Lisa Leander, Membership Senior Advisor, sits down with GBSN’s recently appointed CEO, Dan LeClair to reflect on his first few months leading the network.
I have had the pleasure to work with Dan LeClair these last three months and get to know him as the leader and champion of GBSN. Before Dan, I worked with Guy Pfeffermann for over eight years, so there is much to learn about each other and our different management styles. I thought I would take this opportunity to get to know who he is, and in doing so share what I discover with our GBSN members.
Lisa Leander: Dan, in two months you have hit the ground running, introducing nearly 20 new members and five new countries to our network. You have an incredible and long history working with business schools globally with over 19 years at AACSB, and also have collaborated with GBSN for many years as well. I imagine there is very little that you haven’t experienced in this field. So tell me, what in the last two months has surprised you the most?
Dan LeClair: I have been surprised about how much genuine enthusiasm there is for the vision of GBSN, which is for the developing world to have the management talent it needs to generate prosperity. Leaders in business schools everywhere in the world want to participate in achieving that vision. And, what’s really cool it that they want to innovate and try new things by working with GBSN.
Lisa: Tell us a bit about how things are going so far, you have had the opportunity to visit several of our members, attend Learning by Doing in India and visit several countries.
Dan: Well, we have a long way to go in order to have the kind of impact we are seeking, but our efforts to build on GBSN’s decade and a half of successful projects have been going well. Since I arrived, we have conducted or participated in successful workshops with educators in India, Pakistan, Lebanon, and Miami (with Latin American deans from Cladea). We have initiated development of several new programs that will not only improve management in the developing world, but also create new opportunities for all of our partner schools to engage in the mission and extend their impact globally.
Lisa: Since the start of your career, you have led or participated in the development of hundreds of conferences. There are so many conferences to attend! Why do you think the GBSN Annual Conference this November, in Lisbon, Portugal is a not to be missed event?
Dan: You are right, I have decades of experience with conferences in the management education industry. Yet, when I started at GBSN, my colleagues asked me, “please don’t mess up our Annual Conference.” I promised. That’s because I have been to previous GBSN conferences and do believe they are special. They are more interactive and relaxed with a genuine peer-to-peer feel. After all, we all share the same purpose. This year’s theme, measuring the impact of business schools, is timely and important.
Lisa: Following on the theme of the conference that you mentioned, where do you feel business schools could have the most impact?
Dan: Locally! I believe business schools are economic and social anchors in their communities and have always said that the Sustainable Development Goals won’t be achieved through global leadership, but rather through local initiative. That doesn’t mean internationalization isn’t important. In fact, global connections enable us to strengthen our impact on the communities we serve. Way more than in any other field of study, business students and faculty all over the world are deeply engaged in projects that benefit organizations and communities in important ways.
Lisa:With so many networks out there, what makes GBSN stand out from the rest?
Dan:Definitely its purpose and focus on the mission. Schools join other networks for the direct benefits they provide. They join GBSN first to participate in achieving the mission. And they benefit as a consequence of that. In the end, we’re told by members that the value they receive is a multiple of what they put in. And part of our job at GBSN has been to increase that multiple.
Lisa: GBSN is one of the few networks that is very focused on building the future leaders and managers of the developing world. What would you say is your own leadership style?
Dan: I’ve been told by colleagues that my favorite question is “how can I help?” From the time I was a youngster playing ball, I always thought my role in life is to help others achieve their goals and objectives. This approach comes naturally to me—it makes me happy. I also have a strong drive to seek clarity on problems and solutions. I like to boil things down and constantly create and refine ideas with the team. Finally, for good or bad, I think my leadership style has always included a lot of trust. I’ve never been interested in monitoring and expecting to evaluate work before it is completed. When mistakes happen, I just like to learn from them and move on. As you might expect, throughout my career I missed a few opportunities to fix problems before they happened. And, at times, my trust was misplaced. But overall I feel like people have delivered on their commitments and on the high expectations we’ve set together.
Lisa: Is there a favorite book or author that has influenced your leadership style?
Dan: When it comes to leadership, I have been influenced more by working with people than reading about them. One can learn as much or more from bad leaders as good ones. A lot can be learned by asking what is it about this person that I don’t want to emulate. Learning what behaviors to avoid can be easier than trying to figure out how to be like others. Lessons in leadership are everywhere if you take the time to observe, listen, and reflect. Back to your question, I learned a lot about decision making by reading Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. I have also been recommending Adaptive Space by my friend, Michael Arena, for drawing on research and experience to show how social capital works to foster innovation.
Lisa: What do you think your former employees would say about your leadership style?
Dan: Throughout my career I have tried to have regular conversations with colleagues about how we lead and manage. Not just about what we’re good at or able to do, but also about our limitations. For example, we might talk about our limited visibility across the organization, lack of time to review work, and how unrealistic (or conservative) we can be about goals. So these conversations would help me and my colleagues to see things we were missing, understand where there are risks in projects, and be more thoughtful about goals. The point is that these transparent conversations put us—all of us—in a better position to lead. All that said, John Fernandes who led AACSB for most of my time there used to say that I bring my head and my heart to everything I do—and that I’m driven more by the purpose than the paycheck. I do hope all of my colleagues and connections would say these things about me long after I’m gone.
Lisa: I may know a few of your former colleagues, so we’ll see if they agree in the comments! You are looking to launch a few new exciting initiatives, can you tell us a bit more about what members can look out for this year?
Dan: I could go on and on in response to that question. To me, it is the most exciting part about what we’re doing at GBSN. In addition to strengthening the core network, you can expect a stronger emphasis on “local relevance” in new programs and services, especially in creating context-ready knowledge and providing for meaningful experiential learning for the developing world. You can also expect a stronger emphasis on leveraging the network to increase the economic and social impact of business schools.
Lisa: As for my final question, for all our well traveled colleagues out there with all of those miles under their belts, any tips or tricks on how you manage jet lag?
Dan: My secret is to sleep irregularly when at home. If you have no pattern, then there is nothing to break while traveling. Just kidding. I don’t have a secret, I just adapt wherever I am and whatever time it is, and draw energy from learning about the place and its people.
Lisa: Jet lag is the worst! I was really hoping you had a secret solution. Dan, Thank you for sharing your insight with us and I hope you will bring in a copy of those books you recommended to the office.
Dan LeClair is the Chief Executive Officer at the Global Business School Network. Widely recognized as a thought leader in management education, Dan is the author of over 80 research reports, articles, and blogs, and has delivered more than 170 presentations in 30 countries.
Lisa Leander is an international development expert with over 17 years of experience managing capacity building projects globally. In her role as Senior Advisor, Membership at GBSN she supports member engagement strategies and international events. In her previous positions she has overseen USAID, World Bank, U.S State Department trade and entrepreneurship projects globally with a project portfolio of up to $24 million. She has managed overall operations, implemented programs, conducted impact evaluations, negotiated contracts, and built systems in multiple developing countries and contexts. From 2008-2016 Lisa was the Membership Engagement Officer for GBSN where she managed membership strategies and executing international projects.