It was a great pleasure during the last semester to share a class at Grenoble EM with Dr. Gregg Glover. Gregg has been a good friend for many years (though he might deny this!) and I am delighted he accepted our invitation.
He did his doctorate in organization change at Harvard University and has worked there for over 25 years. He was able to bring his vast teaching and professional experience to the class and share some of the things he has learned and studied while working for the world’s most known university.
Defining Management and Leadership
The class centred around strategic management and leadership. Graduate students are exposed to this quite early but the demarcation lines remain rather difficult to define. Furthermore, there is also a tendency in business schools to assume that by applying simple mathematical models a company problems and challenges will instantly disappear. If only it were so easy. True, data mining can bring us a lot of insight into consumer behavior. However, getting companies to implement a strategy is another thing altogether.
To give a better perception of this of different leadership styles Gregg brought provided the students with a test which allowed them to identify their own approach to management and leadership by ‘framing’ themselves on a 4 scale map.
Most of the students found themselves to have a Human Resource orientation, a few less with a Structural orientation. Given the type of work they wish to go into this should not be so surprising. Fewer still of the students had a Symbolic bias. Last of the few came the Political orientation. (They’ll learn once they are in companies!)
“This test made it real for us,” commented one of the students “We were able to see what our own personal styles and how we might need to adapt to others in companies.”
Gregg then outlined the typical styles of each leader and how this might affect the way the company implements its strategy. In previous lessons the students and I had compared the different strategic visions of CEOS such as Richard Branson (Virgin), Howard Schultz (Starbucks), Jack Welch (GE) and Louis Gerstner (IBM). This gave us some real business examples to draw upon but we were also able to look at others from French and other international companies. We also looked at some of the work by Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal on “Reframing Organisations” as well as some of the management theories by John Kotter.
Examples of strategic leadership – Haruka Nishimatsu, CEO of Japan Airlines
We then looked at two leadership styles from Haruka Nishimatsu, the CEO of Japan Airlines and Jeff Skilling, the former Vice President of Enron. The styles couldn’t have been more different.
Mr. Nishimatsu travels to work on the bus, got rid of his own office so that his employees could talk to him more easily and even took a voluntary pay cut when the company faced financial difficulties.
Jeff Skilling and Enron’s ultra-competitive management style
Jeff Skilling, former Vice President of the now infamous energy company, Enron, had a very different approach. (Interestingly, most of the class had never heard of ‘Enron’! This came as quite a shock to us both but then why should they have, given that they were barely in secondary school when the firm went bankrupt.)
Drawing from the book “The Smartest Guys in the Room” (Enron’s catchphrase) the short video showed how a system of ultra-competition between employees gave the groundwork for the illegal financial transactions that was put into place (and for the subsequent bankruptcy of the energy giant).
Co-teaching to break the academic silos
It was a great pleasure to co-teach a course with Gregg Glover. There is a lot of discussion in academia that universities are too contained in a silo mentality. For once then it was nice to be able to break this by getting a different perspective. Gregg’s very American style was excellent in bringing out meaningful discussion with the students and the students commented very favourably about the depth of the discussion we had. One student came out with following comment:
“A leader brings psychological safety to the group.”
I thought this was a great comment.
As we both come from different faculties, we were able to bring in our experience of leadership in educational organizations and from the business world. Many things come down to human nature and do not change as you go from one organization to another. This is a useful thing to note.
Case Study on strategy and culture in the retail industry
The lesson finished (or rather ran over!) with an excellent Harvard Case Study concerning the fictitious retailer Evergreen Natural Markets by Rosabeth Moss Kanter and Paul Myers. Having bought a chain of stores, they are in the process of getting the new employees to adapt to their approach. This allowed the students to draw upon what had been taught during the lesson and offer some ideas as to the way forward for the company.
A good lesson for Gregg in Management
Co-teaching requires quite a lot of preparation time but it is worth it. The reaction of the students seemed very positive and it was nice to get examples for different organisations and to be able to compare them. Participation in the class was excellent.
I learned a lot from working with Gregg. I think that he learned quite an important lesson as well. When I said to him that ‘we should share a class’ I don’t think that he realized that I would make him do most of the teaching. These non-business professors are so naive! Perhaps he should sign up for a business course in “Successful Delegation.” He’s a very smart guy but he’s going to have to work hard if he wants to beat me on that course!
PS: The lesson took quite a lot of preparation and I would like to thank Lukas Vavra for his precious help in preparing some of the slide material. Many thanks to Gregg for his time and to the students in my class(es) for their very active participation.
It was a great pleasure to welcome Bertrand Guillotin, International Programs Director at the Fuqua School of Management, Duke University to Grenoble EM in November. During his time at the school we were able to make a short video in which Bertrand talked about life at Duke. Having studied and worked in both France and the USA, he was also able to share his insights into and the differences between French and American styles of teaching and learning.
Many people have written about the key components of business success. Theories build on approaches ranging from evaluating lessons learned to recognizing opportunities and having a willingness to take measured risks. Clearly such concepts can play an influential role. However, there are three key foundational imperatives for ensuring enduring success.
Across Europe, Business Schools are now getting in the full swing of the new academic year. So comes the moment to deal with subject that is on all business students’ minds and to wonder whether they are really that different to previous generations.