Learning Leadership From The Dean

Jen: The email arrived on a Saturday in early August. It contained the syllabus and reading list for my pre-term seminar with Dean Joss, “Issues on Leadership.” Summer wasn’t even over yet... a reading list?! What did I get myself into?

Fortunately, the books weren’t too academic. In fact, they were almost enjoyable. Shackleton’s Way taught leadership lessons as shown by an Antarctic explorer who was stranded on an iceberg in 1912 and kept his 28 men alive for 2 years. Leadership Pipeline examined different styles of leadership and the skills and values needed for each.

At first, two units of credit for one week of class seemed like a bargain. But as summer wound to a close, starting class a week early came to be a Faustian bargain. Roberto Palacios was stranded abroad and had to miss a day of class. Almost everyone would have wanted to have another week of vacation.

Jen: I got back from Egypt on Sunday night. My car battery was dead, I had to frantically unpack, all my clothes smelled like mothballs, and I couldn’t sleep. Jetlagged, I was expecting the worst from a Monday morning class. But I was happy to finally be back and starting a new routine.

Jeral: If there were ever a way to ease back into school life, a seminar is the way. The class had only ten students, and we were able to use a conference room on the third floor of the GSB. It was a comfortable, intimate setting that had a completely different feel from the normal classroom setting.

It was easy to tell that all the students were interested and motivated. Everyone had completed the readings, and the small size made it easy for each of us to contribute. A class like this is a perfect way for the quieter students to get some practice at speaking, as the environment was totally collegial and non-threatening.

Some of us were expecting the class to be of the theme, “Dean Joss’s Experiences in Leadership,” but it was nothing like that. The fact that he was the dean or that he had extensive corporate leadership experience was irrelevant. In this class, he was just a teacher. He was notably well prepared, and he led the class in a subdued way. He clearly had an agenda, but he let the pace be dictated by our interests, letting us spend time on the topics we wanted to talk about.

The tragedy at the World Trade Center provided an interesting backdrop to the class, as President Bush, Mayor Giuliani and others provided real-time examples of how leaders react to a crisis. Discussion of leadership in that context brought to light the many diverse opinions of our classmates. It was also cathartic to be able to talk about the events in this way.

In addition to the books, we read a number of articles from the academic and popular press regarding leadership issues. Traits of leaders, styles of leaders and habits of leaders are all popular topics, but very few articles actually have concrete lessons based on hard data. Fortunately, Dean Joss helped us work through these articles, letting the class identify the weaknesses and the empty platitudes that some authors fell back on.

Would we recommend the pre-term seminars? Absolutely. It was a congenial, informal atmosphere, with people even bringing in doughnuts on their own initiative. It was nice to see old faces and get acquainted with a few new ones.

And learning? Yes, we learned, too. We really dug through the issues of leadership. We compared managers to leaders and came away understanding the difference between the two. We learned that the stereotypes of effective leaders always being loud, outgoing and charismatic are more than the exception than the norm. Instead, there are many types of leaders, and the quiet, careful and methodical types can be even more effective than the boisterous ones.

Jen: I took this class because even though I had some management experience, I was unsure of what it meant to be a true, effective leader. This seminar taught me the skills and values successful leaders have and helped prepare me for such a role in the future.

Jeral: I was encouraged to learn that the “iron fist” style of leadership is out, and that it was never all that effective to begin with.

By Jen Wana and Jeral Poskey, MBA2s

Term:

Other Articles

To the class of 2009, and all faculty and staff, welcome back. To the class of 2010, welcome to our community; we look forward to meeting you all. Many of us already know that this is the start of yet another phenomenal experience. In our Palo Alto microclimate, days are longer and fuller (and not just because we sleep less!).

After a year-and-a-half hiatus, The Reporter has once again opened its cyberdoors for business. We encourage you to step right in and have a seat – we would like to welcome you to The Virtual Reporter. Our address is www.virtualreporter.org.

To the Class of 2010:

We wanted to extend to you a heart-felt welcome to the Stanford Graduate School of Business. You are among an extraordinary group of people who have achieved incredible feats in their professional and personal lives. You have demonstrated that you could balance assertiveness with compassion and that you would not allow professional ambition to overshadow social responsiveness. Check also Help for students tuition fee and Building Career.

Ten years ago, Peter Dumanian, MBA ’92, and a few of his GSB classmates envisioned the East Palo Alto Chapter of the “I Have a Dream” (IHAD) program, modeled after a famous program founded a decade earlier in East Harlem. Within a year and a half, a core group of 20 GSB students raised $450,000 from classmates, alumni, and corporate donors, and adopted a class of 58 3rd and 4th grade “Dreamers” from Flood elementary school. The program was a phenomenal success, as class after class of GSB students tutored and mentored the Dreamers through high school.

OK. For those of you who decided to leave the Bay Area for your lofty summer jobs in New York and abroad, you have truly missed a fun time. That’s right. We have taken Summer FOAM to a whole new level. Alternating every other week between San Francisco and Silicon Valley, we have covered major ground and discovered some of the city’s best-kept secrets. Let me give you a taste of our travels.

“One time…in Math Camp!” Of course, we couldn’t help steal from American Pie to share our experiences in the Stanford GSB QPEP (Quantitative Pre-Enrollment Program, lovingly called Math Camp). Math Camp was a surprisingly memorable week that took place 4 days before most other first-year GSBers even arrived to campus.

Jen: The email arrived on a Saturday in early August. It contained the syllabus and reading list for my pre-term seminar with Dean Joss, “Issues on Leadership.” Summer wasn’t even over yet... a reading list?! What did I get myself into?

Fortunately, the books weren’t too academic. In fact, they were almost enjoyable. Shackleton’s Way taught leadership lessons as shown by an Antarctic explorer who was stranded on an iceberg in 1912 and kept his 28 men alive for 2 years. Leadership Pipeline examined different styles of leadership and the skills and values needed for each.

When 120 GSB students departed from Schwab to participate in their Outdoor Adventure Whitewater Rafting trip, many of them envisioned scenes from the movie The River Wild. However, due to a variety of circumstances, the search for whitewater rapids in Northern California was much more like Mission Impossible.

As the first-year students pile onto campus full of verve and optimism, trying to find their ways between S182 and S171, courageously ordering complex sandwiches and burritos in Arbuckle, the second-years ooze back to the GSB like an unsuccessfully eradicated slime mold, grimly noting the enthusiasm with which their junior colleagues snap up copies of Teamwork: A Guide for Suckers.

On September 10th, tomorrow seemed like just another day in the life of a first year GSB student. My biggest concerns about that Tuesday were standard orientation fare: Will I have a good hair day for that dreaded facebook picture? Who's going to help me configure my computer to the Schwab network? How on earth am I going to wake up for the way-too-early Excel review without an alarm clock?

My research suggests that when a system is threatened, proponents of that system tend to respond defensively, almost instinctively, to bolster support for the central tenets of the system. In part, this is what has happened in the case of last week’s terrorist attacks: some Islamic fundamentalists are fighting a holy war against the U.S. allegedly to defend the existence and purity of their system against what they perceive to be our military, economic, and cultural imperialism. Of course, this does not justify the attacks (nothing could), though it may help to explain it.

Tata Consultancy Services – eat your heart out. We’re on a GMIX at BaliCamp! While this is plenty of information to set the stage for second years, the first years will undoubtedly benefit from some additional background. GMIX, which stands for Global Management Immersion eXperience, is a four-week internship that SBS students can elect to take during the summer between their first and second years (see http://www-gsb.stanford.edu/gmp/opportunities/gmix.htm for more information). For additional info on Tata, you’ll have to wait and see…