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Hudson Highland Group Chairman Donald Bielinski '96 met with students April 26 as part of the Kellogg Executive Leader in Residence initiative.

Talking talent

Executive Leader in Residence initiative lets Hudson chairman Bielinski share insights with Kellogg students

By Aubrey Henretty

5/2/2007 -

 According to Donald Bielinski ’96, a manager’s passion should be constant and contagious.

“Early in my career, my passion was very simple,” he said. “I wanted to be on the steep slope of the learning curve.” But it is not enough to be passionate about one’s work, said Bielinski. A good leader must exude passion and find ways to induce it in others.

Bielinski, the Kellogg School’s latest Executive Leader in Residence, is chairman of the Asia Pacific and Human Capital Solutions divisions of Hudson Highland Group, a talent development firm with offices around the world. Six students interested in global leadership and international markets met with the executive on April 26 in a private dining room at the James L. Allen Center. Bielinski, a Kellogg graduate who is the former president and CEO of technology services firm Exostar as well as former senior executive at facilities maintenance supplier W.W. Grainger, also met with other students earlier in the day for a similar informal but informational leadership discussion.

According to Clinical Associate Professor of Management and Organizations Michelle Buck, the Kellogg School’s director of leadership initiatives, the Executive Leader in Residence Program is designed to give students unprecedented access to distinguished leaders through small group discussions, lunches and one-on-one meetings. “Sometimes students ask for career advice unique to their own plans, and other times they ask the visitor questions about their path, their leadership experience, and what they've learned along the way,” said Buck, who is also associate director of the Kellogg Executive Education Program. “This is a program that complements the Kellogg academic experience by being able to hear from others what they have already learned through experience.”

The discussion between Bielinski and the students was lively. Though topics ranged from various styles of e-mail greetings around the world to the possible effects of gender on management style, Bielinski frequently emphasized the importance of developing the talents of one’s colleagues — even while navigating the fast track to a promotion. “The first thing I would do was find my successor, and that really got me into the people-development mode.” With a well-groomed successor at the ready, Bielinski said, the higher-ups won’t be so reluctant to move a great worker into a better job.

When one student asked how a green executive might balance the need to develop employees with other pressing managerial tasks — such as “putting out fires” — Bielinski did not miss a beat.

“The people who really succeed in life put the people-development side first,” he said. “That’s the must-do. That’s the fire you’ve got to put out.”