George Talks Business - Thomas LeBlanc
Good. Evening to all of us who are in the in the room here and all of us who are watching online I, am Anuj Matra and the Dean of the School of Business at George Washington, University, and I'm delighted to bring in to welcome you to this inaugural, session of an exciting, new initiative, called George. Talks business our, goal, is to bring you conversations. With interesting, people on interesting. Timely topics including, technology ethics. Global. Perspective, and leadership. And I can think of no better person to launch, this George talks business than our own president, Tom LeBlanc the 17th, president of George Washington University, President, Leblon thank you for being with us tonight it's, my pleasure thank you for having them thank you and, speaking, of leadership by the way let me just jump right into the first question, president. LeBlanc what are some of the characteristics, that you think are important, in leaders and how you use them to mold your own leadership style. Well. Let me start by saying I never took a course in leadership and I know that business schools often have leadership courses it's one of the reasons I call myself the accidental, president, it. Was too busy doing computer, science and teaching, and doing research to practice to be a president, so, I don't profess to have, studied, leadership, but I but I've read about great leaders and. I try to model some of the things that I've read about those great leaders I'm currently reading the biographies, of Simon. Bolivar and Alexander. Hamilton and those. Two individuals, had a great impact on this hemisphere and. I'm learning some lessons from reading about it but, let me talk about leadership, particularly in higher education because, I have spent my whole life in higher education it's something I know a lot about and. I would start with particular. In higher education I, think leaders need to exhibit integrity. People. Nowadays, need, to know that, whoever is in a leadership role has. Got the best interest of the organization at. Heart is honest, in their dealings with people so. I would start with integrity. Then. I would add empathy.
Universities. Attract people from, all different. Parts of the world all different background, experiences, if, you don't have empathy you won't be able to connect with the students you won't be able to connect with the faculty, and you can't connect with different. Kinds of disciplines, so, I think empathy is really important. From. The beginning I've always thought that transparency. Was important. Universities. Are not a command, and control environment. People. One. Of them one of the great quotes from our board chair is, the prerequisite. For leadership, is followers, and. In higher education you can't tell anybody to follow you you have to convince them to follow you and, so I think that requires a degree of, transparency. And clarity that. Is often lacking you have to explain your. Decision, you have to explain your decision-making I think, you have to be consultative. It's. One of the reasons why I spend, a lot of time meeting with students and faculty groups, just before this I spent an hour and a half with a group of students and talked. About whatever they wanted to talk about but. They let me have it, issues, that we're, doing well and things we're not doing so well and areas that need improvement. So an ability to listen and be consultative. I think, is also important, and a, willingness to make decisions, in, the end if you're not making decisions the organization, isn't moving forward, and you, create vacuums, and people fill those vacuums, and it results, in chaos, so. I think those are some of the attributes that I personally, have tried to focus on I, can't, say I'm successful, every single day but it's certainly my goal and. Ultimately the. Feedback that I get is people really appreciate, a, leader, who's consultative. And transparent. And it's clear that's willing to make decisions so. That's great I think those are characteristics, not just for personal leadership but also for building GWS, reputation, and speaking. Of GWS reputation, what, are some of the unique opportunities. That you feel are there and what makes GW, special, now that you've spent some time here. Well. I think the thing that everybody, understands. About GW, is the role our location, plays in defining, what we do the kinds of students we attract the kinds of the faculty we attract, Washington. DC is an incredible, city and not. Just because it's got great, museums, and wonderful restaurants. And it houses government, it's the combination of all those things. We call it the most consequential, 64. Square miles in the world and our. Students, come here in large part to be a part of that they. Come here for the internship opportunities. That are present here in the city they come here for the unique educational, opportunities, that are present the city and to, be a part of the dynamic, of being in, the capital of this country and that. Attracts. A certain kind of student and I see it I've been at four, five different universities. In my life the, GW, student is really unique they. Came, here to change the world and you. Can see it in the things they study the internships, they take on I want. To just give you a couple of examples because, I think they're representative. Of my regular, interactions, with students, very. Early on when I was meeting with students, I became, aware of the fact that we don't have any good kosher food options, on campus and, one. Day I was out walking with my wife and it was early so all the students were in bed except. For one there was a young woman standing, in front of Thurston hall and, I happened to notice there was a food truck parked there and it was a kosher food truck and I. Started talking and I said you know they told me there's no kosher food options and here's a kosher food truck and she said yeah that's my kosher, food truck I'm, the one who saw there were no Pro sure food options and I went out and I got some financial, backing and I created that food truck and here's, an app where you can track the food truck and know when it will be in your part of the campus for you to get kosher food I told, her I'm committed, to solving the kosher food problem, on campus and will.
