There’s a big difference between management and leadership, according to Chad Wiegand General Counsel at Nature’s Way; here, he shares tips for growing team members into skilled decision-makers
By Amy Fisher
“When I focus on leadership, one of my goals is to help others identify their own leadership styles,” said Chad Wiegand, Senior Vice President (SVP), General Counsel (GC) and Secretary at Nature’s Way.
Wiegand has a diverse background that has helped mold his thoughts on the subject. He came to Nature’s Way in 2006, with a degree in Pharmacy and an expansive legal career. Growing up with an interest in science and seeing the positive impact pharmacists had on his small community, pharmacy was a logical path to pursue. It did not, however, captivate him like he had hoped.
“I looked at ways I could complete the program because I wasn’t about to walk away from it,” Wiegand said, “but also parlay it or use it in conjunction with another degree.”
Wiegand started his law career in private practice, which he says was the right decision for him because it was important to learn how to service clients and manage external relationships. He ran into a challenge, though, in that, “I got snapshots of client issues,” he said. “What I really wanted was more exposure to the clients’ issues. I wanted to see the data input and experience the data analysis process that enabled the decision-making process within a company.”
From Snapshots to Full Circle
You can get snapshots of this in private practice, Wiegand said, “but that’s much different from being the person in house who actually has to make the decision, specifically in a high-performing, highly accountability organization like Nature’s Way.”
Nature’s Way has been a leader in health-related consumer packaged goods, dietary supplements and herbal medicine since its founding in the 1960s. The multinational company produces, distributes, markets and sells consumer and practitioner products throughout the world.
As SVP, GC and Secretary of Nature’s Way, Wiegand is responsible for legal, corporate governance, corporate compliance, human resource, organizational development and environmental/health/safety functions, each as it relates to the corporate strategy, domestically and internationally. When he joined in 2006, these functions for which he is responsible needed to expand to fit the growing needs of the business.
“As General Counsel, it’s important to understand where the business is today, but also to have an eye for where it could potentially go and help the business plan accordingly,” he said. “It’s important for General Counsels to have contributions to all sorts of things within the business, to have really good internal trusted relationships, and scalable outside third-party law firm service providers.”
According to Wiegand, his predecessors did a good job of getting the building blocks in place—that a number of these things were developed when he arrived, so when the business started to grow, he was well equipped to make the transition.
Nose In, Hands Out
In managing and leading his team at work, Wiegand sees the two as very different things. “Management is planning, facilitating and coordinating toward an outcome, whereas leadership is engaging and enabling people to accomplish success, whether that be personal or organizational success.”
Wiegand has found that he prefers to be an adaptive leader. “In certain circumstances, the General Counsel has to lead from an authoritative position,” he said. “Other times I prefer to lead by example, and other times I prefer to lead from behind, letting others take point as I nudge left or right.”
He would like to help others develop their own leadership skills and characteristics over the course of their careers, and says that because of their cross-departmental contributions, GCs are well positioned to positively influence many different people throughout the business.
Wiegand takes a “nose-in, hands-out” approach that has worked well for him, as business leaders, while avoiding micromanagement, need to be in the know and understand what is happening in the business.
He elaborated: “If you employ talented people who are capable of much, then you can set expectations and give them the opportunity either to succeed or fail, all the while empowering and supporting them throughout the process, but allowing them to be their own decision-makers.”
As someone who never responded well to micromanagement, Wiegand has fine-tuned his leadership approach by picking and choosing from the positive and negative attributes of the people to whom he has been exposed throughout his career. He wants young leaders, lawyers or not, to be empowered with a “screened decision-making ability” very early in their careers, and stresses the importance of owning one’s decisions. He puts people in the decision-maker’s shoes right away, and has enjoyed seeing many of them react well to it.
“As people elevate in their careers and are newly asked to make decisions, this can be a big switch for them,” Wiegand acknowledged. “But if they’ve been making decisions all along, actively or passively, it’s not as big of a transition.”
Building a Strong & Successful Career
Wiegand’s thoughtful advice to young professionals has three main points. While others have stated the importance of being your own toughest critic, Wiegand expands on the idea: He explains that the approach you take to managing your career will show, and that if you are critical of it and always wanting to improve, others will want to help you do so.
He also advocates the benefits of being multidimensional. “As a General Counsel, I think we’re all asked to make meaningful and positive contributions to the organization, and having a good, diverse set of skills to draw from helps.” Whether drawn from past experience, education or elsewhere, being able to offer more than good counseling makes you increasingly valuable to the business.
Finally, he stresses the value of being a good teacher. “A good teacher,” he said, “has to understand the subject matter, have good communication skills and be empathetic because he/she is explaining something that may be new to someone.”
Continually striving to improve, diversifying your skill set and being able to teach others effectively makes you valuable and a better business contributor.
Amy Fisher is a freelance writer based in Chicago, Illinois.
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