Exploring the future of collaborative, values-driven management

Prevailing ideas about successful leaders used to focus on intrinsic characteristics. You were either born a confident, hard-charging outlier or you weren’t. 

Today, business educators understand that leadership can be learned. Companies also recognize that diverse and collaborative leaders position their organizations for greater success in a world of constant change and global competition.

“The high-level trend about leadership is a change in the power of the leader,” observed Sung Soo Kim, Daniels assistant professor of management, who studies values-based management, leadership and employee engagement. “One leader can’t know everything in a global environment. The overall trend is more shared leadership. Any member of a team has to take the role of leader in different situations and on any given topic.”

Corporate leaders at every level face a dizzying future. In addition to globalization and intergenerational workplaces, accelerating automation is creating vast opportunities as well as confusion, ethical concerns and uncertainty. Political and social pressures, too, are causing tectonic shifts across industries that are challenging the most lucid and aware leaders to rethink the very nature of business. Companies aren’t eliminating profit as a reason for being. Rather they are considering how to be good citizens in their own ecosystems and in the larger world. 

According to Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report, “When CEOs were asked to rate their most important measure of success in 2019, the number one issue they cited was ‘impact on society including income inequality, diversity and the environment.’” The report, “Leading the Social Enterprise: Reinvent with a Human Focus,” discusses the rise of the social enterprise. Organizations are extending their corporate responsibility beyond mere philanthropy to integrate their values throughout the enterprise—and beyond—in ways employees and other stakeholders can embrace. 

Alumni Perspectives

Nicole Schlatter (MSM 2019), a sales development representative at Marketo, described the digital marketing software company’s leadership as engaged, accessible and interested. She’s confident she can realize her purpose as a manager in the organization by helping others achieve their goals. 

“The leadership in this organization is incredible,” Schlatter said, “from the support employees get as people to the benefits to everything else. That’s why I chose this company. My eyes were opened to the values of appreciating and knowing the employee.” Aligning personal values with purpose-driven careers is especially important to millennials and Generation Z. 

As Eamon Twomey’s career progressed and he grew personally and professionally, Twomey (MBA 2011) also realized he wanted to be part of a company that shared his values. At Charles Schwab, where Twomey is a senior vice president of operational services, company values center on putting the client first. 

The question “Will it be in the best interest of the client?” both informs and streamlines company decisions, and imparts a shared sense of purpose because having client interests at heart means that “big-picture” employees are empowering customers to take charge of their financial lives. Leading, then, in part becomes an exercise in motivating employees by connecting the dots from their values and goals to company strategy. 

In October 2019, Charles Schwab made a major values-based move by being the first big online broker to cut trading commissions to zero. “Since Schwab’s founding, the goal has been to make investing easier and more affordable for everyone. The time was right to make this decision that benefits our clients,” Twomey explained.

Preparing Leaders for the Future

To prepare leaders for challenges that range from the mind-boggling capabilities of artificial intelligence to retaining top talent while living and working in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world, Daniels has infused ethics and values throughout its curricula, while also offering young managers global, hands-on experiences. “We get them to think through their ideal self, their legacy and what they want to leave behind, and what they need to develop to reach those goals,” explained Assistant Professor of Management Andrew Schnackenberg. 

The Master of Science in Management program helped Schlatter transform her personal vision from vague to being firmly rooted in organizational leadership. “At Daniels, I learned that I consider myself a leader,” she said. 

“Growing up, I thought the leader was the loudest person in the room. But I have a way with people and a great capability of knowing people on a deeper level, which is important to effective leadership.”

The agile, emotionally intelligent leader knows the profound value of human beings. That leader understands that to move faster, smarter and across complex international channels means listening hard to leaders at every level of the organization.

“We are really trying to teach how to do teamwork well,” Kim explained. “It’s a necessity because the problems will be very complicated for one person to solve, and students know it.”