Category Archives: Leadership

A short trip down under reveals what it really means to ‘spit out the dummy’

Guest post by Bruce Avolio, Executive Director of the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking at the Foster School and Marion B. Ingersoll Professor of Management

Recently, I traveled to Melbourne Australia for a series of lectures and short workshops on examining the total leadership system in organizations. By total leadership system, we mean examining leadership at all levels, looking down, peer to peer sideways, and where folks are leading up measuring a broad range of leadership styles (e.g., transformational, authentic, authoritarian, ethical, etc.) within and between levels and units in organizations. By examining the total leadership system, we hope to assess all of the key leadership elements that positively contribute to organizational change and transformation.

I found that before leaving the U.S., everyone who I told about the trip smiled and said something like, ‘that’s going to be a lot of fun’ or ‘what a great place to go.’ I told my Australian colleagues that we have serious Australian envy in my country. And when I said that, I didn’t realize that on this trip to Australia that my envy would only deepen as I learned that the Australians just have the best expressions.

Being in Australia also reminded me that one could be lured into a state of lacking self-awareness about cultural differences because Australians speak English and have a lot of common interests and history in line with those of us from the U.S. When I am in other cultures where the language is different, I am more keenly aware of observing and listening to make sure I understand the cultural nuances. In Australia one can get away with that for a while, until you realize that ‘conservative’ means ‘liberal’ in Australia and vice versa.

In one of the last workshops I was doing in Australia, someone said something that got me reflecting and I must admit I laughed out loud. At one point in the workshop, one of the participants said, “That guy just spit the dummy!” You can let those comments go by, and there were several such expressions, but I decided to stop on this one and ask, “What could spitting the dummy possibly be?” I learned that a dummy is what we would call a baby’s pacifier, and when you spit the dummy, all hell breaks loose. Throughout the remainder of the day, I tried to find every possible instance to use the term, spitting the dummy, or even better, you are a dummy spitter.

So, just when you think the folks you are with are familiar, they spit the dummy and all hell breaks loose!

Leadership in Peru

Guest post by Bruce Avolio, Executive Director of the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking and Marion B. Ingersoll Professor of Management

Recently on a trip to the Ivey School of Business in London, Ontario, I was asked, “how does one lead when they are not sure where they are going?” Many might say, just watch our U.S. politicians if you want to see how! More seriously, the more dynamic environments become, the more likely leaders are going to need to lead not knowing exactly where they are headed. As I thought about this question I went back to a recent trip I had taken to Peru. Peru is one of those South American economies that is shedding its past – recent past in terms of military dictatorships – and growing at a healthy clip, at least for the more educated class in places like Lima. Peru has a rich history that dates back well before many of the world’s other well-known societies, starting with the Incas which are considered one of the modern ‘older’ civilizations. There are two civilizations that pre-dated the Incas going back at least 5,000 years.

As Peru accumulates wealth, it is now able to invest in discovering its past. It is not an overstatement to say the Inca culture, traditions, food and history are becoming an economic force in Peru. Just see Machu Picchu and you will understand what I mean. This is one of the most amazing cities built by the Incas high atop a mountain that is one of the true wonders of the world. Going to Peru and its many historical Inca sites, taught me a lot about how advanced this society was. For example, the Incas knew which foods to eat that had low cholesterol, they knew how to build structures to withstand earthquakes, and they knew how to do brain surgery. And the answer to that question posed to me in London, Ontario lies in how the Incas built buildings. They built buildings by seamlessly integrating them into the rock upon which they were built. The Incas saw mountains as sacred. Rather than dig a big hole and then build the foundation, they built the building into the existing foundation, which took more time and care, but as we can see, lasted longer. This was the case for all buildings throughout Peru, ranging from temples to residences for Inca workers.

How does the Inca foundations help me answer the Ivey question? One must build an authentic foundation for leadership on which the rest of the structure can be created. We see organizations that have no ‘firm or genuine’ foundation, no core values and therefore no solid basis to lead into an unknown future. Many times we have to go backwards in order to move forwards and answer where we are going, which in this case is into the unknown. And I promise I will avoid writing a pop book “7 glorious Inca Principles of Effective Leadership.”

Learning how to lead

Guest post by Staci Stratton, Evening MBA 2014
She attended the MBA “Perspectives on Leadership” Speaker Series. The speaker was Colleen Brown, CEO of Fisher Communications.

