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“You want to know your facts and have the right people in the room," said U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who delivered the keynote address during Leadership Week. "You need to know who you’re talking to and get the strategy right.”

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who delivered the keynote address during Leadership Week

Leadership Week 2012

When the stakes are high, don’t shy away from bold action, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky says

By Daniel P. Smith

5/8/2012 - In Washington, D.C., action is driven by compromise.

Success in that arena — and elsewhere — requires an understanding of policy, politics and interpersonal skills, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky told Kellogg students April 30.

“You want to know your facts and have the right people in the room,” said Schakowsky, who represents Illinois’ 9th District. “You need to know who you’re talking to and get the strategy right.”

Schakowsky offered her thoughts — as applicable to the boardroom as to Capitol Hill — to more than 100 students gathered at the Donald P. Jacobs Center for the start of Kellogg’s second annual Leadership Week.

Advancing leadership skills
From speakers to workshops to peer coaching, Leadership Week featured a range of events that aimed to advance students’ leadership skills in areas such as team building, vision and strategy, communication and leading change.

While Schakowsky’s hour-long program kicked off the week’s festivities, other events included:

  • Advice from Nik Bafana, senior director of purchasing at Grainger, on how leaders can influence and expedite
  • A “flash case” focusing on high-impact, tactical and organizational leadership during a time of crisis facilitated by Don Patton, former president of U.S. Nutrition at Abbott
  • Workshops on difficult conversations, leadership reflection and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
  • A presentation by GPlus.com senior vice president and general manager Jessica Hunt on the leadership efforts to launch GPlus
  • Techniques for better meeting management with Kjirsten Mickesh of General Mills
  • An interactive leadership competition

Leading in Washington
Over the course of her dozen years in office, the Evanston-based Schakowsky has emerged as a key Democratic leader in the House.

In 2010, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed Schakowsky to the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to examine the short- and long-term effects of the nation’s federal deficit.

Schakowsky told students that the 18-member team discussed potential deficit-denting solutions in a rather collegial environment before a sudden and unexpected decision to release the commission’s initial proposal pushed Schakowsky to action.

Opposing the plan offered by co-chairs Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, Schakowsky unveiled her own approach, which she argued addressed the growing issue of income disparity while meeting or exceeding President Obama’s fiscal objectives.

“The purpose of offering my plan was not to change the Bowles-Simpson draft, but to show that there was another way,” Schakowsky said. Leaders, she said, must be willing to embrace bold action when the “stakes are extremely high.”

Further reading
Bringing leadership lessons to life

Lessons in leadership

Principles of ‘value-based leadership’