by Norean Sharpe
The most challenging type of leadership is change management. Given the fast-paced, global environment we operate in today, change is inevitable and should be embraced as an opportunity.
In an academic environment, change often takes the form of staff realignment; resource reallocation; curricular reform; strategic planning; and prioritization. As our competitive landscape shifts – both domestically and internationally – we are confronted with the reality that we cannot rest on our past institutional accomplishments, even if we were used to being one of the lions, not the gazelles.
Recognizing the importance of change is the first step. The second step is embracing and encouraging change. This refocusing of the leadership lens can be challenging; it is common knowledge that most individuals are not innovators and generally prefer the path of least resistance. Real, impactful change requires courage to take risks and be decisive.
The most effective change managers employ a combination of collaboration, communication, consensus building, and ultimately decision-making. In any complex organization with multiple constituencies, the transparency and partnership during the process with the impacted groups can be the difference between successful and failed initiatives.
In academic institutions, the alliances and relationships with students, parents, staff, faculty, alumni, board members, and donors are all essential to any new strategic vision. In our economic climate, all leaders of academic programs and institutions also need to be entrepreneurs – willing to take calculated risks – and to inspire others to follow.
I have had the fortunate opportunity to have a few role models and mentors in my academic career who have shown me that leadership is not about the leader – but rather about the vision and passion the leader possesses.
- Norean Sharpe
I think this is an incredible message from Dean Sharpe. I would love you to think about how this message of change management applies in your business, whatever it may be. I bet you’ll find that the principles hold!
Also, I just read a great article about why change initiatives fail—which many do – and it is because senior management fails to listen to its people, to learn what they think and feel. Thus, when management tries to impose what they want, it never takes root. If they really understood their people, they might approach the initiative differently, gather support, and succeed.
Norean Sharpe joined Georgetown in July 2009 as Dean of the Undergraduate Program in the McDonough School of Business, where she is responsible for the academic advising process; creation of co-curricular programs; implementation of academic policies and assessment initiatives; development of partnerships and alliances with non-profit and for-profit organizations and institutions; and continuous improvement of the undergraduate curriculum in collaboration with the faculty. She earned a Ph.D. in systems engineering from the University of Virginia and her career spans more than 20 years at different academic institutions. Prior to joining Georgetown, Dr. Sharpe was a professor at Babson College, where she taught Statistics and Operations Research, and chaired the Division of Mathematics and Science. In her role as chair, she facilitated an extensive revision of the undergraduate and MBA business quantitative curriculum and spearheaded an improvement of the co-curricular experience for students. She also developed a strategic plan for overall quantitative undergraduate education, advised students, mentored faculty, and chaired multiple task forces that examined the academic, social, and cultural issues facing undergraduate business students in the 21st century. Prior to joining Babson, Dr. Sharpe taught for several years at Bowdoin College, where she was Assistant Professor of Statistics and Operations Research following her initial appointment at Yale University as a MacArthur post-doctoral fellow.
Dr. Sharpe has published over 30 articles in the area of analytics and statistics education with her most recent publication being the textbook, Business Statistics. Sharpe co-founded a Boston- based non-profit to further Diversity and Outreach in Mathematics and Engineering education, known as The DOME Foundation and currently sits on the boards of three nonprofit organizations in the Boston and Washington, DC metropolitan areas.
I specifically sought out Dean Sharpe to be my guest leader because of her reputation with Georgetown’s business students. While she sets very high standards and expectations, as is appropriate, she leads with her heart. She cares about her students and they sense that. She is readily accessible to them, which they know and appreciate. She greets them with a smile, is genuinely interested in their learning and growth, and she listens to them. This is leadership with love!