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June 2008 Archives

11 June 2008

Changing the world...through high EQ leadership

Dean Bob Joss, speaking in Hong Kong last month, explained that senior managers of major organizations are the key to solving global problems including poverty, pollution, and infectious disease.

All these problems are so huge that they need to be addressed by large groups of people under the guidance of extraordinary and inspiring leaders.

Said Joss: "The selection [of employees], the development of team work, the giving of feedback, the growth of people are the hardest things to achieve because all people are different; it's not a technical problem to be solved. It takes a lot of emotional intelligence, and that's a hard thing for people to develop. It's much easier to develop technical and cognitive skills."

To boil it down to elevator pitch length: emotional intelligence (sometimes called EQ) combined with leadership skills will drive global innovation. The conundrum is that teaching leadership EQ is tough. Doing it well is the business school equivalent of scaling Everest.

Back when I was a student, the mainstay of our EQ training was Interpersonal Dynamics, the infamous but incredible course lovingly known as Touchy Feely. The teaching of leadership at the GSB has evolved since my day and now, in addition to the ever-popular Touchy Feely course, encompasses a multi-modal strategy that includes role-playing, interactive lectures, small group discussions, and coaching. Then there's the executive challenge, the event that brings together first year MBA students and notable alumni for a real-world exercise in managing the pricklier issues that confront CEOs every day.

Last night, I was watching the Leadership in Focus video vignettes that the Center for Leadership Development and Research (CLDR) has created to facilitate leadership training. The vignettes portray managers discussing topics such as implementing change, making good decisions, and building teams. Not all the managers chose the optimal alternatives or achieved success.

These video cases are not explicitly about leadership EQ, but EQ inevitably creeps in. As I watched these videos, I realized that I was reacting more to the interpersonal vibes emanating from the managers than to the content. Some of the managers were able to step outside their own perspectives and understand the issues, personal and professional, that others were facing. Others were unable to make that transition to the point of seeming downright callous. I found myself disagreeing with their choices and thinking: "glad that's not my boss." Their lack or inability to connect with and inspire their subordinates led to rifts that could not be easily mended.

Here at the Stanford GSB, our innovative leadership training challenges students to question their assumptions, to step outside the boxes they have constructed for themselves, to reach out to others, and to embrace a broader understanding of the world around them, both literally and figuratively. The two-year MBA program enables students to begin a process of self-examination and transformation that will allow them to become the kind of innovative, principled, and insightful leaders who will change the world. Part of our mission at Stanford.

For more information on the CLDR, see

--JoAnne Goldberg

13 June 2008

Confessions from the Director of Evaluation

Ah...June. For most admissions officers, it is our favorite month of the year. After we post our final decisions, we get the same feeling you may have had the moment you finished your last final exam at university. We have a chance both to reflect on the amazing stories our candidates have shared and to celebrate the conclusion of our last round.

Within days of our decision deadline, though, we quickly shift our attention to our next goal--that of producing a new application. Usually, you would see us huddled in conference rooms in marathon meetings throwing around potential new essay and recommendation questions to see which ones might stick.

It is with great pleasure that I announce our new 2008/2009 essay questions are posted at

But is with even greater pleasure that I tell you it has been our easiest June ever!

This year's essay and recommendation questions are really the result of a journey that began over three years ago. Derrick Bolton, the Director of MBA Admissions, and I worked with experts in the field of leadership assessment from all over the world. We wanted to develop a set of questions that would stand the test of time--that would effectively elicit only the information most critical to our assessment criteria.

The 2008/2009 questions have changed little from last year; based on our satisfaction with the thousands of essay responses we read last year, we only made slight refinements.

Let me summarize why each of them is meaningful to our committee:

Essay A: What matters most to you and why?
This question helps us learn about your ideals and values. They set the context for how you see the world. They are your guideposts when you make any decision from what type of job you pursue to what type of culture you will create in leading an organization.

Essay B: What are your career aspirations? How will your education at Stanford help you achieve them?
This question helps us understand your professional dreams and from where your passion comes to achieve them. We also get a glimpse of what skills or knowledge you think you need to develop to reach them.

Essay C: Please answer two of the questions listed below.
1. Tell us about a time when you built or developed a team.
2. Tell us about a time when you felt most effective as a leader.
3. Tell us about a time when you tried to reach a goal or complete a task that was challenging, difficult, or frustrating.
4. Tell us about a time when you went beyond what was defined, established, or expected.

We all have important stories to tell. We want to share moments when we have achieved great things or helped to shape the world around us. Essay C lists four potential questions (or prompts) to help you identify which are the two most important stories you have to tell us. The prompts themselves are not as important as the stories that they bring to the surface.

Good luck completing your application this year. I hope my "confessions" have given you a little more insight into the journey you are about to begin.

Kirsten Moss
Director of Evaluation
Stanford Graduate School of Business