The Faculty Corner: Insights and views on leadership and management
Kellogg faculty, through their experience as leaders of industry and dedication to cutting-edge research across the business landscape, deliver timely, relevant insights on the most important business topics.
Leadership is a skill that develops with time and is fine-tuned with experience. It is an academic discipline that serves as the foundation for any team and management structure. Explore some of our faculty’s research and insights on leadership and management including shaping leadership style, helping teams manage stress and motivating employees.
On creating space for tough conversations at the workplace and knowing how to navigate them
Professor Michelle L. Buck is a clinical professor of leadership, and her courses focus on the ways that leaders maximize their own performance and unleash others’ potential. She addresses how self-reflection and awareness of one's own identity, values and purpose serve as foundations of effective leadership, and how leaders engage and inspire others and set them up for success.
Understanding evolving workplace dynamics is key for organizations and companies. A recent article Buck contributed to Fast Company describes a shift from the Great Resignation and “quiet quitting” to “the Great Reflection,” and she calls upon leaders and individual workers to take stock of their priorities, environment, development and goals. Furthermore, she encourages the workforce to engage in “the Great Conversation” — a movement between leaders and their teams to create a dynamic communication process enlisting parties as partners — and outlines five techniques to achieve this.
Professor Carter Cast is the Michael S. and Mary Sue Shannon clinical professor of entrepreneurship, and he teaches courses in entrepreneurship and leadership. He started in marketing management at PepsiCo and served in executive roles at other Fortune 500 companies including Electronic Arts and Walmart. He is the author of the award-winning book “The Right (and Wrong) Stuff: How Brilliant Careers are Made — and Unmade.”
Cast was a guest on an episode of The Insightful Leader podcast where he explains how leaders can help themselves and their teams mitigate stress. His first recommendation is to be more intentional about how time is spent. and less of what fits other people’s agendas. As Cast says, “your inbox is someone else’s agenda, so don’t let your inbox manage you.”
Professor Brooke Vuckovic is a clinical professor of leadership and teaches the in-demand course Moral Complexity in Leadership. As an executive coach, she has provided highly personalized support to top-level executives for nearly two decades. She helps them define their purpose and presence as leaders, focusing on establishing clarity about who they are, where they're going, why they lead and what circumstances will demand of them.
Vuckovic’s latest insight involves how to give negative feedback, an unpleasant experience that many people — even leaders — tend to avoid. She outlines three key considerations when delivering negative feedback. She suggests the first step in approaching difficult conversations is understanding why you must have this conversation — which is trickier than it sounds.
On bridging the gap between leaders and team through authenticity
Professor Maryam Kouchaki is a professor of management and organizations and an organizational psychologist. She seeks to make theoretical and practical contributions at the intersection of management and psychology.
Kouchaki, alongside Mahdi Ebrahimi of the California State University (Fullerton) and Vanessa Patrick of the University of Houston, conducted research on how bringing one’s “whole self” to work can curb unethical behavior. They spotlight issues that can arise when employees compartmentalize their personal and business lives. The trio found that people who integrate various aspects of their identity are less likely to engage in bad behavior. Their research encourages companies to support employees when it comes to bringing their authentic self to work.
Kouchaki has also researched vulnerability as a strength, finding that leaders who openly talk about their faults are seen as more authentic and no less competent than those who don’t, contrary to popular belief. In “Leaders Don’t Be Afraid to Admit Your Flaws,” she and her peers found that individuals prefer to work for people who can make themselves vulnerable in an appropriate time and place.
On evaluating employee performance
Associate professor George Georgiadis focuses on organizational economics and industrial organizations, studying how incentives — predominately financial ones — affect individual and organizational behaviors.
His latest insights shed light on the best way to measure an employee’s performance based on motivation. He notes the importance of distinguishing between the two layers of motivation: The first is the degree of motivation: How motivated are your employees? The second is whether your employees are motivated to do what your company wants them to actually do.
On building rapport and reinvigorating teams
Assistant professor Kieu-Trang Nguyen‘s research interests include organizational economics, economics of innovation, and political economy. Her current work focuses on understanding the enablers of a firm’s innovation, including leadership’s trust towards employees, the government’s R&D tax incentives, and downstream privatization.
How can leaders make employees feel safe to pursue risky outside-the-box ideas? Nguyen’s research focuses on how to make “failed” experiments feel more palatable and highlights that trust is a key component. Leaders who urge employees to “embrace failure, make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes,” as Nguyen puts it, will position their companies to innovate more and better.
Professor Leigh Thompson is the J. Jay Gerber Distinguished professor of dispute resolution and organizations. Thompson’s research focuses on negotiation, creativity, virtual communication and teamwork.
One of her latest research projects examines the concept of “quiet quitting” and offers employers various strategies for re-engaging their employees. Read more about her insights via “How to Manage a Disengaged Employee—and Get Them Excited about Work Again.”
With an ever-increasing amount of work taking place remotely, building your virtual communications intelligence is quickly becoming a crucial skill. Thompson recently wrote an article on this topic for Business Insider, in which she discusses the importance of being able to communicate, navigate relationships and achieve business goals when others aren’t physically co-present and provides four key best practices.
On continuous learning as you develop as a leader
Professor Sanjay Khosla is a senior fellow and adjunct professor of marketing. He previously was a co-chair of the Nestle/Fonterra joint venture for the Americas, and he served on the board of the Lipton/Pepsi joint venture. He co-authored a book, “Fewer Bigger Bolder: From Mindless Expansion to Focused Growth,” that was named the Best Business Book in 2014 by The Globe and Mail and one of the 10 Mind-Altering Business Books by the Huffington Post.
His work shows that growing as a leader takes effort — it is not a one-and-done approach. Looking at leadership development through a holistic lens can help bolster your leadership skills and help avoid burnout. “Becoming more efficient and working harder is sometimes a complete waste of time,” he warns. “All you’re trying to do is become better on the same treadmill, often mindlessly responding to emails and completing tasks,” says Khosla. His five-step coaching model supports leaders and prepares them for new opportunities.