The Hunger for Leadership

July 22, 2021
  • Brian Wellinghoff
  • Brian Wellinghoff
    BW Director of Strategy, Improvement and Culture
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Over the years, we at Barry-Wehmiller have seen broad acceptance of the need of our message of Truly Human Leadership at almost every level of education.

We’ve come to realize that the skills and courage to be a caring leader are not necessarily things with which we’re born; they can, however, be taught and learned.

We want to help the generations of tomorrow become leaders who care, not managers who manage.

For years, our CEO Bob Chapman has been a guest lecturer for the Olin School of Business leadership series at Washington University in St. Louis. Our educational outreach efforts with Charlotte Latin School, a private K-12 school in Charlotte, NC, were recently the subject of our Truly Human Leadership podcast.

We’ve introduced our leadership model to students and faculty at St. Norbert College in Wisconsin and I’ve had the privilege of teaching undergraduate students for the past three years at Cal State Northridge. And, very recently, we’re excited to have begun collaborating with Fordham University in New York City to bring our groundbreaking listening training to students there.

Additionally, two case studies about our approach to leadership have been written. One by professors at Harvard Business Schools is now taught at 28 universities across the country. Another, written by a former McKinsey partner who is now on faculty of IE Business School, is being taught across Europe.

We’re diligently working to bring our message to educational institutions, but so much more progress needs to be made, including the recognition of the need itself.

As Dr. Dale S. Deardorff, Adjunct Professor of Leadership of Engineering Professionals and High-Tech Firms at Cal State Northridge (CSUN) told me, today’s students “are hungrier for Truly Human Leadership than I have ever seen before.

“During the past year with the COVID environment, almost everyone is experiencing a higher level of stress and frustration, including our students,” Deardorff said. “They are more in touch with their personal emotions, and this is providing an opening to have a people-centric leadership conversation more easily.”

Professor Deardorff has been an advocate for people-centric leadership for decades as a Boeing Program and Project Manager, and a college-level instructor. He was given the opportunity to design a leadership course for technical professionals with wide latitude to incorporate the elements he felt were most important. 

“I needed a model for people-centric leadership, and Bob Chapman was perfect,” he said.

Today, the course provides an advanced study of leadership attributes, skills, theories and concepts. It also deals with challenges in leader selection, performance, termination and conflict situations for high technology companies.

“What makes Barry-Wehmiller such a great case study is that is it truly authentic,” Deardorff said. “When I read Everybody Matters, the challenges it described are so relevant to what our students struggle with in their current organizations.” 

Deardorff’s students at CSUN are mostly working professionals, providing them the opportunity to apply the material right away in their organizations.  And the students encounter plenty of challenges in creating an environment of Truly Human Leadership in their workplaces.

“Almost all of them are somewhat hesitant to even mention Truly Human Leadership in their organizations,” Deardorff said. “Too many companies think that leadership training is either about cute cartoons or about 10 process steps. Leadership is so much more. Leadership is personal. Leadership is inspirational. If you are teaching a leadership class, and you are not talking about relationships and listening, you are missing the boat.”

Deardorff brings this concept of relationship alive for his students in a variety of reflective and interactive elements. 

“The only way to do it is to practice it, and to put people in an environment where they can make mistakes and learn from them.” 

We find the same holds true inside Barry-Wehmiller. Our internal Barry-Wehmiller University was founded on the idea of “integrated” education that heavily leverages activities, breakout groups, practice sessions, and ongoing learning after class sessions conclude. These experiential elements have brought the essentials of leadership to life for thousands inside Barry-Wehmiller and now thousands outside Barry-Wehmiller through partnerships with other companies, communities and educators. 

Bringing practical insights to Professor Deardorff’s classes has been an honor, and I see the same hunger for leadership, connection and practical application that he does. I discuss leadership, trust, listening and recognition- Barry-Wehmiller’s bedrock topics- and value the participation and the effort of the students. 

In the last session, a student held her young daughter on her lap as she asked me about my experience of leadership at Barry-Wehmiller. If anyone doubts the hunger of today’s young leaders for a new brand of leadership, look no farther than the passion of this student to juggle the demands of parenthood and personal development.

This year, Deardorff added a new element to his class- an optional Leadership learning journal. 

“It gives me a glimpse into what my students are thinking beyond the class session,” he said. “Our students are very participative in the virtual setting, but the journal gives me context for what is behind the comments they offer.” 

Similarly, Barry-Wehmiller has found journaling to be a powerful way to continue learning after the class. This practice not only helps a professor, coach, or mentor, but it greatly enhances the impact of learning by allowing students to reflect on the practical applications.

“The journal entries help me see how the hunger for People-Centric Leadership is truly displayed,” Deardorff said. “Students, and really everyone, want so badly to share their experience, to connect with others.  This is at the heart of what it means to be a great leader. We all need to listen to others, inspire them, and support them in fully unleashing their potential.”

At Barry-Wehmiller, we feel we are called to not just be an example of Truly Human Leadership but to share these principles with other companies, communities and educators. 

This investment for Barry-Wehmiller is more than worth it because of the impact it will have on future generations. 

After one of my presentations, a student said:

“Truly Human Leadership is important today because many organizations have become detached from the people aspect. The ongoing pandemic has shown that many organizations carry out Truly Human Leadership because they have gone above and beyond to take care of their employees by taking measures to keep them healthy, safe, and cared for. However, other companies have shown that their self-interest is above caring for their people resulting in undesirable working conditions or massive layoffs. All the while, organizations are stating that working in undesirable conditions or taking part in massive layoffs is necessary for its survival.

“These organizations do not realize the impact on the employees they layoff and the ripple effect on their families, society, and the community. I honestly believe that once this pandemic is over and companies rollout initiatives to hire many, people will remember what organizations showed compassion, care, respect and Truly Human Leadership and what organizations forget about them.” 

The power and insight of this quote from a student completely validates the power of Truly Human Leadership in our educational institutions.

“I believe we are right at the point where a growth spurt [in how we teach leadership] is going to happen,” Deardorff said.  “If [educators] truly believe that these principles are critical and important, they should move forward and ask for help developing their course from anyone and everyone.”

Barry-Wehmiller stands side-by-side with all educators who feel this way.

If you are an educator interested in developing a Caring Community with listening and empathy, contact Chapman Foundation for Caring Communities.

If you are a business leader interested in deepening your organization’s commitment to Truly Human Leadership, contact Chapman & Co. Leadership Institute.

If you are an educator who wants to deepen your understanding of Truly Human Leadership for yourself or your students, explore this site or contact me for additional resources.

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Need help in applying principles of Truly Human Leadership in your organization? Chapman & Co. Leadership Institute is Barry-Wehmiller's leadership consulting firm that partners with other companies to create strategic visions, engage employees, improve corporate culture and develop outstanding leaders through leadership training, assessments and workshops.

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