Colleen Brown shared her thoughts on leadership and her personal journey to becoming CEO of Fisher Communications. She talked about how we are a combination of both predisposition and learning how to be a leader. She also said in many cases leadership arises out of necessity. For Brown, she was the eldest girl in her very large family and took on responsibilities like grocery shopping and laundry very early on. She said these experiences helped her to develop a “get it done” attitude she still has today.

She also shared her four important characteristics of leadership:

  1. Character: understand who you are and why you are who you are.
  2. Resilience: develop, if you haven’t already, the ability to get back up after rough periods, mistakes, etc.
  3. Commitment: be committed to who you are and what you believe in. It has the effect of being contagious to others.
  4. Continuity: develop consistency and continuity in your behavior, as this helps your people to know what to expect from you-no surprises.

Brown feels the most important decisions you make on a day to day basis are about PEOPLE, which is why it’s so important to know yourself and be consistent in your behavior.

Watch highlights from Brown’s talk. Here she covers the importance of consistency, Aristotle’s leadership insights, and how to minimize office politics.

The next speaker is Howard Behar, former President of Starbucks, on December 6. Learn more.

Followership impacts leadership

Gerard Seijts interviewed Bruce Avolio, professor of management and executive director of the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking at the Foster School, about his research on leadership. Professor Seijts is executive director of the Institute for Leadership at the Ivey School of Business. In the interview he asked Prof. Avolio what are the big leadership questions that will advance the field.

According to Prof. Avolio, one major question is, “Is the source of leadership followership? If so, in what way?” He goes on to say this isn’t a topic we have delved into because we assume the source of leadership is the leader. But a key discovery in Prof. Avolio’s research is that followers who have a sense of ownership in their work, don’t let their leaders go off the cliff or in other words, make poor decisions.

He also said he can tell a lot about an organization’s leaders without ever meeting its leaders. This is because followers are a reflection of what they see in their leaders. “If followers are independent, willing to challenge, feel safe to do so, own what they are charged with, and feel a deep sense of making it right, they change the leadership lens of the organization.”

Another takeaway from this interview is Prof. Avolio’s finding that financial analysts consider a firm’s leadership when valuing a firm. They can discount a firm anywhere from 5% to 20% based on their perceptions of its leadership.

Watch the full interview.

Students taking charge of improving our community

BEDC Leadership TeamThe Business and Economic Development Center Leadership Team is a student organization with a mission to provide students with opportunities to improve their professional growth outside of the classroom. The organization also helps advance the work of the Business & Economic Development Center (BEDC) in developing businesses in underserved communities.

This self-governed student club uses business to improve the community. “It’s important for students to learn the significance of giving back,” said Alyssa Arinobu, a senior majoring in accounting. “Not only can students improve their skills, but they also learn how these skills can help better the community.”

“One of the programs that we’re most proud of is our Foster School Week of Service” said Simran Kaur, a senior majoring in information systems.  “This program rallies together Foster School student organizations to work with several charities across King County. For example, each year the Leadership Team volunteers at the Renton/Skyway Boys & Girls Club, where we work with young kids on business problems and also play games and have a fun time.”

Simran is also the president of the Leadership Team. “Students realize that they can make an impact in the community by participating in this week of service.” Last year, nearly 20 student organizations assisted 11 charities. “It is a fun and easy way for us to make time to meet people in different organizations and also make a difference.”

Each year, the Leadership Team also offers a Flagship Consulting Program (FCP), where members work as business consultants for local companies and nonprofit organizations. Charissa Chin, a senior studying marketing and international business, serves as the vice president of the Leadership Team. “The FCP provides students an opportunity to gain hands-on consulting experience and make a difference in a local company or non-profit organization. It’s a win-win.”

Through this program, the Leadership Team works with a different client each quarter of the academic year. “This fall, we’re working with Explorer West Middle School to help them increase their student enrollment. This includes evaluating the school’s public perception and recommending effective marketing methods to reach appropriate target markets.”

It’s through programs like these that students grow, and learn the importance of civic service. Learn more about how you can sponsor student programs.

