Accomplished and aspiring leaders from all corners of industry are returning to their companies this week with inspiration from some of the nation’s best business minds, as the first participants in the inaugural Geno Auriemma UConn Leadership Conference.
The conference, held Monday and Tuesday at Mohegan Sun Convention Center, was sold out to capacity with more than 150 registered attendees. Auriemma and the UConn School of Business announced the launch of the conference last fall, and all proceeds are being received by the UConn Foundation Inc. for the benefit of leadership education programs at the business school.
“The interaction between participants and panelists made for an engaged and lively couple of days,” says Lucy Gilson, UConn associate professor of management and the conference’s academic director. “This is truly how learning at this level takes place, and when it’s this much fun, it’s just icing on the cake.”
The conference’s theme, “Leadership Excellence in an Ever-Changing Environment,” carried through each of the presentations, panel discussions, and lively breakout sessions.
The Geno Auriemma UConn Leadership Conference (#GenoLeads) also provided a unique opportunity for its participants to benefit from the expertise of UConn School of Business faculty, the skills and experiences of University alumni, and the knowledge of its business partners.
The event kicked off with a keynote speech from Walmart U.S. President and CEO Bill Simon ’81 (CLAS), ’88 MBA, who said businesses and their managers must share a collective rallying cry to lead with excellence, particularly in a time when the nation and world face so much uncertainty.
The conference was marked with lively discussions throughout its two days. They included a debate on the second day between UConn director of Athletics Warde Manuel and Denis Nayden ’76, ’77 MBA, a managing partner of Oak Hill Capital, who shared ideas on leadership and ways to leverage change for success, with a focus on similarities between the worlds of business and athletics.
The conference’s final keynote address was delivered by Charlie Denson, NIKE brand president, who discussed the role of vision in leading an organization with a culture that encourages everyone to take risks and be innovative.
Other prominent speakers participated in discussions on how to lead a multi-generational workforce; ways of developing strategies for sustaining excellence; handling change effectively; being open to risk and innovation; and building a leadership skills toolbox to help address strategic planning, teambuilding, crisis management, and other issues.
Auriemma, head coach of UConn’s women’s basketball team, is a vocal advocate of the value of leadership training and mentoring. His years on the basketball court at UConn – and as coach of the 2012 Olympic gold medal-winning U.S. Women’s Basketball Team – have only reinforced his core beliefs that leadership skills must continuously evolve to address whatever circumstances the leader encounters.
He reiterated those points at the conference bearing his name, pointing out that a major aspect of leadership is making a decision and seeing it through with the best information available at the moment, knowing others are looking to you for direction.
Joining Walmart as sponsors of the leadership conference are Farmington Bank, Virtus Investment Partners, New York Life, Prudential, Aetna, the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce, The Hartford Courant, Fox CT (Fox 61), Hartford Magazine, WTIC-AM 1080, WTIC-FM 96.5, and Lite 100.5 WRCH. The UConn Alumni Association is also a strong supporter of the initiative.
More information about the conference can be found on the program’s website, including details on the schedule and speakers. It will be updated as the second conference is planned, and articles on leadership are being continuously added.
The site also gives visitors an opportunity to join an email list to receive conference highlights, leadership resources, useful links, and other information.