It may seem impossible to distill the broad diversity of Kellogg Leaders (65,000 alumni and counting) into a handful of characteristics. After all, Kellogg alumni helm Fortune 500 companies, guide major nonprofit organizations and build rocket-ship startups. You’ll find them in more than 120 countries.

Yet beneath the surface of this diverse and expansive group, the similarities are undeniable. Kellogg Leaders are not lone wolves: They’re collaborative and empathetic. They’re not showoffs: They’re high-impact and low-ego.

If you’re nodding your head right now, you probably understand this unique combination of personality traits and leadership styles at a deep level, because it’s also probably who you are. It’s why you might just be able to recognize a fellow Kellogg graduate in the wild — even if you’ve never formally met.

But that’s just the beginning. To build a Kellogg Leader, faculty and others help students hone these qualities through coursework, programming and cocurricular opportunities. The result is powerfully effective and well-rounded leaders who go on to succeed at the very highest levels. 

Read on to get an insider’s view of our blueprint, perfected over the course of more than a century, that helps us turn talented, ambitious students into Kellogg Leaders.

High-impact + low-ego

Kellogg teaches students to collaborate, influence and work together to solve tough challenges.

Yum China CEO Joey Wat ’00 MBA knew she had a winning idea on her hands in early 2020. COVID-19 was spreading fast, and an employee in her restaurant business had developed a new contactless delivery method that created a safer environment for workers and customers in a pandemic-anxious world.

Wat could have kept that innovation to herself, propelling her organization to ever-higher altitudes. Instead, she did something unexpected: She shared it with her competition. “Once we figured out how to execute contactless delivery, we shared [it] with the entire industry,” she says.

For Wat, the decision encompassed a broader vision of success than quarterly numbers. “If we can learn from each other, I think that’s the best way to stay competitive and to stay in business,” she says.

It was just one of the countless decisions Wat made during those early, tumultuous months of the pandemic that resonated with her 400,000 employees, her millions of customers and fast-food industry leaders worldwide. The company provided free food for medical teams in hospitals, invested in safety measures and expanded healthcare access beyond employees to their parents.

Wat knew that 2020 might not be the company’s most profitable year — but if she could win hearts during a pivotal moment, she and her company would be positioned for success for years to come.

Wat says that this generous vision of leadership is one she honed at Kellogg. It’s an approach baked right into the curriculum: The popular Ethics and Leadership course, for example, is designed to help leaders learn to make good decisions in difficult situations.

Yum China’s success suggests the approach paid off: After modest losses in 2020, the company saw 46% year-over-year growth in revenue by early 2021 and landed on Time magazine’s “most influential companies” list in 2021.

The Kellogg Difference

Key date: 1969

Kellogg invents the team-based learning model. This approach, which brings together a diverse community of professionals from a range of industries and functions, has accelerated and transformed business education.

Notable number

Kellogg alumni currently serve as CEOs for 18 Fortune 500 companies.

Faculty insight

“The antidote to having a blind spot is to ask for a constant stream of feedback.”

Professor Carter Cast ’92 MBA,
“The Insightful Leader” podcast

Creative + innovative

Students and alumni don’t just imagine a better world: They use resources and support from Kellogg to create it.

Jaime Tabachnik ’22 MBA has spent much of his life dreaming up big ideas and turning them into reality. As a 20-year-old, he teamed up with two friends to open the second-ever CrossFit gym in Mexico. They ended up running six gyms before selling the company four years later.

Years later, as CEO at BIIS Logistics and an Executive MBA student at Kellogg, he brought this entrepreneurial mindset to a new problem: clunky payment systems for small and medium-sized trucking companies in Latin America.

The payment platform he and his team built, Solvento (formerly Por Adela), allows these companies to quickly accept payments. The market opportunity? A cool $7.9 billion.

When he entered Northwestern’s venture competition, VentureCat, in the spring of 2021, the judges saw the same potential in his company that he did: They awarded Tabachnik and his team the competition’s top prize of $150,000. (Kellogg alumni earned the top prize at the competition in 2019 and 2020 as well.)

Tabachnik credits his Kellogg colleagues for helping him think expansively about what was possible. “Kellogg has definitely influenced me as an entrepreneur, because in my cohort, I’m surrounded by incredible entrepreneurs and professionals who inspire me and have supported me since day one.”

It’s not just students who love to innovate. Kellogg was among the very first institutions to offer a one-year MBA program, and faculty frequently develop new courses to help students gain in-depth knowledge on current trends.

For example, students can take courses in AI and the Future of Work, Human-Machine Intelligence, and Corporate Innovation and New Ventures. Each course exposes students to cutting-edge ideas and helps them see the practical applications in their own fields.

The Kellogg Difference

Key date: 2019

Kellogg launched the Center for the Science of Science & Innovation, the first academic hub of its kind, using advanced analytics and artificial intelligence to unearth patterns that underpin scientific discovery.

Notable number

Since 2014, the Zell Fellows Program has supported 171 Kellogg MBA candidates who want to start a new venture or acquire an existing one. Program alumni have launched 127 ventures and have landed more than $558 million in awards and funding.

Faculty insight

“We instinctively believe that the way to get people to say yes to our ideas is to add value, to use fuel. We often neglect the other side of the equation: the friction that opposes change.”

Professor Loran Nordgren,
“The Human Element”

Collaborative + empathetic

Kellogg alumni know how to work together — and how to pair intellect with heart.

As co-head of fundamental equities at BlackRock, Daniel Gamba ’97 MBA has a range of responsibilities for the company’s active equities across the U.S., Europe, and global and emerging markets. “To be successful, you have to be able to work with teams: multifunctional, multicultural, multiregional teams,” he says. “During my experience at Kellogg, that happened in every single class, in every single assignment. It was transformational.”