Board Fellows: making an impact and growing managerial skills

Johnnie MobleyJohnnie Mobley discovered the UW Business and Economic Development Center Board Fellows Program during his second year as an evening MBA student. Mobley was looking for an opportunity to make an impact in his community, learn about the process of becoming a board member and develop his leadership potential. In 2010, the Rainier Chamber of Commerce selected him as their board fellow.

During his fellowship Mobley was able to acquire executive management experience by having a direct and hands-on impact on how programs operate and help mold a community. He adds, “If there was ever a time for creativity, it is when you are serving a non-profit organization. If you want to be creative and innovative, serving in a non-profit organization is the place for you because there are goals that need to be met and there are extremely limited resources. I think that anyone who wants to be in management and is looking to further their career should serve on a non-profit board because it is a place where you can see if you have what it takes to be in management.”

The UW BEDC Board Fellows Program has been an integral component of the UW Foster MBA experience for the last 12 years and since 2009 of the UW Evans Masters in Public Administration program. As a board fellow, graduate students are provided the opportunity to serve for one year as non-voting members of local non-profits’ board of directors.

Mobley graduated from the Foster MBA Program in 2012 and currently works for Boeing. Upon graduation from the Board Fellows Program he was officially invited to join the board of the Rainier Valley Chamber and is now serving as treasurer. The Board Fellows Program is supported by Wells Fargo Bank and UPS. Learn how to nominate a nonprofit to become part of the Board Fellows Program.

Symposium explores healthcare crisis from every angle

Does the American healthcare industry require reform or revolution?

According to Brereton “Gubby” Barlow, CEO of Premera Blue Cross, it’s going to take a radical economic disruption to stem the runaway costs of an industry that threatens to swamp the US economy.

Barlow was the keynote speaker of the inaugural Symposium on Creating a Sustainable Healthcare System, co-hosted by Premera, one of the region’s largest healthcare insurers, and the University of Washington Foster School of Business Executive MBA Program.

The event, held October 26 at Seattle’s Bell Harbor International Conference Center, approached the overarching theme of “Economic Disruption in Healthcare” from every possible angle.

And there are many angles.

Paint it black

Barlow painted the big picture, specifically the ominous rise in health care costs as a component of the United States economy. The Congressional Budget Office reports that health care accounts for 18 percent of the nation’s GDP currently, and projects that it will account for a third of the economy by 2035 and continue climbing at a hastening clip.

“If left unchecked,” Barlow said, “health care and interest are going to bankrupt the economy.”

His solution is simple in concept if difficult in practice: clarify costs and coverage, and give consumers the power and responsibility to make their own choices.

This concept has been introduced in new high-deductible health plans that offer low premiums and tax-free healthcare savings accounts, but also impose greater out-of-pocket expenses. Barlow cited a Milliman study finding 50 percent less health spending on consumers in these new plans over traditional plans.

“We need to shelter patients from financial devastation,” he said. “But we also have to get consumers to have real skin in the game. It’s worked well in every other walk of economic life, from food to cars to computers.

Barlow emphasized that the shift of decision power in healthcare from the supply side—physicians, hospitals, government, insurers—to the demand side—consumers—is both necessary and inevitable.

“In health care finance and delivery, we’re still in the mainframe era: complex, sophisticated, extremely expensive,” said Barlow, a member of the Foster School’s Advisory Board. “Yet I’m optimistic that this is going to change for one simple reason: with health care, as with computers, when consumers get directly involved, costs will come down.”

Other perspectives

After Barlow’s keynote, the symposium program embarked on a more granular examination of the forces currently at work in the healthcare system—from Medicare to network integration to innovations in healthcare delivery—culminating in a panel focused on how to reconcile the issues.

Topics and speakers included:

“Challenges in Hospital Financing”
Edward Kim, Vice President of Goldman Sachs, Healthcare and Higher Education Group

“Economic Challenges in Biopharmaceutical R&D”
Roger M. Perlmutter, MD, Former Executive Vice President of R&D, Amgen

“Purchasing Innovation in Healthcare”
James C. Robinson, PhD, Director of the Berkeley Center for Health Technology

“Economic Impact on Provider Groups”
Lloyd David (EMBA), Executive Director/CEO, The Polyclinic

“Economic Forces in Network Integration”
Rodney F. Hochman, MD, Group President, Providence Health & Services

“New Breed Health System: Adapting Strategy to the Evolving Market Environment”
Megan Clark, Senior Consultant, Health Care Advisory Board

“Impact and Challenges of Medicare”
James C. Capretta, Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center

A panel attempting to reconcile these diverse issues consisted of Brian Ancell, executive vice president of Healthcare Services & Strategic Development at Premera; Don Brunell, President of the Association of Washington Business; Dan Fulton, President & CEO of Weyerhaeuser; Rod Hochman, Group President of Providence Health & Services; and Johnese Spisso, Chief Health System Officer at UW Medicine.