Bother Her if I put her out of business and she looked at me and she smiled and she said I invite the competition. That. Is a classic. GW. Student more, recently, a couple. Of students, came to see me two young women with, their business idea and. It's. A company called last call and I believe it goes live in February, and everybody. I tell this idea to says why didn't I think of that it's a great idea here's. What it is it's an app and not you sign up for the app and in, the last hour of business, at, a restaurant, that serves fresh foods they, offer their meals half-price because. They were going to throw it out anyway and so. The restaurant, sells at half price they've had to throw out students. Get half-price high, quality, meals and, we. Create a more sustainable, ecosystem. For food here on our campus now, is that a GW. Student idea or what as soon as I heard that idea I said this is great, what's, the barrier will. The restaurant sign up they. Said one of the first restaurants they got to sign up was beefsteak, which I love it's healthy, it's. Good food it's right on campus and, so, when, I had talked to them they were still just getting restaurants, to sign up but you can imagine if enough restaurants sign up it's, a great idea it's great business, it's great for our students it's great for our ecosystem. And it's, great for the sustainability. I don't, know why every, college campus doesn't have an app like that but, they don't have students like we do that's. Great I think that bodes really well for our entrepreneurial, entrepreneurial. Spirit and our students and I must admit I have also been impressed with so many students who are so active and with all the clubs that we have in the School of Business alone, and the University why they have been very impressive and. And, I think based, on that I mean thinking about how the, landscape, for higher education is changing with. Keeping student interests in mind which is one of your passions that you have actually, very very clearly stated, what are some of the trends that we are following in terms of how to put GW, at the cutting edge of Education. Higher education, so. There is a lot going on in higher education, it looks like nothing, changes, the building's all look similar there's, still a bunch of professors, wandering around and we're here 20 years ago but, there's actually a lot going on in higher education and, I'm focusing, on on four trends. That I think are particularly critical. The. First one is online education and. Here. Is a place where GW is, already, leading, unbeknownst. To many people, we have 6,000. Students online today out of the 28,000. Total students here at the University, we. Just did a review of some of our online programs, they. Got outstanding marks. For the quality education that we're providing from. Both the students, and from outside creditors. So. There's an example of where we.
Have Been active, for some time even at the national level our program, in public. Health is the, one program, supported, by to you as the national model for public health education online, so, we we've got a strong presence, there a growing, presence and I think that will continue to grow. Here at GW the. The, second one is the. Importance. Of graduate. Degrees. Thirty. Forty years ago when a lot of people didn't go to college the college degree differentiated. In the marketplace, today. With many more students going to college the, differentiators, the graduate degree typically, the master's degree and what, we're seeing in certain. Organizations. For example I'm, a computer, scientist computer engineer, and in, the engineering, disciplines more and more to be certified, as an engineer, will require a master's degree and that, was not historically, true so, in many fields, now the differentiators. Of the master's degree and this, is an area again where GW has been leading we have something, like 240, programs, at the graduate level we. Have a lot of professional master's, degree we've been doing nine, programs for working professionals we've. Been doing part-time programs, for working professionals we. Currently have at our university. Somewhere. Between 16. And 18 thousand. Graduate, students the vast majority of which are doing master's, degrees so, we're already leading in that dimension and I think we will continue to grow at. The graduate level as well, the. Third area that's really, interesting, is the, modularization, of education. Universities. Have been criticised for not accepting credit, hours from other institutions. And forcing. Students to basically, take one. Big program called, the degree where. As more and more especially as you get into the graduate, level there. Needs to be a modular, ization and there needs to be just in time delivery and, I know I'm speaking to a business, and community. So you're comfortable with these, phrases I don't, want to go to school, and learn everything I will ever need in life when. I'm young and then try to remember it for the rest of my life particularly. In the business community why can't I go and learn about accounting, when I need to know about accounting, why can't I learn about finance when I need to know about finance, so, the modulation. Of Higher Education can. Be at the graduate, level but it can also be at the undergraduate. You can have a major in one field and get certificates, in two or three other fields, that again will differentiate you in the marketplace the. Problem. Has been is that historically, our curricula, is not defined that way it's it's all-you-can-eat of, one, discipline, and that's how we've defined it but, more and more we're going to see certificates. We. All have traditionally, had minors what we see at GW, is students, take multiple, majors and multiple minors and so, they're already kind of building an overall educational. Structure, around, those pieces but, with certificates. Or three course sequences, they can add to their skill set and then, at the graduate, level I know you're thinking about this particularly. For business you, can start to put together degrees. Out of pieces and you don't have to take the whole degree at once I always. Thought it was odd that particularly, business schools for a very long time the, model of business education was, get, an undergraduate, degree and, then, go into the workforce and gain experience maybe, five years of experience once.
