Applause!: Women in Business panelists put ‘why’ at the forefront of leadership

Last updated on July 18th, 2019 at 02:30 pm

Kathryn Campbell can remember the moment everything became clear for her. She had worked for Milwaukee-based Brady Corp. for 16 years when her daughter asked one day what the company did.

“Finally, I could tell her in a way she actually understood,” Campbell said. “We help airplanes land safely. We connect moms to their babies in the hospital. And it just hit me. Overwhelmingly, I knew this is what it means.”

Brady Corp. had clearly defined the “why” of the business. Everything was clear, she said.


Now, as director of investor relations at Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls Inc., Campbell admits the “why” is a big reason she decided to make the move to the multi-industrial firm.

Campbell is one of five panelists who will discuss mission-driven leadership, its affect on a company’s bottom line, and the generation demanding something more from the businesses they work for and buy from at the 2016 BizTimes Women in Business breakfast, which will be part of the BizExpo on Wednesday, May 18, at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino.

For Mary Lou Young, president and chief executive officer of United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County, mission-driven leadership is a way of life.

“Nonprofit organizations are driven by mission and (mission-driven leadership) is an add-on,” Young said. “A business runs on stellar financials and controlled operations. Focusing the team on the mission behind the product is in addition to keeping the business solid and sustainable.”

“People in general, but even more evident in the younger members of the workforce, want to know they are having a significant impact and are part of something bigger than the tasks they are doing,” said Debra Kessler, chief financial officer of TJ Hale Co. in Menomonee Falls. “They need to believe in a goal.”

Campbell, Kessler, and Young will join Linda Gorens-Levey, partner at General Capital Group; and Shontra Powell, chief operating officer of ASQ, on the panel.

“The clarity of the connection between the mission and people’s real work is more important to everyone; the population of talent wants to work for more and believe they can do good and learn to be good,” Powell said. “The challenge is keeping it front and center each and every day.”

Together, the panelists will discuss their own paths to mission-driven leadership, the challenges they’ve faced along the way, and how companies and organizations are thinking beyond the products and services they offer to focus on why they offer them.

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