You can learn to be a leader in the most unexpected places

Keep your eyes and your ears open. Leadership lessons are all around you. Check out these lessons from the leader at my favorite local coffee shop.
coffee ts
  • IT Leadership

The principal of her own business, Mary Schaefer is an expert in empowerment and manager-employee interactions, particularly for organizations employing IT professionals, engineers and scientists. She coaches, trains and consults on talent development, performance management and change management. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, nonprofits and government agencies. Mary has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a master's in human resources. She also holds an HR professional certification.

Previously, Mary worked at DuPont for 20 years, starting her career there as an information systems professional and concluding as an HR manager. Even though she started out in IT, Mary noticed over time that she was more interested in understanding people. She was more interested in helping people with their reactions to how their jobs were changing than in teaching them new computer programs. Mary then pursued a career in HR and obtained her master’s in HR.

As a human resources manager, Mary served a community of more than 500 employees and managers in areas such as performance management, interpersonal relations, leadership, teamwork, diversity and creating a respectful work environment. While at DuPont, Mary received the Crystal Award, designed to recognize “champions of people.”

Mary always found a way to be a part of diverse work assignments that involved helping people move through change. For example, she helped hundreds of survivors of corporate downsizing, through coaching and workshops, to see how they could make positive choices moving forward rather than be overwhelmed by constant job insecurity.

Mary’s speaking, coaching and training are all focused on making the most of what human resources can contribute to an organization through their energy and creativity, while at the same time helping people meet their own specific needs for meaningful work. She focuses on creating a more productive and collaborative work environments through honest, direct interactions. This could involve planning for a tough conversation about work performance or strategizing on how to manage employees’ reaction to changes in their jobs.

Mary has devoted hundreds of hours to coaching hundreds of managers, both as an HR manager and currently through her business, serving clients such as Xerox, Siemens, DuPont, Ahold USA and the State of Delaware.

Mary applies her fierce idealism to create work cultures where organizations and human beings can both thrive. She publishes on this topic and more at, and other sites. She is a co-author of the book The Character-Based Leader. In 2014, Mary delivered a presentation called “GPS Your Career: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Go” at the Inspiring Women in STEM Conference and another called “Putting the Human Back into Human Resources” at the 2014 TEDx Wilmington (Delaware) conference.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of Mary Schaefer and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications Inc. or its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.