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Professor Adam Galinsky leads a workshop on values-based leadership during the Nov. 7-9 Kellogg on New Directions in Management Program.

New Directions course challenges with tough questions

Executive education offering helps Kellogg alumni retain leadership edge

By Aubrey Henretty

11/14/2007 -

“Now, there’s no scientific evidence whatsoever that torture produces reliable information,” said Adam Galinsky, the Morris and Alice Kaplan Professor of Ethics and Decision in Management. “But let’s say it did.”

The Kellogg alumni assembled in a classroom at the James L. Allen Center for the Nov. 7 “Values-Based Leadership” course shifted in their seats.

Imagine, Galinsky continued, that actual interrogations unfolded like they do on the Fox network’s TV drama, “24,” where a little well-placed torture turns hardened terrorists into willing purveyors of useful, accurate information. What if, by surrendering a bit of your humanity and stealing a piece of someone else’s, you could discover where a nuclear bomb was hidden and when it was set to explode?

Galinsky paused to watch the audience struggle with the possibilities. “What should you do in that situation?”

Such tough questions kicked off a Nov. 7-9 installment of this year’s New Directions in Management Program, an executive education offering launched in 2004 expressly for Kellogg graduates looking to keep their leadership insights fresh. In addition to Galinsky, the program featured modules taught by Professors Victoria Medvec (“Getting the Deal You Want: Ten Best Strategies for Maximizing Your Success in Negotiations”),Leigh Thompson (“Emotional Intelligence”) and Michelle Buck (“The Leader’s Journey: What's Your Story?”).

“Kellogg alums have always recognized how important it is to continue their management education after they leave campus — in the classroom as well as on the job,” said Assistant Dean Eric Fridman, the program’s academic director. “The process of learning how to lead others, in particular, never really ends for any of us.” Fridman, also the marketing director for the Kellogg School’s executive programs, added that this year’s program, “Maximizing Individual Impact in Organizations,” equipped participants with powerful leadership insights and gave them the opportunity to build and strengthen their connections to the global Kellogg network.

While those who attended Galinsky’s workshop may never have to consider the extraordinary challenge he posed, they almost certainly will face smaller-scale ethical dilemmas as business leaders.

To help prepare them for these inevitable crises, Galinsky invoked the philosophies — and actions — of current and historical leaders in sticky situations. Even canonized heroes like President Abraham Lincoln (who once said that while he did not believe slavery was morally right, he would sooner preserve the Union and slavery than free the slaves and lose the Union) and Martin Luther King Jr. (who would sooner go to jail than compromise his beliefs) didn’t always agree on how best to lead.

“Another idea people diverge on is the use of power,” said Galinsky, gearing up for another round of difficult questions. Even if power is not — as Machiavelli’s Prince might advocate — an acceptable end in itself, even if one aspires to Plato’s vision of power as tool to help those who have none, is there a point at which leaders can justifiably violate their principles to serve a desired end?

There may be no right answers to questions like these, said Galinsky, but studies show that where leaders strive to be moral and ethical, employees follow: “People will sacrifice their economic self-interest to work with a company whose values are more inspiring.”