Kellogg Leaders In Action: Enhancing leadership through emotional & social intelligence
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 Neal Uppal '12 MBA, who serves as vice president of business operations for Cruise, a self-driving ride and delivery startup based in San Francisco. He recognizes that to be an effective leader, you need to be able to connect, motivate and inspire, and at Kellogg, he learned just that. Neal shares why building relationships with peers is crucial even after graduating from Kellogg.
Why do you think it’s so easy to pick Kellogg alumni out of the crowd?
For me, it’s humility and approachability. Those make such a significant difference in being able to build great teams, work cross-functionally and work with external partners.
What do you think it means to be a Kellogg Leader?
It starts with emotional intelligence (EQ) and being able to connect with people. The complexity in the business world or other arenas where people are leaders is immense today, but at the end of the day, businesses or organizations are still run by people. The low ego culture that we have at Kellogg is something that I think is great preparation to really hone those traits and then be able to take them into the business world.
It is also about being well-rounded. Kellogg has outstanding professors and classes across many disciplines, and it really prepares future leaders for complex cross-functional challenges that they will encounter as leaders. The days of siloed functions really being able to succeed in the world, I think are in the past. You really need to be able to see the whole picture, and Kellogg prepares you well for that. Once you put those two things together, you have somebody who can connect with people, work cross-functionally, and see the big picture, I think then you are able to drive real value for the business.
How have you used your Kellogg leadership skills in your own professional life?
One of the things that I explored during my time at Kellogg was social impact in a few different areas. This is one of the core things that led me to Cruise, which is where I am today. Cruise is a self-driving ride and delivery service, and what we’re trying to do is build transportation that is safer, cleaner, more accessible and affordable than the options that we have today. Being able to really find something that was mission-driven and is driving social impact — that to me is one of the lessons that I carry forward from Kellogg in even making career choices today.
Can you describe a lesson you learned when you were a Kellogg student that you still use in your career today?
One of my favorite classes at Kellogg was Professor David Besanko’s class on business and public policy. I loved diving into numerous public policy issues and looking at them from an economic and a business lens. But one thing that I learned from that class is how important it is for the public sector and the private sector to work together.
Is there a piece of advice you would give your younger self back when you were considering coming to Kellogg?
Your classmates will really go on to do such amazing and different things, so when you’re at school really take the opportunity to learn as much as you can from them. And then, make sure to do a good job of staying in touch.
What does it mean to you to be a part of this Kellogg alumni community?
It is a group of very impressive leaders, certainly, but more importantly, I think it is a set of leaders that are approachable. We have a real affinity for each other, and the broader Kellogg community is always down to help each other succeed in various professional and personal pursuits. I think that the culture is something that you can feel. I remember even feeling it when I first came to visit before I was a student just trying to learn more about the campus and about the experience, and you could feel it then.