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Former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe delivered the talk “Leading Change: The Transformation of a Nation” on April 18.

President Álvaro Uribe

'Leading change'

Addressing the topic of leadership, former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe talks about lessons learned during his eight-year administration

By Sara Langen

4/22/2011 - Great leaders are not born that way — they're self-made.

That’s what former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe said he learned while trying to repair a nation plagued by drugs and guerilla violence. Addressing Kellogg students on April 18, Uribe remarked that those who want to be great leaders should be strong, take responsibility and pursue their work with passion.

Uribe’s talk, “Leading Change: The Transformation of a Nation,” served as a precursor to the May 7 Latin American Business Conference, a student-organized event that convenes global business leaders to discuss business opportunities and challenges in Latin America. This year’s conference, themed “Shaping the decade to come,” features keynote addresses and panel discussions about current economic trends and leadership issues facing the region.

Uribe’s address was moderated by Harry Kraemer, clinical professor of management and strategy, who asked Uribe questions about his leadership during his 2002-2010 presidential term. Uribe said that one of the most important lessons he learned was to share what you believe and never be swayed by your detractors.

“You have to be consistent,” he said. “And to be consistent, you have to speak the same — no matter who is in the audience.”

Responding to questions from the crowd, Uribe also addressed some of the more controversial parts of his administration, including allegations of corruption.

“When you have hints of corruption, you have to go as deep as you can to detect the corruption and denounce it,” Uribe said. “You cannot wait for the media [to unearth it].”

During the event, David Austen-Smith, senior associate dean for faculty and research, remarked that having open discussions are an important part of intellectual discourse. At Northwestern, we have the privileged of inviting — and being challenged by — people from all around the world, he noted.