Wharton Leadership Conference focuses on workplace conflict


Keynote speakers emphasized trust, communication and clarity of mission


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A speaker addressed approximately 300 corporate, military and public leaders at the 16th Annual Wharton Leadership Conference yesterday.

Photo by Christina Prudencio


Yesterday 300 corporate, military, university and public leaders convened in Huntsman Hall for the 16th annual Wharton Leadership Conference.

Nine keynote speakers gave presentations at the conference, which sold out weeks before. It was sponsored by the Wharton Center for Human Resources, the Wharton Center for Leadership and Change Management and Deloitte.

The theme of the conference and the speeches was “Leading in a World of Conflict,” departing from last year’s “Leading in a Reset Economy and Uncertain World.”

“Our judgment call this year is distinctive, to focus on leading in a period where conflict is highly pitched,” Wharton professor and conference host Michael Useem said.

“Think about what’s happening in Egypt, the events in Europe, Greece and the Euro, the partisan gridlock in Washington. Having described all those sources of even bitter and occasionally violent conflict, people who run enterprises need to get the job done,” he said.

The speakers ranged from different professional backgrounds, each providing unique experiences and insights on how to lead amidst conflict.

“We’ve sought to bring in people from very different walks of life on the premise that you often learn as much or more from people outside your particular arena as you hear them speak about what it takes to lead,” Useem said.

“The thing that most impressed me as I sat there were the common threads through every one of these very diverse speakers,” astronaut and Commander of Space Shuttle Atlantis Jeffrey Ashby said. “They were talking about things that were in my presentation: trust, communication, clarity of mission. Those threads repeated themselves many, many times today.”

Adam Lupisella, an employee at SCI Invesments, praised the conference, which changed his view on how to give his employees feedback. “What I love about it is that people come to the table with real-life examples that you can use that are relatable.”

Fredda Lippes, the construction project manager for the city of Philadelphia, related the conference material to her position in public administration. “The city is a perfect example of where you need motivational leadership because we don’t have the finances to reward people and give bonuses and promotions.”

The speakers included The New York Times Senior Editor Adam Bryant, Undersecretary of the U.S. Army Joseph Westphal, Wharton professor Adam Grant, Chair and CEO of Meadwestvaco John Luke, managing principal of talent development in Deloitte William Pelster, Global Brand President of Estee Lauder Jane Hertzmark Hudis, Leadership Director and National Outdoor Leadership School John Kanengeiter and Vice Chair of General Motors Company Stephen Girsky.

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