Bill Hanson On Leadership

Bill Hanson

On Leadership

August 20, 2001

LFM-SDM Co-Director Bill Hanson was recently interviewed for the MIT Alumni Association’s web site, “OpenDoor.” Following is the full text of Bill’s comments.

1. What constitutes good leadership in the corporate world?

We believe that the same qualities that characterize good leadership in the corporate and academic world are the same – it’s their application that may differ.

These qualities include:

a) a clear vision of what you’re trying to accomplish and a game plan for making it happen

b) good communication to help people understand the game plan for achieving that vision, how they can contribute to its actualization, and the personal and organizational benefits that will be incurred. This helps individuals become personally invested in the outcome.

c) recognition that the success of the game plan is bigger than any one individual and really depends on the collective effort of a diverse group of people

d) respecting and honoring this diversity

e) being able to follow as well as to lead – the leader has ultimate responsibility for the effort, but there will be times when the responsibility for leadership shifts. Good leadership flows around the organization and a good leader helps to facilitate this shared responsibility.

f) measurement systems so that individuals can easily self-monitor and see how well they and the collective team are performing

g) acknowledging the everyone has the “need to know” and giving each person who is part of the vision the information and the knowledge they need to do their job and to contribute to the achievement of that vision.

h) recognizing that no matter how big your organization is, it is still part of a larger whole. Good leadership requires understanding this larger group and their needs and determining how your vision and game plan impact this larger system.

i) Leadership is a skill that can be continually learned and like all skills improves with practice. While most of us may never become recognized “great ” leaders, we can always continuously develop to be “better” leader.

j) Good leaders recognize their role as a “good” teacher and coach.

2. What constitutes good leadership in the academic world?

There is no difference in the qualities of good leadership, whether in the corporate or the academic world. However, because there are cultural differences between the two, their application may differ. Respecting and honoring diversity is becoming increasingly important in both cultures. This leads to another important quality of good leaders – understanding the culture they are in – embracing it, honoring it, and working within it. Good leaders understand this and adapt appropriately.

3. How do you prepare LFM/SDM students to become leaders for the future?

Leadership training begins as soon as our students enter the programs and extends well after they graduate – again because we believe that good leadership requires lifelong learning.

When students enter the LFM and SDM programs, they start immediately with the following:

a) introduction to academic theories and models and skill development in communication, motivation, and change management

b) practice in dealing with the dynamics of organizational change through case discussions, role plays, project teamwork, internships, and participating in standing committees to partner with faculty and staff and help run the LFM and SDM programs.

c) reflecting on, evaluating, and dialoging about learnings – which enables intellectual integration. This leadership training extends throughout their entire course of study and is interwoven in all of their classes.

However, leadership learning in LFM-SDM doesn’t stop here. It extends beyond the traditional time on campus to become a lifetime process. LFM-SDM recognizes that it must support that learning through an expanding platform of distance education opportunities such as on-line alumni seminars LFM-SDM offers through our web site However, it also continues as the alumni serve as “teachers and mentors” for current and future LFM-SDM students as they participate in on and of campus seminars and supervise internship and projects.