Leadership in Action: Sage Summit presents Sagacious Leaders

Chopra, Powell, Price4 hands connected pic & Fein

No. This is not a law firm. These are four remarkable people from different generations and experiences with similar lessons for effective leadership. They were presenters at the Sage Summit, the largest gathering for small and medium size businesses in the world. Sage is a supplier of accounting and payroll software. Along with 8000 attendees, Sage took over the New Orleans Convention Center from July 27-30 for a combination educational rock concert, expo, and just flat-out fun fest. In one word — awesome.

I attended the event as a thought leader and presenter on the topic of succession planning. I was part of a contingent from the Business Learning Institute, a Sage partner and collaborator in the field of professional education for the CPA community.

In no specific order, here are the top four presenters that I found most compelling.

1.  Deepak Chopra

Author of 80 books. (Colin Powell said that means he needs 78 more to catch up. I need 79). A medical doctor, philosopher, guru. An expert in well-being and zeitgeist, the spirit of the age. He spoke of equanimity and inter-connectedness, using the illustration of a business owner who rolls down his window each day as he enters the parking lot to say “good morning” to the parking attendant. We are all different, and we are all the same.

2. General Colin Powell

Military leader. Public servant. Role model. General Powell spoke of his “small business” experience as a platoon leader. Of course, as the Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State, I’d say General Powell has medium and large business experience as well. When one looks up “presence” or “bearing” in the dictionary, there is Colin Powell’s picture next to each definition. On second thought, only the picture is required.

Chopra and Powell spoke as part of a panel on navigating the changing world that was moderated by Sage’s CEO Stephen Kelly. What I found remarkable are their leadership principles:

  • From Chopra :

Be a very good listener.”

“My advice in two words: love and service.”

“General Powell served his country with love in his heart.”

  • From Powell:

“Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.”

“You recruit a soldier; you retain a family.”

“ (As bad as things may seem at the time), It is not as bad as you think.”

3. Gemma Price

Have you ever met someone when you instantly think, “One day, if I’m fortunate, I will work for that person?” That was my reaction to Gemma Price, the co-founder and director of Superfood Market. Ms. Price presented with Nick Goode of Sage on the use of social media to promote one’s business.

Apart from her business savvy, Ms. Price has mastered the use of social media as her go-to marketing strategy. Amplifying Goode’s characterization that “social media is a digital conversation,” Price offered these specifics:

  • Every interaction needs to be thought of as a personal connect.
  • Don’t worry about the number of followers on Twitter. Start small, but start.
  • Reach for people with common interests.
  • Express yourself creatively.
  • Use your website to educate and inform, not to sell.

What is most impressive about Gemma Price is her drive, poise, and confidence, and she has the success of the business to prove it.

4. Alex Fein

Since I was speaking about succession planning, I decided to listen to a panel presentation on a similar topic the day before my presentation. I’m glad I did. One of the panel members was a third generation member of a family-owned business and famous restaurant in New Orleans, The Court of Two Sisters. As the general manager, Alex Fein is wise beyond his years. Speaking from personal experience, Alex describes the delicate balance between the successes of the past, the imperatives of the present, and the vision for the future that reverberate in a family-business environment. Fein echoed the themes of the panel:

  • Succession planning can sneak up on you, particularly if there are no plans in place.
  • Running a successful business requires open communication across the family.
  • Respect your staff and learn from their insights and experience.

What these four speakers represent is a common face of effective leadership in dealing with the barrage of changes that impact people and businesses every day. In their own unique way, each emphasize how organizational success requires focusing on purpose, connecting with people, and maintaining a sense of optimism. Thank you, Mr. Chopra, Gen. Powell, Ms. Price, and Mr. Fein. And thank you, Sage.

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