Inside USD

Creating a New Generation of Ethical Business Leaders

Monday, April 18, 2011

The recent  financial crisis and allegations of greed and corruption have put business schools under the spotlight and raised questions about the values and ethics they instill in their students.

Developing socially responsible leaders has long been a cornerstone of the University of San Diego’s School of Business Administration but in the wake of the crisis the school is doing even more. Its new Undergraduate Leadership Development Program is focused on creating future generations of socially responsible entrepreneurs and executives with the judgement and vision to look beyond just today’s stock price or corporate profits.

Workshops to provide undergraduates with intensive training, role playing and self-assessment are part of the program to develop ethical and transformative leaders for a diverse and changing world.

On a recent afternoon, Curtis Cook, the former business school dean who’s been asked by current Dean David Pyke to spearhead the new program, led a group of undergraduates in exercises to develop their leadership skills.

Students were asked to talk about experiences where they had shown the ability to influence a decision or an outcome in a positive way. One student talked about how hard it can be to have the courage to stand up for what you believe is right and not second-guess yourself.

“That’s a very powerful insight,” said Cook, noting that true leadership is not a popularity contest. “You often have to take a position that goes against the grain and the majority.”

Support for the new program is resonating throughout the USD community. Garry Ridge, chairman of WD-40 Co. and an alumnus of USD’s Master of Science in Executive Leadership Program, is leading a campaign to raise $600,000 to endow the new program. Ridge has made a generous gift to the program himself as have leadership experts Margie and Ken Blanchard.

The Blanchard gift will create the Margie and Ken Blanchard Leadership Forums featuring keynote speakers who will provide exposure to the transformational power of leadership. “We can think of no better investment than creating future generations of servant leaders,” the couple said. The couple will also host a weekend workshop on leadership for both students and parents in late September.

The lectures, workshops and a leadership fellows academy will provide undergraduates with the kind of leadership training that traditionally has been reserved for students at the graduate level. Alumni from the MSEL program, offered in partnership with the Ken Blanchard Companies, will serve as mentors and trainers for the new undergraduate program.

At the recent workshop, students listened intently as MSEL graduate Mike Somerville, a manager in USD’s Office of Information Technology Services, offered a quick definition of leadership he learned from the program: “Integrity, honesty, enthusiasm, a whole lot of imperfection, learning along the way and serving others.”

Liz Harman

Inside photo courtesy of Dominik Huber

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