Change Leadership Is Central Thread of 2023 Future Leaders in Convenience Summit

The sixth-annual event was part recognition and part education for industry rising stars.
Linda Lisanti
Editor-in-Chief
Linda Lisanti

PITTSBURGH — Convenience Store News' 2023 Future Leaders in Convenience (FLIC) Summit, held last month at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh, brought together rising stars in the convenience store industry for recognition and professional development. 

The sixth-annual event featured the presentation of this year's Future Leaders in Convenience Awards, which recognized a record class of 36 young leaders from retailer, distributor and supplier companies in the c-store industry. The FLIC awards celebrate the achievements of industry up-and-comers, aged 35 or under at the time of their nomination. 

The Future Leaders in Convenience Summit also provided education and networking opportunities to attendees. The event kicked off with a Trivia Night and continued the next day with a Change Leadership workshop led by Patrick Fitzmaurice, founder of change consultancy Caterpillar Farm. The conference also featured roundtable discussions; a leadership talk with CSNews' 2023 Retailer Executive of the Year Andrew Clyde, president and CEO of Murphy USA Inc.; and a fireside chat with Elisa Goria, a senior executive with Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc./Circle K, on the topic of Inclusive Leadership. 

Patrick Fitzmaurice
Patrick Fitzmaurice

With so much change happening in the world of retail and in how shoppers shop, Fitzmaurice's point of view is that being a change leader is not optional today. "I personally believe that change leadership is a skill that most leaders need to lean into and have," he told the group. 

However, he acknowledged that leadership — and change leadership, in particular — is not easy. 

"Leadership is really, really hard. As you grow up and become a better leader, a stronger leader — managing people, managing bigger strategic initiatives — it's really hard," he said. "Throw in the layer of change leadership and it's not just about making things run efficiently and effectively; it's about thinking, holy crap, the world has changed and I can either be disrupted or I can go disrupt. That's empowering if you don't get scared by it, and I actually view younger leaders as more equipped to do this than older leaders."

While operational leadership is about directing people along a set course, change leadership is about moving a course to some different direction and getting your team to follow you. 

Change leadership demands a different way of thinking and a different way of behaving. Change leaders are vision-centric, human-centric, communication-centric and trust-centric, Fitzmaurice explained. They are also adept at storytelling. 

"If you're trying to be a change leader, you need to be really clear and make the case to people why they should change in the first place. You've got to inspire people. You've got to paint a big-picture thing. You've got to facilitate conversations day in and day out. You need to think more transformatively. You've got to tell a story compellingly over and over again,” he advised. "Bring people along, touch their heart and show them that you have a better way." 

Engage, Engage, Engage 

Clyde, who became president and CEO of Murphy USA in January 2013 as it prepared to spin off into a standalone public company, echoed the importance of engaging people and noted that for up-and-coming leaders, this means engaging those both above and below you. 

"If there is one thing I want you to take away from my presentation today, it's this: Leadership is a contact sport,” he said. "It's not just one way. You have to engage your teams constantly. You've got to engage up and down, both ways. It applies at every level of the organization."

To do this, Clyde said a leader must create a safe environment for engagement — a setting where employees feel comfortable asking questions, seeking feedback, brainstorming ideas, etc. 

"I have an open door policy. … You just want to spitball, let's go in the sideboard with the whiteboard and let's do that," he said. "And by the way, when you're doing that, there's no judgment because a big part of this is around motivating employees. No one wants to look stupid in front of their boss, right? People judge each other, right? Probably too much. Create that safe environment because the easiest way you can squash all of that is to demotivate people."

Because leadership is a contact sport, Clyde also admitted that every now and then, "you get a little jar to the jaw." When mistakes are made, something is missed or performance isn't meeting expectations, great leaders learn quickly and demonstrate adaptability, he noted. 

"My chairman's dad has this great saying: There's no education in the second kick of a mule. When you make a mistake, don't repeat it, understand the basis of it," he said. "Get feedback from your team. You got to have team members who are willing to hold the mirror up to you as well. 

"Our job as leaders is to try to diagnose [issues], get to the heart of 'em, so we can fix it. Be relentless in seeking the truth," Clyde implored. "Get to the heart of every issue because if you don't have a shared view with your team about what the problem is, you're never going to have a shared view of what the recommendation is."

Elisa Goria
Elisa Goria

Championing Inclusivity 

The need to create a safe space in the workplace is also something Goria discussed. Inclusivity starts with creating that space, she said, and providing all team members with an environment where they feel valued, feel heard, and are able to deliver their best every day.

"I truly believe that when folks can bring their authentic self to work every day, magic happens. And so, this whole idea of creating environments where we're delivering on that is really important to me. It's also very personal to me," Goria said, noting that in addition to being a woman, she has a diverse cultural and ethnic background, is a member of the LGBTQ community and has several family members with disabilities. 

Leaders set the tone for this environment, according to Goria, who leads efforts around sustainability and diversity and inclusion as a member of the Circle K global merchandising team. The 29-year Circle K veteran also supports the retailer's seven business resource groups. 

When asked what attributes and skills one needs to be an inclusive leader, she pointed to curiosity, humility and courage. "Curiosity is being open to everything, being open to various opinions, different people and information. When you think about humility, it is accepting that you're going to make mistakes. And when you do, how do you auto-correct those and how do you take that feedback and adjust so that you don't have more missteps? And then from a courage perspective, it's about sticking to your principles, even if it's a risk for you or if it requires you to be uncomfortable. This is a space where it's good to be uncomfortable because if you're not leaning into that discomfort, you're probably not progressing as an inclusive leader," she said. 

At the end of the session, Goria shared her all-time favorite quote: "I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do." 

"I just think that's so powerful," she told the group. "I would love nothing more than for you all to become advocates for inclusive leadership because I've seen what it can deliver to organizations, to teams. It is just magical when you have this perspective and you really look at how you can create this environment where everyone can thrive and bring their authentic self to work and really drive the organization forward." 

Supporters of the 2023 Future Leaders in Convenience Summit were founding and presenting sponsor Reynolds American Inc. and silver sponsors McLane Co. Inc. and The J.M. Smucker Co. 

About the Author

Linda Lisanti

Linda Lisanti

Linda Lisanti is Editor-in-Chief of Convenience Store News. She joined the brand in 2005. Linda is one of the most experienced and knowledgeable editors in the c-store industry. She leads CSNews’ editorial team and oversees content development across all of CSNews’ print and online properties. She has covered virtually every major product category and major retail company.

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