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Next Year's Model

How does a business school help shape tomorrow's leaders? New dean at Claremont says it has to do with keeping the human element in mind.

June 08, 1998|MARTHA GROVES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

John C. "Jack" Shaw recently dropped out of the doctoral program at the Peter F. Drucker Graduate Management Center at Claremont Graduate University.

That's because the prestigious business school hired him as its dean.

Shaw, 64, brings four decades of experience in accounting, computing, consulting and teaching to the position. Among other jobs, he was executive vice president of WellPoint Health Networks Inc. and vice chairman of Deloitte & Touche Consulting Group. He also is a founder of Shaw Group, a consulting firm focusing on strategic corporate transformations.

He is a sought-after speaker and the author of five books, including "The Service Focus: Developing Winning Game Plans for Service Companies" (Dow Jones-Irwin, 1989).

Just three months into his deanship, Shaw talked recently about the state of leadership in corporate America.

Question: How does a business school teach students to be good leaders, given the changes occurring in the corporate world?

Answer: I distinguish between leadership and management. There is the hard science of management and then the soft human side--it's both a left- and a right-brain exercise. Most business schools teach the quantitative side. We try to say there's also a human side.

I think a lot of places can teach management, which is by now a fairly well-defined body of knowledge about how you break down tasks, organize around the task to be performed, delegate the responsibility and authority to get things done, and oversee the work. It is the model of the last 50 or maybe 100 years. That's the past.

You're asking a question about the future of leadership, which is the ability to understand the purpose of an organization over the long run. If you look at the kinds of perspectives that you want the leader of the future to have, it's about defining the purpose of the institution or enterprise. Why are we here? What's our purpose or mission? The role of the leader is to define the future. Here at Claremont, our concept is to link the creation of knowledge about leadership to the practice of management.

We're literally creating knowledge. [Claremont professor] Jean Lipman-Blumen's book "The Connective Edge: Leading in an Interdependent World" (Jossey-Bass, 1996) defines the role of the leader of the future. We created that "thoughtware," as I call it. Our basic purpose is to create knowledge and distribute that knowledge to the practitioners of management. Jean has now gone way out and developed something extraordinary that we now need to build courses around, to teach practicing managers the principles embodied in it.

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Q: How is this new world different?

A: The classic bureaucratic model is hierarchical, a command-and-control model that we've all disproved by now. Everybody reports to somebody else. Everybody has a boss. Authority and responsibility are delegated downward.

Jean's model is a flat organization where everyone is connected to everyone else. Knowledge workers perform the tasks or work with others in a connective way to get work done. There's no permanent relationship between any of us. You connect up when you need to connect up to get your work done.

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Q: In your view, what are some examples of good and bad leadership in corporate America today?

A: If you look at what [General Electric Co. Chief Executive] Jack Welch has done, that's the most obvious model [of a good leader]. He [set about] fixing an already successful company and establishing a whole new way of thinking about the businesses they're in.

That was the first phase. Now he's in the process of literally pushing the responsibility for all those businesses as far down as he possibly can. He has reinvented that company at least two or three times.

Hewlett-Packard Co. is another good example, an organization that is basically values-based. They've been able to change the organization a lot without killing the company. There is a fundamental HP way of doing things. Look at the opposite of that--Digital Equipment Corp. They lost the company because they weren't able to change.

IBM almost lost it until they were able to reconceptualize and build a new way of thinking about their organization, without throwing out the baby [the company's mainframe business] with the bathwater. I'm staying away from the word "vision" here [because] I don't think it changed a lot. But they really did recognize the drivers of the new industry they were in, particularly the Internet and the whole connective nature of information.

Sears, Roebuck & Co. went to the brink and, with new leadership [Chairman Arthur Martinez, formerly of Saks Fifth Avenue], has . . . gone back to a customer focus, transitioning from a product and distribution company. The jury is out. Everybody has to perform over the long run, but they certainly have gotten it back on track again.

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Q: How would you characterize the leadership ability of Albert Dunlap, the turnaround CEO who heads Sunbeam Corp. and has been nicknamed "Chainsaw Al" for his tendency to whack payroll?

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