#LeadLikeAWoman with Kelly Wehner

President of Case Systems, Inc.

Leadership, whether male or female, comes back to one thing - PEOPLE. As a leader you must be willing to connect with another person as a human being first. This connection is what sparks inspiration and will result in success.

What does leadership mean to you?

There’s a quote by Simon Sinek that I love - A star wants to see himself rise to the top. A leader wants to see those around him (or her!) rise to the top.

Leading a team of individuals toward a common vision begins with recognizing people are just that, individuals. Everyone wants to contribute, add value, and ultimately win in their own way. It is our job as leaders to understand how each person is inspired and provide what they need to reach their potential - all while remaining humble, vulnerable, and authentic. Celebrating THEIR success is where the joy of leadership comes from. It’s kind of like golf. It’s that one great shot that brings the incredible feeling of joy. That’s what keeps you coming back to the course. Experiencing a team member’s excitement when they accomplish a goal and the pride they have in themselves for it, that’s what brings feelings of joy through leadership!

Who has influenced your idea of leadership?

I’m sincerely grateful to have been blessed with a number of great mentors. They taught me what it takes to be a great leader, and sometimes more importantly, what great leaders DON’T do. They always saw my development and success as the priority over their own. If I had to choose one though, it would definitely be my mom. People say the true measure of a person’s life is what others say about them after they are gone. When we lost my mom a couple of years ago, our family was overwhelmed by the outreach from people she worked for, worked with and had led over her 40 year career. The stories were the same, “…she taught me so much about how to be a good employee, but she taught me even more about life.” Mom cared as much, if not more, about the person as a human being as she did about them as an employee or coworker. That’s a lesson I take into each interaction, the human side of each person wants to know you care about their security, happiness, and success personally.

Why do we need more women in leadership roles? What do they add to the table?

Women bring the perspective of “whole” to their leadership roles. We inherently understand the power of balance between work for financial reasons and work for personal fulfillment. It’s not just about the financial gains of work, but the fulfillment of connection, being part of a team, and celebrating success together. We strive to bring deeper meaning to the time our co-workers and ourselves spend away from our families.

Embracing our nurturing tendency is the foundation for our focus on the “whole”. We are able to create environments where others feel safe and appreciated. Strong instincts and a well- developed sense of self-awareness are strong pillars allowing us to understand when to be empathetic and when to get tough. When our family or team members are threatened, we work to protect them unconditionally. Lastly, throughout history, women have had to be resilient. When we get knocked down, we get up and move forward.

How are you leading in your career/community?

I’m particularly proud of what the team at Case Systems and BOSTONtec has accomplished over the past several years. We have continued to move forward in businesses that were once “easy”, but have become challenging with shifts in the economy - and thatis a testament to their hard work and commitment to our vision. They have had to do business differently than in the past and have fully embraced the challenge.

What has been particularly enjoyable to see is traditionally male industries embrace the impact of female leadership. Within this changing landscape, we have added several female members to our leadership team. For years there were only two female managers on the leadership team, including me. Now 40% of the leadership team is made up of women, and they are making their mark! It has been interesting to watch how our female leaders’ perspectives have influenced the team as a whole. They haven’t tried to just fit in, but have worked to complement their male counterparts, leading to a stronger team overall. Our male team members have been some of their greatest advocates.

Outside of our building, engaging with local and regional organizations like Central Michigan Manufacturers Association, as a board member and Co-Chair of its Executive Leadership Roundtable special interest group, has allowed me to advance women in leadership within the manufacturing industry. Historically a male dominated industry, manufacturing has been viewed as a dirty, rough, and hard business. As attracting and retaining talent has become more difficult to the manufacturing world, it is ripe for the impact women leaders can have on creating an environment where those negatives can be overcome with connection, care, and a focus on valuing the individual. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with wonderful male and female professionals within these organizations. They have all encouraged the advancement of women in leadership roles throughout their organizations.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Leadership, whether male or female, comes back to one thing - PEOPLE. As a leader you must be willing to connect with another person as a human being first. This connection is what sparks inspiration and will result in success. As female leaders, we have a responsibility to help young women recognize this at an early age. We should encourage them to connect first as people, not to shy away from their inherent nurturing for fear they will be viewed as weak or emotional. There is strength in connection.

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Michigan ATHENA is a program dedicated to developing, supporting, and honoring women leaders throughout Michigan. This program is part of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce Foundation initiatives. To find out more about this program please visit us at www.michamber.com/ATHENA

If you have any questions or would like to nominate someone to be featured in our #LeadLikeAWoman series please email me at akeimach@michamber.com