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Purpose, Potential, and People: Reflections on My First Six Months as CEO of the Global Business School Network


Six months ago I joined the Global Business School Network (GBSN) for what I call the three P’sÑthe Purpose, the Potential, and the People. So you might ask, have I found what was looking for? Is the purpose everything I thought it was? What is GBSN’s potential? Have I connected with new and interesting people? It seems like a good time to reflect on my experience and share thoughts about the journey.

Our purpose?

That’s an easy one. GBSN exists because the developing world needs more and better management and entrepreneurial talent to generate prosperity. This purpose permeates GBSN and, as far as I can tell, we haven’t wavered from it since our founding nearly 17 years ago. And we’re not about to now. It is a grand vision, and a challenging one to say the least. But it moves us every single day to pursue our mission to “improve access to quality, locally relevant management and entrepreneurship education for the developing world.”

What about our potential?

It’s even bigger than I imagined and we’re taking bold steps to realize it. With leadership from the Academic Advisory Board, we have been strategically expanding the network. There has been great enthusiasm amongst business schools for pursuing our purpose, and we have moved quickly from 69 schools in 39 countries to about 100 schools in 50 countries. Our members are great schoolsÑthe best ones, focused on economic and social impactÑthat are genuinely committed to pursuing our vision and mission. In many cases, they bring specific initiatives that can be shared or scaled through our network. Take a look if you haven’t already at our new member spotlights and our full list of network members. We are continuing to grow, primarily to ensure that we have the strength we need in the right places to significantly expand our reach and impact.

Buoyed by our growing network, we have begun to expand the range of programs to achieve our mission and vision, while also creating opportunities and benefits to GBSN schools. For 17 years we worked primarily on a wide range of externally-funded projects with great success. For example, in the coming months we will be delivering this year’s version of the highly impactful Johnson & Johnson Management Development Institute (MDI) in Kenya and Nigeria.

While continuing important project work like MDI, we have started to develop programs that engage business students and scholars. For students, we are creating opportunities for meaningful, developing world experiences (e.g., global treks, student projects, and competitions). For scholars, we are developing programs and collaborations to motivate them to address important developing world problems (e.g., case writing, research collaborations, fellowships, and training). We have also begun to partner with other organizations to increase the number and impact of GBSN events globally, utilize data to support institutional improvement in the developing world, and expand member-driven initiatives. These “programs” are differentiated from “projects” as they will be continuously offered. Our programs engage GBSN schools, creating opportunities and value for them at the same time.

I should also note that our projects and programs are being shaped by three focal points: (1) LOCAL RELEVANCE (i.e., applicable for the developing world); (2) SOCIAL IMPACT (i.e., have positive societal impact in emerging economies); and (3) NEW BUSINESS CREATION AND GROWTH (i.e., enable and accelerate job creation). Our role is to help business schools to assert a leadership role in fostering economic and social development. I will continue to write about these focal points in other posts.

Now for the people.

A good friend of mineÑwho happens to be a talent leader at a major tech companyÑonce told me I spent most of my career so far encouraging and enabling organizations to do things that don’t come naturally. Over time that can be exhausting, he said, while suggesting I try connecting with more people who are moving in the same direction. That’s what I’ve found in GBSNÑin the school ambassadors, staff team, volunteers, and in the diverse range of organizational leaders and pioneers that I’ve connected with since joining the organization. Thank you all for your passion to make a difference through education; and for your support, guidance, and willingness to work together for the good of the developing world.

To summarize, the Global Business School Network has been every bit as exciting and energizing as I anticipated. It has been driven by purpose and, for the last six months, been willing and able to take big steps toward increasing its impact on economic and social development. I hope you have found this broad summary helpful and will reach out to me and my colleagues to talk about specific initiatives and getting directly involved with the work we are doing. Come to our Annual Conference, 6-8 November, and explore our future together, in person.

 width=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.

Connect with Dan on LinkedIn and Twitter @drleclair