photo by V. Renee Photography
We’re Auburn’s homegrown personal injury law firm. But our clients come from all over, including Syracuse and Rochester, because of our reputation. But we are not the only big-time homegrown business in this small town. From time to time we like to check out our fellow Auburn success stories. So I recently “zoomed” in for a conversation with Gwen Webber-McLeod, President/CEO another amazing Auburn success story: Gwen,Inc.
MIKE: Gwen, right from the start, what does Gwen, Inc. do?
GWEN: In a nutshell, we help leaders and leadership teams achieve their business goals by developing what I call the competencies of confidence, competence, courage and calm. In particular, we provide a special set of leadership development and executive coaching services for professional women of color facing the unique experience of breaking the glass ceiling in a company. We trademarked a term for this unique experience: “Unexpected Leader”. These minority leaders navigate being the “first, only and different”. We help them “onboard” successfully into their new positions, which in turn helps them gain credibility and build legacies for future generations of emerging minority women leaders. Gwen, Inc. also has an organization development/consulting practice providing strategic planning, professional facilitation services and change management services for clients.
MIKE: Ok, so are your “clients” the corporations where these leaders work, or the leaders themselves?
GWEN: Good question Mike. Actually, both. I provide individual leaders executive coaching and mentoring, in person and virtually. The division of Gwen, Inc. called The Leadership Connection, provides leadership education, professional consulting and facilitation, mentoring and coaching and technical assistance to the organizations and businesses whose leaders are working to achieve their potential and charged with leading business outcomes.
MIKE: Gwen, where is your client base?
GWEN: Our clients are concentrated primarily in Upstate New York. However, we have worked with clients in other parts of the country and see this client base growing with the use of technology to deliver services.
MIKE: What level of leaders do you help?
GWEN: All of our clients are Mid-level to executive level leaders and leadership teams. However, as previously mentioned we specialize in providing services to women and minority leaders.
MIKE: That’s really an interesting career path you have taken, Gwen. Do you remember about a decade ago you helped me with diversity training for a board I was on? Do you still do that kind of work?
GWEN: Yes, I do. But when I incorporated Gwen, Inc. I shifted my focus to what I want my leadership legacy to be: Helping create new generations of powerful and confident African American women leaders. That’s extremely important to me. I sincerely believe that’s what God put me here to do.
MIKE: I don’t doubt it Gwen. Is there anything we haven’t covered about Gwen, Inc.?
GWEN: Yes. In 2015 I founded and incorporated, as a division of Gwen, Inc., a not-for-profit, called You Can’t Fail, Inc., which provides leadership development programs for emerging women leaders of color. The organization is completely led and managed by a diverse group of women under the age of 50. We have two signature programs: You Can’t Fail Conferences and Millennial Women Making Moves. It’s funded by foundation grants and corporate money. So far over 1000 women have attend our You Can’t Fail conferences and we have graduated 25 outstanding emerging women of color from Millennial Women Making Moves.
MIKE: Gwen, you’re a top black women leader yourself. You’ve occupied several leadership positions in our community: Director of Communications for Wells College; Communications/Development Director of the Seven Lakes Girl Scout Council; Executive Director of the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls; Executive Director of the Booker T. Washington Community Center in Auburn, and Coordinator of Human Services for the Cayuga/Seneca Community Action Agency. And you even ran for Cayuga County Legislator last fall. So, I guess in a sense your job is to “reproduce” more Gwens!
GWEN: Ha ha! I guess you could say that.
MIKE: Kidding. There will only ever be one Gwen! Last question: Who inspired you to become a great leader?
GWEN: That’s easy: My parents. My dad was a lieutenant colonel in the army stationed at Fort Drum. He was an amazing leader himself. He was the first black Jefferson County legislator, and when he died, my mom was the second. They brainwashed me and my sisters into believing we could be anything we wanted to be. Nothing could stand in our way, including racism or sexism. We really believed that, from a very young age, and we all still do. I am additionally inspired by my historical sisters, especially Harriet Tubman.
MIKE: Wow! You’re an incredible lady with an amazing success story, Gwen. Thanks for your time.
GWEN: Great catching up with you Mike. Thank you for allowing me to share my business success story. I am proud to be the President/CEO of Gwen, Inc. based in the beautiful Auburn, NY. Our community’s legacy of leadership inspired me to base my business in Auburn. I hope to add to this legacy with my work.
SO, readers, I you hope you enjoyed our conversation with Gwen as much as I did. Until next time . . .
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Syracuse NY Personal Injury Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.