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Alan Mulally started his talk at the GSB by describing a case-study: A CEO takes over an iconic American auto-maker in big trouble, losing $17 billion a year after being one of the most profitable companies for the previous century. Naturally, it wasn’t a hypothetical situation, since it described his own position in 2006, when Bill Ford asked him to leave Boeing, where Mulally oversaw the commercial airline business, to take over the struggling Ford Motor Company.

For the most part, the students got the right answers about what to do, but they also had the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, since Ford has undergone a remarkable turnaround in recent years, and is profitable once again. In addition, getting the answer wasn’t the hard part. Executing it was. Ford sold off several struggling brands, and closed plants around the world, reducing the company’s headcount by roughly 40%, shedding more than 100,000 personnel.

It begged the question, why would Mulally, named aviation Industry Person of the Year in his last year at Boeing, leave to take over a company that, according to Mulally, “had been going out of business for 40 years?”

“I was being asked to serve,” was his simple reply. The notion of building on Henry Ford’s vision, and having the chance to strengthen one of the great business and manufacturing organizations of all time, made it impossible to say no.

In a lunch session with students following the talk, he was asked about mistakes that younger leaders make on their way to positions like his. After some thought, he shared that he sees more young leaders today for whom ’service’ is not their primary motivation. Humility is lacking in these cases, with the (often very bright and talented) individuals being overly concerned that they do what is in their own interest, with respect to career, income, lifestyle, etc. He noted that it’s understandable to some extent, but isn’t compatible with organizations that are trying to truly do remarkable things, making the world a better place for humanity.

Before his talk, Mulally had a chance to sit and share stories with Arjay Miller and GSB Dean, Garth Saloner. Arjay was the fourth Dean of the GSB, from 1969 to 1979. Previous to that, he spent 23 years at Ford, with the final ten years serving as President of the company.

Read more about his talk

Watch the video on YouTube

 

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When is being authentic not such a great thing? Straying too far from behaviors that are grounded in one’s own identity (ie. authentic) creates problems over time, for leaders and the groups they lead. If you buy into the idea that none of us are ever perfect, however, and good leaders are constantly challenging themselves to learn and grow, then it’s the case that our ‘authentic self’ is never a model of perfection, and in some cases, it’s not even close. GSB Professor Deb Gruenfeld and Lauren Zander discuss when the costs of authenticity outweigh the benefits, and suggest ways to keep our “authentic self” and our “best self” from getting too far out of alignment.

Read their blog post on HBR

 

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An article in Scientific American cites recent research by GSB faculty members Lara Tiedens and Deborah Gruenfeld, and PhD student Lucia Guillory, showing that ’standing tall’ can make one feel, and be, more powerful in social relationships. It turns out that good posture isn’t just good for your back. It also makes you more likely to engage in power-related behaviors, such as risk-taking and initiative, with corresponding shifts in hormone levels, while simultaneously conveying a nonverbal message to others that you are in charge. Slouching does the opposite.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-you-can-become-more-p

 

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Are guilty people better leaders? Professor Frank Flynn says ‘yes’. Here’s a 10-minute podcast summarizing the research. http://blogs.hbr.org/ideacast/2010/12/guilty-people-make-good-manage.html

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Download now or watch on posterous

p41.mov (10415 KB)

388 first-year MBA students, 48 Arbuckle Leadership Fellows, and 168 GSB alumni and faculty judges participated in this year’s challenge, which all came down to this 10 seconds, as the winning squad was announced.

Read more about the Executive Challenge: www.gsb.stanford.edu/cldr/teaching/executivechallenge.html

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GSB MBA students, along with the Dean and NYSE CEO, Duncan Niederauer, rang the closing bell on Thursday, 12/2, as the Dow ended up 105 points. A fitting way to start the final month when all classes and staff will be located on our current campus.

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On Thusday, NYSE CEO, Duncan Niederauer spent the day at Stanford. He spoke with MBA students about his prognosis for corporate growth in 2011 (positive), what it takes to lead an organization facing a fight for survival, and how to find leadership opportunities. He also met with Silicon Valley CEOs over breakfast, co-hosted by GSB Dean Garth Saloner, then officiated a closing bell ceremony broadcast from Stanford.

A panel discussion with Niederauer, Juniper CEO, Kevin Johnson, and VC, Steve Jurvetson (MBA 95), was hosted by SIEPR. Look for a video to be posted at http://siepr.stanford.edu/eventsprofile/425.

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Stanford GSB professor Jeff Pfeffer writes and speaks extensively on the topic of power–how one acquires and uses it. A lot of people find his perspectives troubling, which shouldn’t be surprising given the ambivalence many feel about the topic of power in human relationships. One common misunderstanding about his work, however, is that he encourages us to care less about other people if we are interested in power. The reality is more nuanced and complex. A recent article he wrote for the Financial Times highlights this, in which he suggests we can make MBA students LESS narcissistic by forcing them to compete MORE to earn power and status.

View the article here  |  More info on Jeff Pfeffer

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Carlos Brito, CEO of Anheuser Busch-InBev, spoke to students today, discussing what he thinks it takes to build high performance teams and organizations. He noted that many of the practices that we consider natural in school and sports–recognizing high performance and addressing low performance–are too often taboo in corporate settings. Therefore, he said, “if you can’t please everybody, and you can never please everybody, then try to please your most talented people.” Here, Brito (right), who received his MBA from Stanford in 1989, meets with a second-year MBA student before his talk. He was also on campus to attend the school’s Alumni Advisory Council meeting.

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Whole Foods CEO, John Mackey, spoke at the school last week, sharing his vision for a new business paradigm. He calls it ‘compassionate capitalism,’ blending a relatively laissez-faire stance in regard to government and regulation of the marketplace, as well as a belief that business leaders need to effectively serve a broad set of stakeholders (customers, employees, investors, society, the environment) to maximize success in the long term. Mackey has taken his presentation to a number of college campuses, generating thought-provoking dialogue wherever he goes. Watch the talk to see what you think.

It’s hard to be neutral about Mackey. His company has been on the Forbes list of best places to work for thirteen consecutive years, and for most consumers it is synonymous with healthy and environmentally conscious shopping. It is a feel good brand. Yet Whole Foods’ focus on growth and profitability has led many to question how deep the social mission really extends. Naturally, skeptics doubt that you can have the best of both worlds.

Mackey has added fuel to this ambivalence at times, perhaps by not fitting stereotypes many might have about him, or possibly by fitting many stereotypes that are considered incompatible. On the one hand, he is a strict vegetarian and health food advocate. He promotes wellness programs throughout his company, caps executive pay, and has taken a salary of only $1 a year since 2007. Sounds like what you might expect from a natural foods grocer. At the same time, he is a passionate evangelist for capitalism, he wrote a WSJ op-ed condemning an increased government role in health care, and his acquisitions of competitors has demonstrated his highly competitive streak. Sounds like what one might expect from a public company CEO. The problem is, when that public company is also a natural foods grocer, the two stereotypes create a hybrid that is unfamiliar.

The sense in the audience, though, following his talk was that he genuinely believes the company can pursue both profits and a higher purpose, and he believes passionately in pursuing both. Some students, in discussions afterward, questioned whether such an approach is generally applicable. After all, Whole Foods is still a niche operator among grocery chains, catering to affluent consumers who essentially pay a premium to support the company’s social mission. This is not to criticize the company’s accomplishments at all, but some students did wonder how an arms manufacturer, for instance, could pursue a higher social goal while remaining profitable.

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