Leadership and influence can come from many places within an organization, as Ashley’s Judi Lebensburger has demonstrated for more than two decades. Since joining the company with her husband Kerry in 1993, “as part of the package,” in her words, Judi’s role and influence has extended across the organization and throughout the industry.
Since that time, she’s served in a wide range of roles including attending strategic planning meetings, serving as part of the company’s Quality Leadership learning program, traveling to stores and managing traffic flow at company’s overflowing market showrooms.
“What is most rewarding is the appreciation I receive from helping others,” Lebensburger said. “What I really love is motivating people to be their Best Self.”
Her ability to motivate and mentor begins with modeling the traits of professionalism, constant learning and an innate desire to be the best, all attributes that are core to the Ashley culture. Lebensburger noted that one of things that attracted her to Ashley when it was a comparatively small $200 million company was the Waneks’ and the team’s drive, “to be the best furniture company.”
“Ron Wanek was an incredible role model and taught me the benefits of listening, continual learning and humility,” Lebensburger said. “I loved watching him do the work of three people, and he expected everyone around to work up to their potential.”
Today, Lebensburger often serves as a sounding board to young women taking on roles in retail family businesses providing an empathetic ear and honest even if difficult, feedback. “If a woman feels like she is not being heard but knows in her heart she has great contributions to make, she cannot give up trying,” Lebensurger said.
Asked to share her advice for young women looking to advance in the furniture industry Lebensburger offered eight key insights:
- Always keep learning. Go to seminars, or go online to webinars. Be on the forefront of everything new and exciting.
- Be brutally honest in a caring and empathetic way. If people know you have their best interest at heart, they will listen.
- Listen, hear, ask questions, do not interrupt. People want to be heard, especially if they know you truly care. Sometimes they just need someone to listen. You earn the trust by saying what you mean and doing what you say you will do.
- You do not need to let people know how smart you are. Your actions and deeds will do that for you.
- Be the best YOU can be. Do not just ‘be.’ Be your best self, and help others to be their best.
- Surround yourself with energetic, positive people. Everyone has different skill sets, so identify their strengths and let them fly. They might not do things the way you would, but perhaps their way is better.
- Know and accept the concept of failure. Risk involves failure. The key is you must learn from those mistakes.
- Positive resiliency. Face each challenge that arises knowing that, with a plan, you can succeed. Avoid panic. You think best when the brain is calm. The more you succeed, the easier it is each time.
Influence is defined as, “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development or behavior of someone or something.” By this or any other definition, Ashley’s Judi Lebensburger is truly a woman of influence.