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Happy Holidays: I Am Because We Are

With ubuntu in mind, Dan LeClair explores community and purpose in his holiday message to GBSN Community.

Dear GBSN Community,

“Ubuntu.” That’s what my wife said when I asked for suggestions about the holiday message I was setting out to write. Dr. Bella Galperin is an accomplished management professor and has written about leadership in Africa. She’s been following our work at GBSN.

I have a lot to learn about ubuntu, but learned from Bella and my South African colleague, Rob Vember, that the word originates from the Nguni people native to Southern Africa and its meaning is captured by the phrase, “I am because we are.” According to this article in the Guardian, the word was taken from “muntu ngumuntu ngabantu,” which translates to “a person is a person because of or through other people.” So, it is with ubuntu in mind that sat down to write this holiday letter to you—the people that make up the GBSN community.

Some of you might have noticed that I talk a lot about community when it comes to GBSN. What do you think of when you hear the word community? I think about a lively place, perhaps a town or village. It is thriving because its people are deeply connected and engaged. Families in a community draw on each other’s energy. They form businesses and get involved with civic organizations and government. They help each other through difficult and challenging times. A strong community embodies unbuntu.

I believe the most successful communities are inclusive. Its participants are diverse, feel like they belong, and complement each other in meaningful ways. They compete and they collaborate—both somehow make communities stronger. But communities are more than markets, because they go beyond exchange and transactions. Communities are about long-term relationships and building social capital.

Although GBSN is not a place, it has always invoked a sense of community. And much of our recent work has been to strengthen that sense of community. We have become stronger through growth (from 69 schools in 2019 to more than 125 in 2021), diversity (from 39 countries to more than 50), and connectivity. We’ve built programs that engage business school students (e.g., challenges, fellowships), faculty (e.g., research collaborations, professional development), and leaders (e.g., roundtables, collabs) like you in meaningful experiences. Building on initial successes (e.g., Business & Human Rights, Entrepreneurs-in-Residence), we plan to invest more to accelerate the development of Impact Communities, in which participants will go beyond learning from each other to facilitate collective action on important issues and opportunities. Like families in a thriving village, we want institutions to engage wholly in GBSN’s mission at multiple levels.

Since its inception, GBSN has been driven by a larger societal purpose. Our founders came together because they believe in management and entrepreneurship education and its power to generate economic growth in developing countries. Building management education capacity translates into more efficient and successful businesses, governments, and NGOs. Entrepreneurship education builds businesses that create jobs and generate prosperity.

But the priorities for our world have been shifting, as have our beliefs about the knowledge and skills that generate the kind of prosperity we are seeking.

“It is no longer just about building the capacity for management and entrepreneurship education, it’s about offering the right kind of education to foster more inclusive and sustainable development.”

So part of GBSN’s commitment is now to steward change in what we teach and how we teach it. Ubuntu is about purpose—it’s about finding our way, together.

I should note the experience with GBSN has helped me to realize that opportunities for more inclusive and sustainable development are not restricted to lower income countries. The needs are everywhere and there is as much to learn from our experiences in Global South as well as the Global North.

Soon it will be three years since you warmly welcomed me into the GBSN community. I love the work that we have been doing together—for its purpose and the way we work together. And I love GBSN for the personal growth it has provided to me. Many of you, many more than I could possibly count, have contributed so much time and energy into our work and, at the same time, helped me to see the world differently, to grow and develop as a leader and as a person. For both I am infinitely thankful.

After all, says Desmond Tutu “None of us comes into the world fully formed. We would not know how to think, or walk, or speak, or behave as human beings unless we learned it from other human beings. We need other human beings in order to be human. I am because other people are.” That is ubuntu.

Warmest Regards,

Dan LeClair, CEO

Global Business School Network

Dan LeClair, CEO

Global Business School Network

Dan LeClair was named CEO of the Global Business School Network (GBSN) in February of 2019. Prior to GBSN, Dan was an Executive Vice President at AACSB International, an association and accrediting organization that serves some 1,600 business schools in more than 100 countries. His experience at AACSB includes two and half years as Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, seven years as Chief Operating Officer, and five years as Chief Knowledge Officer.

A founding member of the Responsible Research in Business and Management (RRBM) initiative, Dan currently participates on its working board. He also serves in an advisory capacity to several organizations and startups in business and higher education. Before AACSB, Dan was a tenured associate professor and associate dean at The University of Tampa.

Dan played a lead role in creating a think-tank joint venture between the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD) and AACSB and has been recognized for pioneering efforts in the formation of the UN’s Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), where he served on the Steering Committee for many years. Dan has also participated in industry-level task forces for a wide range of organizations, including the Chartered Association of Business Schools, Graduate Management Admission Council, Executive MBA Council, and Aspen Institute’s Business and Society Program.

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. As a lead spokesperson for reform and innovation in management education, Dan has been frequently cited in a wide range of US and international newspapers, magazines, and professional publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, New York Times, China Daily, Forbes, Fast Company, and The Economist.

Dan earned a PhD from the University of Florida writing on game theory.