Kathy McLane Gersch: On leading through change

Change may be inevitable, but navigating the unknowns and embracing the new have been a hallmark for Kathy McLane Gersch 94MBA.

“The trajectory of my career has always been very focused on driving change and transformation—helping to define and execute on strategy shifts in business,” Gersch says.

Strategic planning and international business have been Gersch’s focus since her time at Emory. In fact, in addition to receiving an MBA at Goizueta Business School, Gersch also received a master’s degree in international business at Nyenrode University in the Netherlands through an exchange program.

By drawing on her background and educational experiences, Gersch has made her mark transforming organizations in a variety of industries: She managed global strategy and international expansion for Milliken & Company, and she took on Nordstrom’s global growth strategy and brand development, operating as business unit CFO and VP.

In 2003, as retailers were flocking to the internet to reach the masses of digitally minded consumers, Gersch led the online launch of retailers like Giftcertificates.com, Beauty.com, Drugstore.com and Onlineshoes.com.

In 2008, while operating her own firm, Gersch met the renowned thought leader in the field of change management and transformation John P. Kotter.

“He had written books like Leading Change, Our Iceberg Is Melting and A Sense of Urgency and was frequently fielding requests from people who had read his books and wanted to know how to implement his ideas,” says Gersch. “I was already doing similar work, and we decided to take his concepts and my applied experience and create the firm Kotter International.”

Even after more than two decades of leading transformation in organizations, Gersch still relishes traveling to meet with clients and guiding them through the leadership breakthroughs that not only positively impact the business but enhance her clients’ personal lives.

“I most enjoy helping clients challenge existing assumptions and norms to bring new ways of working into an organization,” she says. “I have been privileged to partner with our clients to help them move their business forward, and in the process, I’ve witnessed changed lives and careers. The impact that I have seen on people through our work together has been tremendous.”

Gersch channels that same fervor into her personal life, raising four children with husband Michael Gersch 15MBA, who is CEO of LabKey Software. In addition, she serves on several boards of directors.

As for her time at Emory, Gersch credits the school and the Woodruff Fellowship with putting her on the right path. As a Woodruff scholar, Gersch got to meet Roberto C. Goizueta. “The caliber of people that I connected with during my time in Atlanta—from faculty and students to the Woodruff Fellows and learning from Mr. Goizueta— have had a huge influence on me,” she says. “Outside of the education, one of the most important things about graduate school are the connections you make. Those experiences and the people I learned from still make a big difference in my life.”

—Kerry Maffeo

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