Founding a symposium

The symposium was devised and driven by current Foster EMBA student Dr. John Henson, a neurologist and Associate Chief Medical Director at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute. Sparked by the numerous healthcare industry questions of his EMBA classmates, Henson saw an opportunity to organize a panel rich in knowledge and experience and found a willing partner in Premera, which helped draw more than 350 participants to the symposium.

Additional sponsors were Point B Consulting, the Association of Washington Business, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Seattle City Club, the Washington Policy Center, and Providence Health & Services.

Leadership is aggressive listening

Guest post by Julius Ekeroma, TMMBA 2014
He attended the MBA “Perspectives on Leadership” Speaker Series. The speaker was Phil Condit, former Chair and CEO of The Boeing Company.

Phil Condit was an absolutely excellent speaker tonight. He was asked to speak on the topic of communication and narrowed it down to a more specific topic: aggressive listening.

I heard a quote once before that said, “Behind every successful leader is a multiplicity of great mentors.” Phil truly was one of those inspirational leaders. One of the biggest issues Phil emphasized tonight is that top leaders fail due to their philosophy of “My way or no way at all.” Phil says a good leader is one that listens to his team and his people; takes in what they say and determines a plan of action. Under each leader are a whole slew of intelligent and talented people. If you don’t use their knowledge, there is no reason to hire them.

My key takeaways from tonight:

  1. If you have a big decision to make, use the pros and cons from the people to support your account. If you don’t involve your team in your big decisions, yet you hear their feedback, they’ll frown down upon you–to point of even losing their respect.
  2. Listen intently and interact with your speakers. Show them a sense that you care of their issues. Value who they are and they will do the same of you.
  3. Being a good listener is not a skill that comes naturally: it is a skill you have to think about.
  4. If you’re willing to listen to your people, they’ll start telling you things they normally wouldn’t tell anyone — good and bad.
  5. Kick yourself! Be an aggressive listener. Listen to the people and what they have to offer before you say, “Here’s our direction.” Every team has skilled people — as a leader, use them.
  6. Every great leader has a moral compass. Be sensitive to the people. As a leader, your job is the success of the enterprise, not your personal success.

Phil concluded that as a leader, once in a while you need to be alone and reflect on yourself as a leader. Reflect on how people perceive you as a leader. Are you leading in a good way or bad? Have you done your job well? Have you sincerely met the expectations of the people? Are you an effective leader?

The next speaker is Colleen Brown, CEO of Fisher Communications, on November 1. Learn more.

Emer Dooley TEDx video: Entrepreneurship education – an oxymoron?

University of Washington Foster School of Business lecturer and alumna Emer Dooley (MBA 1992, PhD 2000) recently gave a TEDx lecture on entrepreneurship. Her topic? Top five skills we can learn from entrepreneurs who build successful, enduring companies.

“That great business philosopher Confucius said, two thousand years ago, ‘What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. But what I do, I learn.’ And that’s what entrepreneurship education is all about,” says Dooley.

Watch the 17-minute video and catch lecture highlights below.

Top 5 skills  of a successful entrepreneur:

  1. Do something. Try something. Many successful entrepreneurs have been fired or let go from a former employer and have to act quickly to pay bills. So they start a business without having written a formal business plan, but have a sketch on the back of a napkin.
  2. Beg, borrow or convince people to give or loan resources. Entrepreneurs must figure out how to get resources, assistance and seed funding.
  3. Embrace surprise. Juggle the unexpected and shift gears quickly by seizing opportunities.
  4. Minimize the downside of risks. Great entrepreneurs do not take huge risks. They reside in a state of “heads I win, tails I don’t lose too much” in starting a new business.
  5. Be an effectual thinker. Through entrepreneurial education, emerging entrepreneurs learn to realize they are the pilot-in-command. They are running and starting a business and by trying a business idea out, they may fail. But they will learn from mistakes and can continue moving forward.

