Spotlight on Leadership: Interview with David Friedman – Kellogg School of Management

This month we are delighted to share our interview with David Stuart Friedman from the Kellogg School of Management.  Thanks David for telling us about your experiences in working at the Kellogg School of Management and your thoughts on developing talent within the workplace for future generations . . . . .

1. How long have you worked at the Kellogg School of Management ?

I have worked at the Kellogg School of Management for 1 ½ yrs.

2. What is your background and how did you come to work with Kellogg?

The Kellogg School of Management is my third career.  I spent the first 15 yrs of my working life at McKinsey & Co working with lots of different clients, including pharmaceutical clients.   My second career also lasted about 15 yrs. I had my own training company, which focused on helping teach people who did not like selling, to sell.   At the end of this time, I was working on putting some of the key concepts online via a unique online community.  I visited the Kellogg School of Management to talk about what I was doing, and learned that they were looking for someone with a background in both client service and program design, and here I am.

3. What do you most enjoy about working at the Kellogg School of Management?

There are a couple of things which stand out.  People are really committed to helping themselves and others learn; everyone is really collaborative, working together to make great things happen.  The faculty is outstanding;  people are really smart.

4. What is the most challenging aspect of your role?

One of the most challenging things is trying to get the right people together to build a program in the right way and the right order.  The faculty schedules are so busy that it can be difficult to engage with people due to their other commitments; once we get started, it works out very well.

5. What is the most rewarding aspect of your role?

The most rewarding element of my role is making it work.  When a program runs the way it should.  To give an example, one of the programs I run “Leading into the Future” has a brilliant exercise at the end in the last session.  After a week of energy and enthusiasm it all comes together in this one exercise.  It is a very emotional experience for the attendees to see what they have learned.  It is great when course attendees go back to the companies enthused to use the content we have worked on and want to apply things now, to their business.  This is really rewarding.

6. Describe yourself in five words.

This is one of the most difficult questions.  Intellectually curious. Creative.  Supportive.  I am a Father. Growing (still lots to achieve).

7. How do you think the role of a senior leader has changed over the last 10 yrs?

The role of a senior leader has definitely changed over the last 10 years, it is more challenging both from a managerial and a strategic perspective.

Strategically, a senior leader has to work within a more digital and mobile environment; this allows, for example, new competitors to come into the market place more easily and quickly.  Everything is global – although that’s not really new, but companies and markets are more culturally diverse and as people are living longer, there are also lots of different age demographics to work with.

In addition, the boundaries between organizations are not as clear as they used to be.  Companies are working, for example, in different ways with customers, inviting them to participate in product design and customer service. Once they invite others in, the company can no longer control exactly what happens. An example of this is an online community which SAP set up, it has millions of members who post things and ask questions.  Some members started a “Doctors without borders” charity page, it has been set up in the SAP site.  This SAP community was set up by SAP for SAP, but yet others are using it in new ways; the boundaries are becoming blurred.

Managerially, senior leaders need to inspire people rather than control them.  And despite all of this they still need to be clear on what they need to focus on and how they guide others to achieve important goals.

8. In your opinion what are the characteristics of leaders of the future?

Leaders of the future need to be people who inspire (long term) vision and have the ability to link the job of the company with what is important to you as an individual.

They put other people first; the job of the leader is to support the people who deliver for the customer.

They listen to what’s happening around them to see what is important.  A famous example of this is Michael Dell, who was often reported to pick up the phone in their call centre to speak to clients and hear what they were saying.

They leave the company in a better state than when they found it to ensure the people that come up behind them succeed.

9. In your opinion do you think good leaders are born or nurtured?

A bit of both, but personally I am a nurtured fan.  I do think that there are natural tendencies of successful leaders but people can learn to behave differently.  People are so affected by others around them from their family to their first mentors within the work place.

10. What specific challenges do you think senior leaders face in the clinical research industry today?

Senior leaders face two kinds of challenges in the clinical research industry: strategic and executional.

Strategically, they have to be clear on what they are aiming for, how can they get the right treatments to market?  People power is another key strategic challenge, how do you find the right qualified people to do the jobs in the places that you need them as the clinical research efforts become more global.  Another challenge is responding to the public’s desire to know what was learned from all trials,  including the ones that did not work as well as the ones that did.

In execution, they face global coordination, quality and stakeholder management.  They need to control costs. Also though, senior leaders need to identify when products are not going to work; if you are going to fail, fail fast. 

11. Clinical research organizations operate globally, what do you think are the most important aspects for senior leaders in working in this environment?

There are a couple of key things to think about.  Firstly, sensitivity to the differences within a business and understanding the balance across different geographies, making sure everyone feels equal.  Finding ways to communicate, which includes both talking and listening. Listening, in particular, is very hard to do on a global scale; for example how can you listen to someone in Japan if you don’t speak Japanese. 

12. How does Kellogg prepare senior leaders for working within an international context?

We help prepare our senior leaders in a couple of ways.  First, they meet and work with their fellow participants, who are typically a diverse international group. Then, if students who join the course are working in an international environment, we try where possible to include information and examples from that environment.  In addition, regardless of where participants come from or are working, we teach using cases of businesses around the globe. We also include in many programs an update about the global economy, so everyone is clear on what is happening in this environment.  And if the program is aimed at a particular topic, we make sure we focus on the international aspects of the topic; for example, a course on leading teams would typically include sessions on cross-cultural teams and also virtual teams.

These ingredients and approaches help prepare participants to take their international perspective back to the work place and build within their own companies on what they have learned.

Many thanks to David for taking the time out to speak with us.

If you would like to know more about the IAOCR Kellogg Executive Program.  Please CLICK HERE to visit our website, email us or telephone  +44 1628 784906 (International) 01628 784906 (UK)  +1 855 407 6679 (US Toll Free).

About Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University
The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University develops brave leaders who inspire growth in people, organizations and markets.  Based just outside of Chicago, the school is a global leader in management education, renowned for its distinctive thought leadership and pioneering approach to learning.  Kellogg offers an innovative portfolio of programs: four Full-Time MBA programs including the accelerated One-Year MBA and Two-Year MBA options, and joint degree programs with the engineering and law schools; a Part-Time MBA Program; the premier Executive MBA global network; and extensive non-degree Executive Education programs.

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