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Summit offers women insight on leadership

Rochester Business Journal
October 2, 2015

Henna Inam’s client list includes an array of corporate giants such as Coca-Cola Co., Microsoft Corp., Johnson & Johnson Inc., Bank of America Corp. and Google Inc.

Last week, Inam’s message was directed toward a slightly different group: the more than 620 attendees at the 2015 Women’s Leadership Summit.

Inam, who was the keynote speaker at the event, talked about the transformational leader within each of us. More than ever, organizations need transformational leaders who inspire, engage others and create environments of increased innovation, ownership and creativity, said Inam, Transformational Leadership Inc. CEO and author of “Wired for Authenticity.”

“Every single one of us—male or female—has a spark inside of us,” Inam said. “And when we find that spark and connect with it, when we are moved by that, then each one of us can move mountains. That’s what I believe.

“Transformational leaders—what they’re rooted in is their own authenticity. They’re connected with that spark inside of them.”

The inaugural summit sold out. The event was held Sept. 24 at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center and created a platform for individuals to focus on career development, networking and leadership.

It was presented by the Rochester Business Journal and the Women’s Leadership Council of the United Way of Greater Rochester Inc. (For photos from the event, go to pages 20 and 21.)

A transformational leader has four traits. They are: purpose driven, inspires innovation, has intrinsic motivators and serves as a role model for integrity, Inam said.

“Who we think we are is not who we really are,” she said. “Most of us, we have this sense of our identity that shapes who we think we are and then underneath that you find who you really are.”

The summit was divided into two sessions of panels and workshops with topics such as Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs, Leading Teams Through Change and Building Yourself as a Brand. Attendees participated in panel discussions and workshops along with speed mentoring and networking. There also were nearly 20 exhibits.

In the Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs panel discussion, business leaders discussed a range of topics that affect entrepreneurs such as challenges, risks and tough decisions surrounding the start of a business.

The panelists were Amy Tait, chairman and CEO of Broadstone Real Estate LLC; Christine Whitman, chairman and CEO of Complemar Partners Inc.; Jennifer Ralph, owner of Wisteria Flowers and Gifts Inc.; and Jeannine Klee, owner of Parkleigh.

“One of the greatest risks other than going into business was I had to move my business; I had to relocate,” Ralph said. “At that point in time on Culver Road there were no other businesses (or) retail spaces. I was surrounded by warehouses—vacant warehouses that needed to be torn down—and I took a big risk by going to that location.”

“I was fearful, (wondering) if people would follow me. That was a big risk that I needed to take and it proved to be a good one. I thought I would just jump in first and try it,” she added.

For Tait, pausing her career helped to strengthen it.

“I was in the peak of my career, and I realized I was really abandoning my family in the process because I was so busy with my scheduling,” she said. “So I did a very risky thing to my career: I decided to retire at age 42 instead of going on to be the CEO of a company.”

Attending a leadership class made Tait realize that she needed to address her personal life from a new perspective, she said.

“I think the biggest risk I took was to evaluate my own priorities in life, and even though people thought I was nuts to leave the fabulous job and a fabulous career, I took five years off that were the best years of my life,” she said. “And now I’m back and I am CEO of a company, one that I made myself and is growing, and is looking to be as large in many measures as the public company I walked away from.”

“I think the message is you can deviate from your plan and come back,” she added.

10/2/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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