September 21, 2009

Reflections on Reflections on Leadership for Social Change

As part of the celebrations around College President Jim Kim's inauguration, a panel discussion forum occurred tonight including such leadership heavyweights as Ruth Simmons, President of Brown University, Jeff Immelt '78, Chairman and CEO of General Electric, Ed Haldeman '70, Chairman of the Trustees of Dartmouth College and CEO of Freddie Mac, and Paul Farmer, the founder of Partners In Health and Chair of Harvard's Department of Global Health. Moderated by Tuck Professor Sydney Finkelstein, the panel began with some light conversation about the important influences in these luminaries' lives and eventually progressed into a discussion of organizational leadership. Jeff Immelt and Ruth Simmons were by far the most interesting speakers, the former more than the latter. Here's the highlights:
  • Immelt: Tells a story about how he was Kemeny's TA for the one class he taught while College President and whenever he met with him to discuss the performance of the class, Kemeny would spend 10 minutes discussing who was having trouble and 50 minutes asking him questions about his Dartmouth experience. The moral of the story: the best leaders ask the best questions and ask more questions than they answer.
  • Simmons: 'The land of the successful has very little diversity.' Leaders who make it often exhibit similar characteristics, have similar drive, lead similar upper-class lives. It's important for these leaders to venture outside their bubbles and broaden their perspectives in order to have a better understanding of the world they live.
  • Immelt again: Previously there existed a false paradigm between what was good for business and what was good for the environment. Now, "green is the new green." This line got a resounding applause-- Immelt is downright magnetic -- though I think it is a bit revisionist to say that businesses didn't get into green technologies until after it made financial sense for them.
  • Update 9/22: One I forgot, Simmons: I haven't been this excited about an inauguration since my own. [Muted laughter from the crowd, realizing a rather important intervening inauguration, Mr. Obama's]

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:26 AM

    Very thoughtfull post on leadership. It should be very much helpfull.

    Karim - Mind Power