The Leadership Kenosha Cohort met on February 17, 2021, and the theme was titled: You Either Lead by Example or You Don’t Lead at All! In addition to the theme, there were three key focus areas of the day: learning about the current Kenosha County business climate, exploring barriers to inclusion in the business sector, and developing your own leadership brand.

After our initial check-in, which is intended to interject a level of fun and learn about each other, we then transitioned into a discussion topic from the book, The Truth About Leadership. LK Cohort participant and UW-Parkside’s, Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Trina Patterson, led us in a discussion about how we either lead by example or do not lead at all! As part of that discussion, we watched a very impactful video that shared a story about a CEO just being a nice person and how one’s positive and influential behavior can radiate through the workforce.

We then watched a video by Mellody Hobson related to inclusion and race, and it showed us that uncomfortable conversations are plentiful to have on any given day. While one may warn you not to talk about uncomfortable topics/discussions, one must realize that the first step to solving problems is not hiding from the issues that arise from those conversations. Some critical learnings are that it is better to be pro-active versus reactive when it comes to discussions about race, we should think about being color brave versus color blind, and we should observe our environments for opportunities to be involved. If applied with intention, these lessons and actions should enable future generations to have opportunities previous generations have not been afforded. We were left with this memorable statement that can be applied to many situations. If you permit it, you promote it!

Then it was on to discussions related to the Kenosha County business climate. Ahead of those discussions, we took a 12-question quiz that included some vital demographic stats and local activities that have or will be taking place in the area. This team exercise helped us get a sense of some key business initiatives. It was a great segue to the panel discussion led by Lou Molitor, President, and CEO of the Kenosha Area Chamber of Commerce. The following panelists joined Lou: Doug Bartz, Administrator, Southeastern WI Workforce Development Board, Rob Ducoffe, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, UW-Parkside, Heather Wessling Grosz, VP of Economic Development, Kenosha Area Business Alliance, and Laura Thelen, Director of Finance, Uline. The panelists shared their views and took questions related to the following topics.

  1. What has been your path to leadership?
  2. In what ways have organizations responded to the pandemic and civil unrest?
  3. How healthy is Kenosha’s business and economic climate?
  4. In what ways are the business and higher education sectors collaborating?

While there was some great and detailed discussion on all the topics, it will be best to harvest the leadership themes we learned from them. The panel shared their paths and keys to leadership, and they consisted of leading by example, knowing that leadership is hard, knowing that one must be passionate to lead effectively, that earning a seat at the table goes a long way, and knowing that your leadership style will evolve over time. Overall, it was a very informative panel discussion that connected many dots related to business and leadership.

Marvin Bembry then joined us for a discussion related to tying implicit bias to systemic racism. Marvin is the President, MKB Leadership Transformation and Executive Director, John Maxwell Team, and he has been with us in previous sessions. The discussion’s key theme focused on unconscious bias and the importance of mitigating it, realizing it is automatic, and more importantly, that none of us are immune to it! We also learned that unconscious bias tends to be more prevalent when one is tired, stressed, angry and emotional. These discussions culminated in the eye-opening conversation related to the economic cost of systematic racism and what would have been and what could be achieved as a country if we work to close the gaps.

We were then joined by H. Muir, Owner, and Consultant from the LiftShop, for a discussion on Strengths Finder and building our own Personal & Leadership Brandi. This two-hour conversation flew by and culminated in us learning about the make-up of our cohort. Our top collective strengths came out to:

  1. Harmony
  2. Connectedness
  3. Responsibility
  4. Relator
  5. Strategic

Our collective cohort strengths were slotted into the following categories: Executing 20%, Influencing 15%, Relationship Building 42%, and Strategic Thinking 25%. We then moved into a discussion focused on the 4 P’s of one’s leadership brand. Those P’s consist of Power, Purpose, Pitch and Platform and the key learning here was that people are more likely to trust and buy purpose-driven brands, and we ourselves are a brand. As we wrapped up the day, we concluded with our project updates and then left the session well versed in the inner workings of our business community and more educated on what the community needs from us!

—Ed Egan

Leadership Kenosha – February 2021