Faces Leading the Future: Paul Wei

Early career is a vital time for every leader to develop his or her views on leadership, business management, and employee engagement. With a unique background of entrepreneurship and engineering, Owens Corning has recognized Paul Wei’s stand-out, forward-thinking leadership style. Paul has been with Owens Corning for almost 6 years, working as the general manager for their Advanced Materials business. Before joining OC, Paul lived in Taiwan and started his own engineering consulting company, which has a huge influence on his leadership style. “My style has two levels. One is a visionary, entrepreneurial type. Start with a vision and lead with that vision to build a business.  From the other side I think I also have the capabilities to be very execution-driven. It’s an unusual combination, execution along with vision. It’s about details and execution but at the same time you always have to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.”

Paul puts his vision for his business at the core of his leadership style as well as at the core of how he manages and motivates his employees. “I think its enrolling and engaging every person on that team around what we’re try to do. I think you cannot motive people without that. They need to know why they’re there and be a part of that. Strong leaders are able to keep their people. If you can get them plugged into the top, make them feel important and be enrolled into our vision and what were trying to do, they will feel more connected with the larger picture.”

As Paul develops his values as a leader, support from mentors and superiors is important. He is looking for  “a leader that is demanding and sets very high goals. Someone that puts some edge into how we go to work everyday. It’s also a leader that has experience themselves and is open to new ideas and is supportive of that. They put a lot of pressure on the team and expect results but at the same time I think he has to have the capability to understand what kind of ideas we have and be able to bring the tools to the table that we need to follow through with those ideas.”

As a young leader, Paul needs to see ahead of the traditional leadership styles to set himself apart, to gain respect and appreciation from his young employees “There was a day when it was ‘command and conquer’ type leadership. I come from a place with younger folks come from MBA school and I think the next generation is really going to be about empathy, emotion, understanding.  I think it’s about motivating your people and that understand where they come from and understanding how they are each individually.”

An issue that most managers have today is retaining their young employees. Having a well-rounded background in a variety of business arenas, like Paul does, can help leaders relate and keep up with young employees coming in with their hands in many different baskets. “I think what you’re seeing today is people getting their MBA with an engineering background.  I think they’re looking for leaders with similar capabilities in order to talk the same talk and keep them motivated. You have to have a boss that will connect with you on every level.  Someone that, on one side can talk technical, on another side can talk finance, and on the other side they can talk commercial. You have to be extremely well-rounded to keep up with the talent that’s coming out of school today.”

With a Masters in Engineering and an MBA, starting his own business then moving to a large corporation, Paul has positioned himself as a leader that understands how so many different arenas of business and engineering work together. “I think those things have given me, at a young age, an enormous amount of experience. I think we need to hire people with that type of background and drive, who have gone out and tried to do something like that. I think a new leader has to be able to span a number of different topics and have a background that’s a lot broader than they were in the past. I think to be a strong effective leader today in a company like ours you have the have multiple area of expertise.”

I asked Paul about the idea of reverse mentoring, a concept that we dive into more deeply in another blog post. He thought the programs could shine some light on technology trends that executives could learn from, help break down age barriers and open communication within an organization, as well as work to make young employees feel more influential in the decisions of the business. “I think it’s a cool concept. My view is that the world’s changing fast. I think social media is changing the way people interact, sell, and get business. I think reverse mentoring could definitely shed light to the people on top that may not be as plugged in to some of the trends and how things are going. I think that could be extremely powerful. That’s something that leaders can learn from the next generation, things that just didn’t exist 10 or 15 years ago. Breaking down some of those barriers, connecting the top with the bottom, absolutely will help companies be a lot more flexible.”

Paul brings fresh perspectives on leadership and how to support your employees. “I don’t try to run my business from an ‘I’m the leader’ dominant way, although sometimes I have to be that way. I try to focus on my people and making them the best they are. I try to step back and watch as much as possible when I can. I’d like to think I bring a little more spice to the team.” He puts the goals and needs of his employees before his own, and strives to push himself to understand the diverse landscape of his business each day to better support his team.

Jen Waters is a Marketing and Development Associate at Paragon.

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