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Dean Blount's Blog

 

One Year Later: Reflecting Back, Looking Forward
July 15, 2011

 
  Dean Blount marks her first anniversary.
   

I’m sitting on a rocky ledge on a small island a few miles off the coast of northern New England. Coming to the island has been a time for regrouping. I have caught up on sleep, spent time with old friends, enjoyed homemade bread, good wine and great views, and taken many walks. Between the salt air and the days full of exercise and laughter, it’s been a great time to recharge.

It’s also provided me with time to reflect on all that has happened in the past year. It has been incredibly enlightening time. I have learned a lot about Kellogg and what makes a Kellogg leader. And I have gained even more confidence and conviction in what we stand for and why it matters.

Stakes high, opportunities great

Without a doubt, the highs of this year have come from the amazing people I’ve met in Chicago, Evanston, and around the world — our faculty, students, administrators, alumni and other Kellogg supporters, of whom there are many. The passion and enthusiasm that people feel for Kellogg is truly infectious.

It’s also been tremendously rewarding to put a new organizational structure in place and recruit incredibly talented senior team members, from both within and outside Kellogg, who are committed to working with me as we set Kellogg’s trajectory for the future.

The hardest — but very important — work has come in gathering and processing vast amounts of data, spending hours listening and integrating perspectives across many different stakeholder groups, and investing in earning the trust of those who care about Kellogg and its future.

Given the current competitive environment within business education and higher education, the stakes are high. Under my watch, Kellogg has to reenvision itself in light of the 21st century’s challenges and opportunities — strategically, operationally, even as a brand. But these are challenges that I and the entire Kellogg leadership team relish. With such a broad year-one portfolio, we’ve all become more decisive leaders and decision makers. My watchwords for our team meetings are strategize, leverage, delegate and communicate.

Thinking bravely, the Kellogg way

One of our big recent decisions involved the tagline for Kellogg’s advertising campaign: “Think Bravely.” This campaign is the culmination of many months of planning, research and creative development by Kellogg’s Marketing & Communications group. And along the way, we have had the benefit of tapping into some of the great faculty minds from our Marketing Department and Kellogg alumni leaders who advance the craft of marketing every day.

As I reflect on this past year, I am reminded that this is so much more than a phrase. “Think Bravely” speaks to a great legacy, a great future and a great community. It speaks to what it means to be a Kellogg leader, and as Kellogg’s leader, it speaks to me about what it means to rightly guide our organization. Over the past year, I have had to think bravely as we have chosen to set aggressive strategic and fundraising agendas; pushed ourselves to think more broadly about business education and Kellogg’s role in it; and put myself forward every day expressing distinct opinions, views and beliefs.

I have come to understand that, in business, thinking bravely means that you are willing to challenge the status quo and take a stand on something in an unexpected or non-traditional way because you believe that change really matters. You believe that meaning matters. Thinking bravely is about achieving personal clarity, stating it publicly with conviction and accepting the risks and vulnerability that come with that. It means having the fortitude to push for change, forge the strong partnerships needed to make change happen, find the humility to adjust your approach if needed, and yet still be ready to make the hard decisions through to the end. Net-net, it means believing that business can be bravely led, passionately collaborative and world-changing.

This is what the 21st century needs. This is what Kellogg stands for. And this is what we, as Kellogg leaders, can contribute to the world.

I welcome your comments, feedback and ideas at sallyblount@kellogg.northwestern.edu

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