More entrepreneurship advice, insights from Emer Dooley’s TEDx lecture:

“Entrepreneurial thinking is a way of looking at and thinking about problems, but very much about doing something about problems.

“There’s this myth about entrepreneurship. Who pops into your brain? It’s Gates or Bezos or Richard Branson. But there is no one type of person that’s an entrepreneur. When I think about the characteristics of an entrepreneur, they can be incredibly gregarious. They can be really shy. They can be these big, big picture thinkers or they can be these obsessive control freaks.

“If you’re a loud-mouth like Ted Turner, it’s natural. You’ll start CNN. If you’re a geek and you’re afraid to approach girls directly, what are you going to do? Start Facebook. If the only way to be an entrepreneur was to be born one, Colonel Sanders would never have started Kentucky Fried Chicken when he was in his 60s and on Social Security.

“There’s the strategic approach or the entrepreneurial or affectual approach. An affectual entrepreneur is someone who thinks they can affect their own world. What can I do with the resources I have at hand? Not, what is the end goal and how do I get there?”

After 11 years of teaching entrepreneurship to UW business, engineering and computer science students, Emer Dooley now serves as strategic planner, board member and faculty advisor for the UW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Alumnus is Pirq-ing up the daily deals market

Maybe James Sun was never the hiring type.

More of a job creator, the 1999 BA graduate of the University of Washington Foster School of Business has been one busy entrepreneur since being the last contestant “fired” on national television by Donald Trump in the season six finale of “The Apprentice.”

Sun’s latest venture is Pirq, a clever twist on the buzzing “daily deal” industry that was pioneered by Groupon.

James Sun (Foster BA 1999) is a serial entrepreneurPirq’s innovation is a smart phone app that identifies instant deals offered by businesses—initially restaurants—near your location or destination. Simply activate the virtual coupon and redeem on the spot for up to 50% off the total bill. Instant gratification.

Sun says it’s a win-win. Customers pay no upfront charge, endure no waiting period, swallow no pre-purchased coupons that never get used. And businesses get the opportunity to offer more targeted deals and the flexibility to avoid being crushed by oversold daily deals.

“Pirq shifts the way we discover and get deals by letting our smart phones help us find instant, relevant savings wherever we are—in a way that benefits both consumers and businesses,” said Sun.

UW alumni exclusive deals

Pirq recently raised $2 million in venture capital funding and is expanding rapidly from its home market of Seattle. Sun, the company’s CEO, has been busy making exclusive partnerships with a variety of organizations. The newest is with the University of Washington Alumni Association, announced in May 2012.

UWAA members have only to enter their member number when downloading the free Pirq app to become eligible for exclusive offers unavailable to the general public. What’s more, Pirq will donate 10 percent of the proceeds from each member transaction to support the UWAA.

“Pirq is an innovative business founded by a UW alum, and it provides our members with relevant benefits they can access through their phones while generating support for the UWAA,” said UWAA executive director Paul Rucker, in an interview with GeekWire. “Members will absolutely enjoy saving money with Pirq and… we’re thrilled to be working with Pirq.”

Life after Trump

Given his adventures since “The Apprentice” wrapped, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that Sun would have been better off as a foot soldier in Trump’s gold-plated, real-estate empire.

After his televised dismissal, Sun leveraged his new-found celebrity to launch and host his own international TV show. “Sun Tzu: War on Business,” a co-production of the BBC, MediaCorp and CCTV, was broadcast in 20 nations across Asia in 2009-10. In each episode, Sun counseled motivated-but-struggling entrepreneurs on lessons from “The Art of War,” the iconic writings of the ancient Chinese general and philosopher Sun Tzu.

Returning to business of his own making, Sun founded GeoPage, a location-based search company that helps people find restaurants, hotels and attractions in their vicinity. GeoPage built the platform upon which Pirq now operates.

Sun also is an active angel investor and strategic advisor to a number of start-ups. He serves on the board of United Way of King County and the King County Scoutreach Program, as well as Seeyourimpact.org, an organization that solicits micro-donations to support children in the developing world.

Columns magazine recently named Sun one of the UW’s “Wondrous 100 Alumni,” and he recently judged the Foster School Business Plan Competition.