purpose-driven leader. “You have to be willing to be unpopular,” Reiser said. In addition to being able to give and solicit unfiltered feedback, to never let data replace judgment and never become complacent, arrogant or scared, Reiser closed with one last rule that trumped all others: to have fun at what you’re doing and surround yourself with people that are able to laugh at themselves. Sharing very personal stories from his own life, Reiser reminded the audience that personal ambition may fuel you, but never lose track of the things that truly matter in life.
CVS Health VP marketing George Coleman talked about “leading with heart” and connecting with the emotional reasons for why you do things in life and in business. Sharing his experience as a young Political Science graduate from the University of Indiana in 1992, Coleman talked about his two years in the Peace Corps, serving on an agricultural team working in Guinea-Bissau, in West Africa. Coleman said he took on the challenge because, “I wanted to know what I could do. Who am I, and what am I made of?”
New Massage Envy chief executive Joe Magnacca discussed "Having the Courage to Risk," and shared his experience as the former CEO of RadioShack. Framing his comments in a "Good, Bad and the Ugly" context, Magnacca talked about the important lessons he learned at the helm of the struggling electronics retailer. On the subject of financials – which he confessed, as a merchant first, was not his strong suit prior to his RadioShack experience — Magnacca noted, "The good part was it forced me to refocus on the P&L. The bad? I learned that lenders are not your friends. And the ugly — cash is king," he added.
McKesson’s Chris Dimos talked about the importance of mentors in his life and career, and why being mentored and the art of mentoring is a catalyst for personal and professional growth. Dimos shared the characters and qualities of a life-changing mentor — from his father in the family business to senior leaders at Albertsons — reminding all that great mentors are actively involved, persistent and astute at helping uncover answers to difficult life challenges. The very best are great at asking questions and even better at listening.
Two panel discussions moderated by co-host Dan Mack examined the challenge organizations face in developing personal emotional intelligence skills and leading in an era of disruption. In the first panel, a group of leading CPG executives, including Todd Hutsko, VP sales at Fleet Labs, Nick Rini, VP global sales at i-Health, Kevin Garvey, director of sales for the Target team at Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, and Andrew Archambault, chief customer officer at U.S. Nutrition, talked about the types of emotional intelligence-related skills their companies are recruiting for and developing within their organizations. The group identified five key components of emotional intelligence, including: self-awareness, self-regulation, internal motivation, empathy and social skills.
In the second CPG panel, the group — including Dennis Curran, VP sales ad chief customer officer for GlaxoSmithKline, Carol Carozza, VP marketing-North America for Ansell, Bob Wiltz, chief customer officer for Paris Presents and Kevin Brunory, VP at Blistex — tackled the subject of leading in an age of disruption. Panelists talked about how their companies are staying ahead of competitive disruption in the marketplace, and how that has their companies thinking differently about how they acquire talent.
Emerson Group VP marketing Matt Poli, hosted a panel of young executives, who talked about what leadership looks like through the eyes of millennials in the workforce. The group — which included Stephanie Ramirez, social media manager for Univision, Jason Loomis, who is in charge of paid media at Vayner Media, Bethany Edwards, co-founder of LIA Diagnostics and Anne Cashman, a brand manager at McNeil Consumer Healthcare — talked about what attracts them to today's best organizations and how leaders must connect on an emotional level to retain the best entrepreneurial young talent.
To discuss the “Transformational Mindset,” Katya Hancock, strategic partnerships director at StartUp Health, talked about her work in helping bring healthcare technology startups to market, inspiring, educating, and providing resources for entrepreneurs who are looking to transform healthcare and build sustainable health and wellness companies.
Sponsors for the DSN-Mack Elevation Future Leaders Elevation Summit included: Ansell, Beiersdorf, Blistex, The Emerson Group, Fleet Laboratories, GlaxoSmithKline, i-Health, IRI, Paris Presents, Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, U.S. Nutrition and Workplace Impact.
Click here to view the complete Future Leaders Summit report.