That type of deep and empathetic collaboration has long been a hallmark of a Kellogg education. Today, students can take courses including The Fundamentals of Inclusive Leadership and The Science and Strategy of Bias Reduction. They can also follow a more extensive diversity, equity and inclusion pathway with courses that teach DEI skills for leaders.

Empathetic leadership is also an area of focus for many faculty, who study topics linked to bias reduction, the science of collaboration and high-performing teams, and the empathy gap.

Students often take the reins as well. Last year, Lenton Davies ’22 developed a lunch-and-learn series focused on diversity, inclusion and belonging that resonated with his Executive MBA classmates as they thought about their career trajectories. “Kellogg does a great job at bringing people together and creating a family environment, and that’s the safest place to talk about these things,” Davies says. “We shouldn’t shy away from [difficult] conversations, because you can learn from them and become a better leader down the line.”

The Kellogg Difference

Key date: 2021

Kellogg launched the Kabiller Science of Empathy Prize to advance the understanding of empathy and its effects.

Notable number

Kellogg doesn’t just talk about collaboration — we live it. In 2020, alumni rallied to offer students unprecedented support during the coronavirus pandemic, helping to secure internships for 100% of students seeking one.

Faculty insight

Professors Benjamin Jones and Brian Uzzi examined 30 years’ worth of scientific papers — more than 19 million overall — and found that collaboration among scientists and across research institutions has grown steadily since the 1950s. “There’s more and more to know in the world, and you can only have so much in your head,” says Jones.

Intentional + purpose-driven

Kellogg Leaders are inspired by goals larger than themselves.

Andrew Youn ’06 MBA admits that he went into his business school experience at Kellogg without a clear sense of purpose. But by the time he left, he was laser focused on his goals.

Today, he is CEO and co-founder of the One Acre Fund, a social enterprise that supplies smallholder farmers in East Africa with asset-based financing and agriculture training services, all with the goal of reducing hunger and poverty. “I left [Kellogg] having a clear path and purpose in life that has served me,” he says. “Every time now that I open a spreadsheet, write a memo or attend a meeting, it’s with a purpose in mind. That is a bedrock in my career, and something I’m forever grateful for.”

Kellogg instills this type of deep intention into students through a range of offerings, including a robust social impact pathway focused on nonprofits, policy and social innovation. In response to increasing student interest in sustainability, Kellogg has also launched an energy and sustainability pathway, which provides a deep dive into the economics and strategy of energy markets, corporate sustainability, and sustainable investing and entrepreneurship.

Students and alumni bring this sense of intention about what they want to bring into the world not just to their careers but to the rest of their lives. When Di Gao ’21 MBA learned that one of her Kellogg classmates had been injured in a devastating car accident, she organized 65 classmates to coordinate visits, provide rides to class and even help take notes. “I’m proud to be part of a community like this one, where so many students were willing to help our classmate and friend,” says Gao.

The Kellogg Difference

Key date: 1908

The Kellogg School of Business was founded. Now one of the oldest business schools in the world, Kellogg continues to have its own meaningful purpose: to educate, equip and inspire leaders who build strong organizations and wisely leverage the power of markets to create lasting value.

Notable number

At Kellogg, 80% of students take at least one social impact course.

Faculty insight

“Self-reflection has been my lifelong practice. As I became more self-aware, I gained clarity about my values and goals. I was able to focus on what mattered most because I took time to discern my priorities.”

Professor Harry Kraemer ’79 MBA,
“From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership”

Connected + supportive

At Kellogg, students and alumni know that they’re better together.

Sam Shank ’04 MBA has always been savvy and ambitious. Still, the CEO and co-founder of the wildly successful HotelTonight app is quick to acknowledge that his trajectory might not have been possible without the support of fellow Kellogg alumni who wanted him to succeed. “Our first lawyer and the first investors I had were introduced to me by an alum. . . . [M]y cofounder, Jared Simon ’02 MBA, was [also] a Kellogg alum,” he says. “The whole thing couldn’t have happened without the Kellogg alumni network.”

In the sharp-elbowed world of business, Kellogg students and alumni know that they can lean on each other for advice and support when they need it.

This generosity often happens formally, through programs like those enabled by gifts from alumni Ann Drake ’84 MBA and Kent Hawryluk ’07 MBA, as well as through structured mentorship programs between alumni and students.

The supportive Kellogg network can also simply rev up when the need arises. In 2020, as Kellogg students scrambled to find internships in a world upended by the pandemic, alumni rallied to help find an internship for every student who wanted one.

Sasha Sibilla ’22 MBA says this “collaborative, ‘pay it forward’ culture” stood out to her as a prospective student and helped her decide that Kellogg was the place where she could “learn the business fundamentals, gain exposure to different industries and functions, and build a network with people from diverse backgrounds but similar values.”

Shank, meanwhile, expects his Kellogg connection to continue to pay dividends: “The Kellogg network continues to be very valuable to me, whether it’s sharing ideas or looking for new people to join the team,” he says. “It’s an incredible and powerful network of people.”

The Kellogg Difference

Key date: 2017

Kellogg opened its flagship Global Hub, which represents the very best of the school’s ethos of collaboration. At the heart of the building is a 6,000-square-foot atrium designed to be a meeting place for the entire Kellogg community.

Notable number

Kellogg boasts more than 70 regional, national, industry, and affinity clubs and networks that allow alumni to connect in the ways that are most meaningful and valuable to them.

Faculty insight

Staying connected to friends and colleagues, especially in face-to-face settings, can actually make us happier and healthier throughout our lives and careers, says Professor Neal Roese. “The closer these personal relationships — closer psychologically and physically — the better the health outcomes that we observe,” Roese says.