You Have some experience, set. All of that aside your. Family, your mortgage, other commitments, you've made and all that time set that all aside give. Us a lot of money and come, spend full-time getting an MBA and, we. Will give you the next step of knowledge that you need for the rest of your life and that. Model is breaking down people, can't afford to pause at age 27, and 28 and go back to the MBA and they, might say I need, this, part of my business education, right now and later, on as I progress in my career I need another part so modular ization and just-in-time delivery, of education I think are going to be critical as well and then. The fourth, trend. Which is happening in our world whether, we like it or not is the. The, growing role of. Quantitative. Analysis, and technology and this, is the whole role around data analytics, artificial. Intelligence, as a computer, scientist, I sometimes feel guilty, about talking, about this because I feel like I'm pushing my own agenda but then, when I go and I talk with school districts, and they say we need artificial, intelligence, in the high school curriculum or we, need to introduce every, student to deep learning or every. Student has to have two courses and data analytics, you. Start to realize that. The role of Technology. And the. Role of data is now, dominating, our lives and, in, fact the great generational. Divide today is between those that have been raised in this world and those that have not and. They're having a hard time talking to each other and communicating, and even understanding, each other and so, I think that's the fourth great trend and here. This is another area where I have great interest. Here. At GW one, of the things we've recently introduced, in the School of Engineering I, love them for is we're. Offering Python for everybody, and I, think it's called Python for everybody, and. The, idea is if. Python is a computer, programming language if you're not aware of that and the idea is whatever, your field is you. Will benefit from knowing something, about programming, and something about Python whether you're in art. Traditional. Humanities, science. Whatever your field is you will benefit from that we'll. Also have. Introduced, a number of courses, and programs. Around data science we're, starting, to bring all of those together into, a single university-wide. Initiative, around data science again, whatever your field is data. Is becoming more and more the differentiator. Between. Information. And knowledge and people, who are trafficking, an anecdote, and rumor and we. Want to make sure our students are trained to be able to be the ones that are dealing. With facts and information, so, I would say those are four big trends, and in each case, GW. Is trying to get out in front I think this what you've just said probably, resonates, extremely, well with the faculty in the audience and others here, with. Respect to online education I think yesterday I was in the first ever online happy, hour by the way that. We had and it was a huge success with lots of alumni and and students, being able to network in two small rooms that they could be facilitated, through Blackboard. Collaborate I, think we have done very well as a school, in online education but, even, more interesting that, you point out which is the certificates, that you're talking about for at the graduate, level I think we right now have more than 25 certificates, and our goal of course is to use that modularity, to be able for our students to knit together these certificates for extreme customization. And flexibility, as we go in the future and that, helps us also potentially, to be able to give.
The Flexibility. And customization and. Anticipate, the needs of the future because higher education, has been changing, which. Brings it another point this also online education, as you're talking about at the graduate level also, increases. More access, globally, and of course GW, is got a lot of global reach and we, have a lot of international students, who have submitted many questions, for, for from their perspective, and how. Do you think GW, is best preparing, international, students, and what what what kind of a message would you have for the international, students on how they contribute, to the global reach for GW. So. I come at Global, Education from, a particular perspective, when. I was in high school I had the opportunity to a study abroad for a year and, I'm. Still amazed my parents let me do it I was 16 years old and I got on a plane for the first time and I, flew to the interior, of Brazil and spent a year in a city Belo Horizonte and, the capital of Minas Gerais. Had. To learn Portuguese from scratch went, to school with but as Laros I learned, to love the people the culture the food the language music. Every aspect of it and. It. Was a real, transformative. Experience, for me and one. Of the most important, parts was it gives me tremendous empathy, for, international, students, who drop, everything back home pick. Up and come to the u.s. sometimes, with weak language, skills I did. Not speak a word of Portuguese, when I got on that plane. And. They. Come here and they. Study. They. Have to compete in classes, with students who spent their whole life speaking English who understand the culture of the place so I go, back to my point about empathy, one. Of the things I do. Is sensitize. Everyone, to be empathic, about, our international, students because, they make us a better University, having. Those students, here makes us a better University I will, never forget, my first trip, to China and. Watching. How that country, was developing, and the pace at which it was developing, and I, said to my colleague, this, is the most important, story of the next 100, years how. Are we going to make sure every, student at our university, is exposed to that and for. Me if you, can't go to China have, a Chinese roommate, that's, the answer to the question if you can't go to China have, a Chinese roommate because, you will learn things about the, culture the language the. People the. Geography, the politics, the economics, that you could never learn otherwise, every. Chinese student on this campus enriches. This university by bringing their unique experiences. Living there coming. Here and it's not unique obviously to China I mentioned, China because, it really is because. Of their scale it. Really is the story of the century, Chinese. Development, is defining. Economics. It's defining, a resource, usage it's defining many aspects, of the world economy today, so. I my. First message is they enrich our University, my second message is the, empathic, imagine. If we dropped you in the middle of China how, you might get along and. Then. I want to make sure that we do everything we can to support them so that they have a very positive experience here, so. What I've said to folks if you ever see a student, who, looks like they don't know, where they are and they look different from you stop. And say hello just ask me if you can help you'll make a friend for life and it's. Good to have friends all around the world because, more. And more. Business. Is global. Business if you're, not understanding. What's going on out there in the world you're not really going to be competitive in business and college. And the relationships, that are formed there one of the great ways to create that understanding, that's.
