Leadership styles range from person to person, company to company, but one aspect rings true for all — and it’s having respect for employees.
On Wednesday, Two Ten Footwear Foundation’s WIFI (Women in the Footwear Industry) group hosted a virtual panel discussion, moderated by Ashley Dyson, manager of diversity and inclusion, at Asics, with key female execs across the industry to talk about leadership that inspires, motivates and influences.
“As a leader I believe what’s important is to be collaborative, communicative, to be open and honest and really be interested in the people you’re surrounded by,” said Susan Itzkowitz, president of Marc Fisher Footwear. “I think kindness is overlooked. People react to that and people can see it.”
All agreed that basic building blocks learnt as children — appreciation, support and teamwork — apply to leadership skills.
As for advice for the next generation? Jennifer Maks, president of Aldo North America + Omnichannel, said women who are rising through the ranks should say yes even before they many feel 100% ready. “Take a chance and be confident in the value that you can add,” she explained. “That’s how you progress. What your job description is today could be different tomorrow. The consumer is always changing. Being open to that, proactive and solution-oriented [is critical]. Just go for it. You’re ready.”
Hard work also goes along way, too. For president of Minnetonka Moccasin, Jori Miller Sherer, taking ownership in business is key. “Ask questions. Peel it back, do it right, be proactive. That type of hard work stands out,” she said. “You can be a leader in any position. It doesn’t matter your title. You can show leadership skills no matter where you are in an organization.”
Itzkowitz added, “We have a business to run. The reality is that working hard and doing a great job is No. 1 and No. 2.” She also said that being positive and having a can-do-attitude is an infectious quality that many people will notice.
For Sara Irvani, CEO of Okabashi Brands, having an entrepreneurial spirit is another tactic to show motivation and an ability to lead. She said, “If you see white space, if you see opportunity for the organization to improve, work to fill that space or raise it to others. Come with solutions. That ability to show you can have some bigger picture thinking paired with solution orientation goes a long way.”