Twenty years ago, about 150 women met in Omaha to generate ideas on how they could become better business leaders. That group grew each year, turning into one of the largest women’s conferences in the country with more than 2,000 professional working women.
A similar group — this time all men — gathered Wednesday at Creighton University for the first Men’s Leadership Exchange Forum, which aimed to spark conversations about how to be leaders in the digital era.
Like the women’s conference, the forum was sponsored by ICAN — the Institute for Career Advancement Needs — an Omaha-based organization that offers leadership development training.
“We’re here because there’s a need to be here,” said Bob Cronin, vice president for the corporate management office at ACI Worldwide Inc. and one of the volunteers who helped put together the forum.
The men’s conference, which grew out of an idea brainstormed by Cronin and a handful of graduates from a different ICAN leadership program, challenged attendees to develop their leadership styles by focusing on social enterprise, the concept of people and companies positively affecting the world beyond making money.
“How we lead in 2012 is probably not the same way we’ll lead in 2020, or 2013, for that matter,” said Dan Weber, a forum organizer and CEO of Peak Pathways, a company that coaches executives and teams to manage personal, career and business transitions. “Now, we’re more social. It incorporates different types of technology that enable a new kind of interaction. We’ve got more questions than we have answers, in many ways.”
Social enterprise goes beyond the use of social media and technology to help a company better connect with its customers of either for-profit or nonprofit organizations.
In a panel discussion, local, national and global business people discussed ways social enterprise has changed the way companies should approach leadership.
If someone had a customer service problem 10 years ago, the conversation went directly to a spouse or friend and “died on the kitchen table,” said Dusty Davidson, co-founder and CEO Silicon Prairie News.
“Now, they put it on Twitter, and it spirals out of control,” he said, adding that that scenario gives companies an opportunity to react positively or negatively and ultimately affect their brand.
But because social media is so integrated in daily lives today and shows few signs it’s going away, companies need to understand that it’s difficult to “damage control” what happens on the Internet, said Ryan Downs, president of Proxibid. Slow-to-change leaders who don’t see social media as a priority will get left behind.
“If you’re going to be a leader,” he said, “get over it.”
Other speakers at the men’s forum included: Mary Prefontaine, ICAN president and CEO; Anthony Hendrickson, dean of CU’s College of Business; Tim Rouse, president and co-founder of FGI International; Carol Hunter, CEO and co-founder of FGI International; Dan Dal Degan,vice president of the central U.S. for Salesforce.com; Ryan Whitt, operations and client manager for the Omaha Foreign Exchange; Craig Page, managing director of the MeNetwork; and Gerri Sinclair, president of the Gerri Sinclair Group.
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