Great I think as you point out all business, is becoming global. And international, business and I think one of the things that we have today by the way right after just. Following this particular George Fox Business session, is to, celebrate the 10th year anniversary for a consulting, abroad program, which is a program, where our MBA, students, are, actually. Working on, consulting, assignments, with, multinationals. And international. Companies and they, have had this defining experience, for the last 10 years because it's a required class for them and then there are some of course who are actually, electing, to take a second, experience, of that kind so that's been a very good program for us which has defined their experience, at GW, yes. Another program, at the business schools you will know we. Have a program that's a joint effort with the, IFC and the Milken Institute. To, help developing, countries build. Capital markets, in their home countries, and the, way they do that is each. Country, selects, probably. Mid-career, folks, probably in their 30s to. Come for a year leaving their family behind their, world behind come. To GW they spend the first six months in coursework here in the business school learning, about capital, markets and then, they spend the last six months in internships. At the World Bank the. IMF. Possibly. Capital. Market creators here in the US it's. An incredibly. Unique opportunity. For those individuals. To learn about capital, markets but it's incredible, opportunity for us to learn from them, about their countries, and I like to refer to every one of them as future alumni because. 20, years from now they, are likely the. Finance ministers, of these countries spread around the world and they all will have an experience from, GW, that they'll never forget so, that's another example of a program that, brings incredible, value, to our university, takes. Advantage, of the expertise, of the business school but, also takes. Advantage of the opportunity, for all of us to learn from these incredibly, bright individuals, from other countries yeah, and thank, you and that you've, mentioned alumni, in this program and I think we have a lot of alumni of course Business School alone has 55,000, alumni and then. I have traveled, and of course a lot of alumni of watching today who have submitted this question as well they. Often ask me how can we help what can we do and I, would love to hear your thoughts and some message for those alumni who are asking how can we help, so. First of all we. Are as strong as our alumni network, so. Alumni are critical, to the overall strength of University I love, it when alums, come up to me and say thank you for increasing, the value of my degree by, creating a university, I couldn't get in to. Think. About that so, there, are a lot of ways alumni, can be involved first and foremost we're always looking for great students, you're, on the ground in your community, help, us find those great students, you, can recommend them you can talk up GW, help, us find and enroll great, students. Second, of all an important part our mission is to help our students get jobs many. Of our alums are in the business of hiring people either, directly in their company or making recommendations. Help. Our students get jobs or internships in, your company, they, will make you look good because, these.
