Kellogg Leaders In Action: The value of teamwork
What makes Kellogg unique? In a rapidly changing world, we provide our students with fertile soil for fruitful leadership. Our students are planting seeds to become the leaders of tomorrow, and our community supports and challenges their growth. Whether in the classroom or through global opportunities, our MBA programs sharpen analytical skills while fostering creativity and social intelligence.
Our “Kellogg Leaders in Action” series highlights adaptive, empathetic leaders who are changing the global business landscape.
Meet Craig Williams '01 MBA, president of the Jordan brand at Nike. He knows what effective leadership and teamwork look like. He discusses the value of building the right team and why it’s also important to look beyond a person’s skill and ability. More than 20 years after his time as an EMBA student, he reflects on how working in a team environment with his study group continues to impact him several years later.
Why do you think it’s so easy to pick Kellogg alumni out of the crowd?
My experience with Kellogg Leaders is that they’re very balanced people. Both left and right brain, head and heart. In short, someone who’s committed to the success of an enterprise by way of their team. The way I think about it, it’s not about personal accolades but rather collective success — a feeling of we did this, versus I did this.
What personally do you think it means to be a Kellogg Leader?
Kellogg Leaders are all of the things that would make you aspire to follow or be a part of the teamwork environment of the leader, but also admire the person for who they are as well. It’s not just about how smart they are, but who they are as individuals. And that balance is what attracted me to Kellogg in the first place. One of the things that I learned very quickly at Kellogg was how to thrive in a team environment, versus having a perspective that I was the center of the wheel. It also gave me the tools — both leadership skills and analytical skills — that ensured a successful transition to general management.
Can you share an example of how you’ve used your Kellogg leadership skills in your own career?
I remember a specific example when I was at Kraft, as a brand manager of Velveeta. We were in a pretty difficult marketplace environment with heavy price competition, and we had to come up with marketplace plans on a local basis for at least 15 geographies across the country. It helped me appreciate the unique circumstances and the value that each one of those geographic leaders brought into our critical analysis, and therefore helped us be sensitive to the plan that was going to enable them to win versus the plan that was so vitally important at a national level to be strategically sound.
Can you discuss your study group and your classmates, and how the team spirit and the bond were important to you?
I can credit my study group at Kellogg for helping to impress upon me the equal value that we all brought to the table. I was just amazed at how effective and smart these folks were but also how approachable each was as well. They made teaming up easy and fun. And we’re still in contact to this day.
Can you discuss how you’ve seen Kellogg’s unique leadership style embodied in what your fellow classmates have gone on to do as alumni?
My former classmates have been able to make huge shifts to their career trajectory that were pretty impressive. It was amazing because I think Kellogg enabled them to be leaders first, functional experts second, and then the leadership competencies were able to translate into so many other capacities. It just opened doors for them that I’m sure they’ve appreciated, and that frankly I’ve appreciated. Kellogg is at the root of why we’re able to do so many great things.
If you could think back to when you were your younger self considering going to business school, what advice now would you give yourself back then?
If I could give my younger self advice, I would say to know myself, to trust myself, and therefore allow an experience like Kellogg to make me an even better me. Kellogg was the right decision to make then, and I would make it a million times over.
What does it mean to you as an alumnus to be part of this incredible Kellogg alumni community?
Being part of this alumni community is a badge of honor. It’s great to be considered among so many other folks who have successfully completed Kellogg and have actually gone on to do great things in their careers, but also be great people in the process. I’m glad to be a person on that list, and hopefully I bring a bit of credit to the list myself.