IUN Business Luncheon Hosts Maria Wynne for an Afternoon of Leadership Inspiration

IUN Business Luncheon Hosts Maria Wynne for an Afternoon of Leadership Inspiration

As lunchtime neared at Avalon Manor in Merrillville, students, faculty, and alumni of Indiana University Northwest began to flood into the banquet hall, eager for a day of food, education, and community connection.

A regular event for the IUN School of Business and Economics, this year’s featured speaker was Maria Wynne, CEO of Leadership Greater Chicago (LGC) and an inspiration to many interested in business leadership. Wynne’s address, entitled “Leadership: Future Forecast,” focused on the tools and traits leaders of the future should exhibit to be successful in the ever-changing business world.

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“It’s nice to hear from experts in the business world and, since everyone else here are business students too- to learn with like-minded people,” said Meredith Phillis, a business student at IUN.

It would be hard to imagine a better speaker to inspire and educate business leaders of the future than Wynne as her experience ranges across the nonprofit, corporate, and public sectors. Wynne has served as a sales vice-president for Xerox, sales general manager for Microsoft, and CEO for Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, to name a few.

“[These events] bring additional experience and knowledge that we might not be able to get otherwise - it’s great,” said Nicole Mirowski, a student.

The room was abuzz as students mingled with each other, and local business leaders, hoping to glean helpful advice and make connections that might prove an asset in the future. Smiles and earnest conversation filled the room as guests enjoyed their lunch and eagerly awaited the afternoon’s speaker.

Cynthia Roberts, Dean of the School of Business and Economics, was excited to be hosting the event for her students and the community.

“It’s a great way to connect students and faculty with businesses and the community. [These events] have led to jobs, internships, and business connections for the faculty. It is sometimes seen as a fundraiser, but it is really more about the students and being out in the community,” Roberts said.

Wynne soon took the stage and invited the audience to travel to the future to see what leadership in business had in store for them.

“Just for today, consider me your leadership-journey guide to time travel... taking you to the future and sharing some of what I’ve learned,” Wynne said. “The good news is, we don’t have to go far.”

Wynne sees the potential difficulties that have arisen from five generations in the workplace, the varied groups within those generations, and what this competition means for future leaders. In her time at LGC, she looked in depth at what attributes organizations are looking for in leaders and what they expect of leaders in such a complex and volatile environment.

“The leader of today is facing a level of complexity that is unprecedented and has to recognize change, or the need for it, at a speed that I can only compare to the challenges of a military leader making the right decisions, under fire, in an active battlezone,” Wynne said.

Wynne stressed the need to increase the pace of leadership training to match the speed of the changing world itself. Chief among her lessons: shared leadership.

“Cross collaboration is important, but what can also happen is you might be a leader seated next to someone one day where you are friends, strategic partners, allies, or you might be sitting across the table from them the next day and you’re a foe,” Wynne said.

Wynne is training the fellows in her program to deal with these challenges and how they can strive and thrive to change the world for the better. This ability to work with others with a wide range of backgrounds and influence is important, but Wynne also stressed the importance of quiet thoughtfulness and meditation for leadership. Above all, Wynne finds a simple quality at the core of every great leader.

“I believe that the future leader will be the most human,” Wynne said.