Students, Are really talented they, want to change the world, there'll be an asset to your company, third. Thing you can do is talk, up GW, in your community, this. Is a fabulous, place, I can. Say that without taking personal credit because I'm so new so I'm. Referring to the work of the generations. That came before us this, is a fabulous, place and we don't talk about that enough you in. Your communities, wherever, you are can. Talk about GW, I will tell you too little just brief, anecdotes, first, of all I was talking with an international student, and he. Said I asked, him why are you at GW, he, said around the world the. Best universities. In any country are located, in the capital, you're. Named after your first president, I know you're the best university, in the United States. Now. You. Could debate whether, we're, number one or number three, but. In his mind, we're number one and we, need to understand, there are a lot of people who look at this institution, and see the great things that we've done historically. The. Other anecdote, is the farther away you get from Washington, DC the. Higher people tend to be on GW, we, get caught up in the the, the local DC, politics. And universities. That are located six blocks away on a national, scale we've, got a very strong reputation and, if. You're in your community, talking, up GW, then. That. Will take a bit of that reputation glow, and I'll expand, it it will also enhance your degree because. Eventually more. And more people will realize how good a place this is and when you say I'm from, GW, I think, everybody will start to take a little bit of notice and and that's valuable to you and. Then of course come. Back be, involved, there, are advisory. Councils, I know, the business school has at least one maybe more with. Specializations. It, gives you an opportunity to see the university, the before, your eyes you can come back and hear about new programs that are being developed you can meet some of the students that are here the faculty that are here so, it stays very current, and then, you can take all of that information back, to your community so join one of the council's become involved as, an alum become. A part of the network, our alumni network, can be incredibly valuable if we could marshal the, people that are in it I was, just looking through some data about some of the folks that are associated with GW, it's, incredible, every. Time there's a news story there's a GW, angle the. Fellow who has just been declared the legitimate, president of Venezuela, of course is a GW, I mean. Every, single story, there's, a GW, connection we need to make sure everybody, knows that and takes pride in that fact great, let. Me ask you one final question president, LeBlanc this has been something that alumni, who have submitted it want to know more about what you're thinking through, what you are reading or what you might recommend that they should read. So. At any moment in time I keep three or four books on my end table if I get bored with one I shift to another one I come back so I already mentioned I'm, reading the, biography of Simon Bolivar. Fascinating. Guy, and. It, tells you a lot about how, cruel the, Spanish Empire was and why, he decided the Spanish Empire has to go in this continent so, I'm reading that one I'm reading. Ron, chernow as Alexander. Hamilton, partly. Because it, inspired. The great musical. Partly. Because it's a great book and partly because Ron chernow is coming as a special. Speaker in a month and I got to finish it before he gets here so, I've moved that one up to the top of my list but. There's a few other books that I turn to now and then because they've been so, influential, my thinking, and I'll just mention a few of them one. Of them is Guns, Germs and, Steel by, Jared Diamond if you, if you've never read that book I highly recommend, it the.
Basic, Question in the book is how come Europeans, got in ships came to the new world basically. Killed everybody and took over how. Come the people on this continent didn't get in ships and go to Europe and kill everybody and take over and, the. Answer, is and, I, don't want to ruin the story for you but basically the answer is Europe, looks like, and this, hemisphere, looks like this but. It's a fascinating look, at the, biology, the. Plant life the animal life and so on on the different continents and how its supported development and so on so I really recommend that one another. One I really recommend, is Thinking Fast and Slow Daniel. Kahneman who won the Nobel, Prize in Economics for, his development of. Behavioral. Economics, it's. A great book because it shows how humans, are predictably, irrational, we'd. Like to think we're rational, the whole field of economics, starts with the assumption, that we're rational, and Daniel. Kahneman and and his colleague. Amos Tversky showed, that we're predictably, irrational all, the time, and if you've ever worked with college students you'll see that there's great wisdom in that movie and, then, the. The other one that I've just finished it's a fairly recent book there, are a lot of books that tell you about this the study of economics, and how it's important and valuable in everyday life this, is the first book I've come across that describes, the value of computer science, in everyday life and being, a computer scientist, I sort of thought that was valuable so, it looks at the last 50 years of research in computer science and takes the major results, and show how you can use them in living. Your life for example we, can tell you how to optimally, organize, your sock drawer. It. Turns out that can be important, the one that the students, on campus, love is we can tell you how to optimally, find a spouse. They. So there, are all sorts of algorithms that were developed in the field of computer science over the last 50 years it's. It's something like computing, and everyday living and it's, the first book of its kind that I saw so I can recommend that one as well well, thank you very much president LeBlanc, for this conversation it has been a lot of fun thank, you all in the audience as well for being here for the inaugural session and. If you are watching online, I. Also. Want to invite you to every, week we are going to be hosting this Josh hogs business either at noon or at 6:00 p.m. please. Check our website for, the speaker, series here, that that we have already put some forth, for the spring semester at. Least through the month of March already the next speaker, is mr. Dave Zeljko and he has published this book called, irrational, persistence. He is the CEO of fuel' leadership, and was also the former. Vice chairman of garden-fresh, and he, his, book is on seven secrets, that turned a bankrupt, startup into, a 231. Million dollar business so we look forward to seeing you next week and for, the following weeks thank you again very much.