Learning to Lead Viewed as Personal Mission and Industry Lifeline At YHFE / WithIt Leadership Conference
The power and potential of leadership resonated loudly among members of the furniture industry seeking tools for change at the second annual WithIt/YHFE Leadership Conference here last week. “Our industry is facing a tremendous amount of change and the rate of change is increasing. In order to manage that change effectively, we all need to improve our skills and strive to become leaders,” said Richard Tomkins, vice president of sales and marketing for Cresent Home Furnishings and president of YHFE.
The workshop – based on Staub Leadership Consultant’s “Wholehearted Leadership Model” – focused on balancing the management competencies required in today’s complex environment with the relationship skills that enable leaders to influence, inspire and align others. The interactive, small-group format offered by the well-known leadership development firm was made possible by sponsorships from Culp, Inc., Sealy, Simmons, Quaker Fabric, Sofa Express, La-Z-Boy, Klaussner, Furniture Brands, Lane Home Furnishings, FurnitureFan, The Robert Allen Group, American Fibers & Yarn, GERS, , Perfect Order, Inc., Akzo Nobel, Berkline, Blumenthal Print Works, Leggett & Platt, Richloom, Vaughan Bassett, InFurniture and Valspar/Guardsman.
Emphasizing the connection between self-awareness, “emotional intelligence” and the ability to drive results, the program addressed how true leaders develop leadership in themselves and others, how to handle conflict, and how to align others around goals.
The importance of new perspectives and renewed leadership for the furniture industry was front and center for many of the conference attendees.
“This kind of event is extremely important for our industry at this juncture, because we’ve gotten bogged down in conflict,” said Kim D. Shaver, director of marketing, Hooker Furniture. “At this conference there was a general willingness to learn and grow, a little bit more openness to see the views of others, and to see what’s best for the whole. We’ve gained a lot of insight into the skills necessary to move our industry ahead.
“The definition of leadership that they gave us, was to achieve results by influencing, inspiring and aligning others,” Shaver continued. “That’s what we’ve got to do in this industry…align others through inspiration, not so much through accusation. Right out of the starting gate, we got past the superficial at this event into root-cause kind of discussion.”
“It is particularly important for the young people to step up,” added Tomkins. “We’re taking it upon ourselves to train and improve our leadership skills so that we can be effective change managers. We are the future of this industry, and we want to be successful.”
Kathy Wall, president of Media Matters, noting the range of experience and expertise in the room, recognized that learning and leadership is a never-ending process. “At every stage of your career, you never stop developing and learning as a leader. You are constantly reevaluating and growing,” she said. “The YHFE/WithIt conference helped me to learn more about myself and how to better interact with other people to make a difference in the industry.”
WithIt, founded in 1997, encourages and develops leadership, mentoring, education and career opportunities for women in the home furnishings industry. Its annual WOW awards provide an opportunity for the industry to recognize and celebrate excellence. www.withit.org
YHFE seeks to promote the growth and success of the home furnishing industry through a variety of means, including attracting and retaining talented young people and providing opportunities for professional development. www.yhfe.org
Furniture World is the oldest, continuously published trade publication in the United States. It is published for the benefit of furniture retail executives. Print circulation of 20,000 is directed primarily to furniture retailers in the US and Canada. In 1970, the magazine established and endowed the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library (www.furniturelibrary.com) in High Point, NC, now a public foundation containing more than 5,000 books on furniture and design dating from 1620. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.