Kellogg World Alumni Magazine Spring 2006Kellogg School of Management
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Letter from the Dean
Theory: A delicate balance of self-confidence and humility defines true leaders
Practice: A student leader reflects on lessons learned
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  Nathan Lucht
  Nathan Lucht '06
Read what Professor Harry Jansen Kraemer Jr. says about the theory behind this practice

Practice: A student leader reflects on lessons learned

By Nathan Lucht '06

Upon beginning my Kellogg School experience, I fully expected to receive an exemplary education in business fundamentals: strategy, finance, marketing and accounting.  I knew Kellogg would teach me both the theory and practice so that I could apply this learning in my career.

An unexpected bonus was discovering the array of formal leadership training opportunities that Kellogg offers.

Beginning with the first-year Pre-Term course, Leadership in Organizations, and continuing with many classes offered through the Management and Strategy, Management and Organizations and Social Enterprise at Kellogg majors, we are taught the skills to embody the Kellogg School mission of developing socially responsible global leaders.

Learning the theories and best practices of successful management and leadership is critical; however, practical experiences are equally valuable. The two are actually inseparable complements, and Kellogg offers an abundance of both.

Last year, I was fortunate to be elected president of the Kellogg Student Association, the school's student government. This experience leading an executive team of six and the broader KSA board of 25 people has proven an invaluable opportunity to apply in real-time the classroom skills I've learned. I've leveraged these theoretical frameworks in practical ways as I sought to choose the right people with whom to form the executive committee, learned how to motivate a large team, and managed the myriad issues and opportunities any student government faces.

Professor Harry Kraemer's Managerial Leadership taught me that firmly establishing values, then getting the right people "on the bus" and developing those people, are essential for any successful leader.  These insights were important for me in my role as KSA president when I assigned projects to our board members. I brought people on the bus not only by gathering preferences from each board member, but by gaining an understanding for each member's passion for a given project, their willingness to commit time to the task, and their relevant experience — all key aspects to ensure a successful project.

My classroom training also enabled me, in practice, to prioritize initiatives and related decisions.

In Professor Leigh Thompson's Leading and Managing Teams, we learned the importance of following the rational model of group decision making (orientation, discussion, decision making and implementation). I strictly followed this model when either the executive committee or the broader KSA board had to make a decision. I began each decision process by ensuring everyone knew the definition and scope of the issue before our team. We then discussed the issue openly, with all facts, opinions and potential solutions presented. Once we exhausted discussion, we moved to make a decision, either by board vote or, when appropriate, I would make the best decision I could. Finally, the entire group would adhere to the decision while constantly evaluating it and seeking feedback. This process, while often challenging to implement, proved very successful for us, illustrating that groups can indeed make better decisions together than as individuals.

My KSA experiences have provided a great chance to hone my management and leadership skills, but my tenure also created a tremendous opportunity to help define the academic, professional and social experience at Kellogg. In fact, the KSA is just one of many such opportunities students here have to put theory into practice, while also working to make the Kellogg community even more vibrant.

This year about 20 Kellogg students will serve on various boards of directors for Chicagoland area nonprofits through the Kellogg Board Fellows program. Students also serve on the Kellogg curriculum committee, which helps guide changes in the classroom to create an even better learning experience. The Kellogg Marketing Conference in February attracted more than 900 attendees and was fully organized by a team of 40 students. These are just a few examples of how we students can co-create our academic, professional and social experience at Kellogg.

As my term as KSA president comes to a close, I can already see my growth as both a person and as a leader.  The Kellogg School strategy of developing students into leaders by combining theoretical and practical experiences is as distinctive as it is effective.

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University