Monday, July 30, 2007

What Today's CEOs Can Do For Tomorrow's Leaders

Think about all the issues that face CEOs at major companies: everything from ethics, safety and diversity in the workplace to environmental sustainability and regulatory compliance … all on a global scale. Failure to successfully manage such issues can cost a company its profitability or even its ability to survive.

The challenge is compounded by the fact that the world can change in a minute. With the advent of the internet any single person on a mission among any of a CEO’s constituencies — customers, employees, shareholders, vendors, analysts, reporters, etc. — can bring down a company with the click of a mouse.

So one would think that CEOs of tomorrow would address such challenges in special educational programs in today’s graduate business school curricula. Yet just two years ago, Ron Alsop reported in The Wall Street Journal that it was the rare business school that provided MBA graduates with a solid grounding in corporate reputation issues and management. And recently I took a look at the curricula of the top five U.S. business schools, Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT Sloan and Northwestern’s Kellogg , according to U.S. News & World Report , and not one teaches strategic communications — unless I missed it because it’s camouflaged in a marketing course.

In an era when democracy is being reinvented via the internet … at a time when every company exists only because of public consent and two- and three-way conversations are multiplying faster than you can say “blogosphere,” how can potential CEOs and other senior executives hope to be on top of their game without formal training in the strategic management of corporate reputation? Would MBA candidates not take basic courses in finance, accounting, marketing and human resources?

The public relations profession has certainly taken note of this educational void. Nevertheless, various efforts by the Public Relations Society of America to move business schools in the right direction have not yielded much in the way of tangible results.

And so I pose a challenge to our industry’s leadership, and particularly the heads of corporate communications in our nation’s leading companies: let us join together to motivate your CEOs to encourage action in the major schools of business. Businesses pour millions into business schools; if the CEO of a Fortune 500 company (such as Credit Suisse, Novartis, Thomson on General Motors or Exxon Mobile, for instance —
all major philanthropic sponsors of Harvard B-school) should call Dean Jay Light and make a cogent argument for a course designed to train our future leaders in strategic communications management, Dr. Light will surely listen. So will all the others in like situations.

But this will not happen unless we, as professional communicators, stimulate and push such action. Every CEO today must recognize that profit-making is dependent upon the ability to forge strong connections and build trust with every stakeholder. I have every expectation that they will share our interest in educating the generations that follow us.

Technorati Tags: CEO, graduate business school, The+Wall+Street+Journal, MBA, education, PRSA, Dean Jay Light, Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, MIT+Sloan, Kellogg,business, communications, public relations


Blogger David said...

Kudos to you, Ken, for sounding the right call to the powers-that-be of what's long been needed to change in B-school/MBA education. Unfortunately, as one who has beating my chest in similar vein for over 20 years, the audience you seek to listen to you is 80% deaf. What may be required next is some sort of meaningful action -- something that begins to move into the realm of what can really be, beyond the pie-in-the-sky discussions about ideals and what isn't. Something that can show the way; easier said than done, I know, for the obstacles are many and high. But the time has long come and gone when soapbox pleas will make a difference, as you so correctly point out regarding PRSA's and other national/international organizations' blather that leads nowhere. If you know of a button you can push to get the movement off the dime, it's still not too late. Frank Marra put me on to your site, and I'm glad he did.

Best, J. David Pincus, APR, Ph.D, former director, MBA program, Walton College of Business, University of Arkansas

Tuesday, August 14, 2007 4:44:00 PM  

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