Sunday, January 31, 2010

To President Drew Gilpin Faust:

Dear President Faust,

We write this letter to express our endorsement and strongest support for Professor Nitin Nohria, Richard P. Chapman Professor of Business Administration, for the position of Dean of Harvard Business School.

As a class, we graduated in 2009 in the thick of the global economic crisis, and on the heels of ethical investigations at many businesses and financial institutions and as such are acutely sensitive to the popular assaults on the institution of management education in general, and on Harvard Business School in particular. As we take our place in businesses, non-profits, and governments (all of which require strong leaders), many of us must defend, in words and in actions, why we chose to pursue an MBA at HBS. This year, 2010, brings a new decade and a new call to action. HBS - its alumni, students, faculty and staff - must take a hard, honest look at our goals, our means, and the true impact we make on the world around us. There is no questioning our immense ability, and responsibility, to “educate leaders who make a difference in the world.”

Professor Nitin Nohria is the leader we need at the helm of our great institution to guide us down the tough and vital path to rediscover ourselves, and to realign and redefine purposeful leadership. His remarkable and unusual combination of outstanding leadership and exceptional organizational savvy, amongst many other invaluable traits, some of which are discussed below, makes him the ideal Dean for our school.

  • Questioning the Common Assumptions: In his course Authentic Leadership Development, Professor Nohria prods his students to think about some of our most basic suppositions and beliefs, encouraging us to question why a common opinion must be accepted as such. By creating an outside-in perspective, one can maintain an informed, independent point of view, irrespective of the popular sentiment. This will be one of the most critical traits required of tomorrow’s business leaders in order to realize the impact of their decisions and actions - and it's a trait we have not seen practiced by any other faculty member at HBS better than Professor Nohria.
  • Reasoned Authority: For many of us who've worked closely with him in a one-on-one or small-group context, Professor Nohria has showcased the unparalleled combination of listening - as he always took time to pause, inquire, and understand - and leading. He is able to convert cynics into supporters and admirers from a deeper place of honest inquiry and discourse rather than pretentious authority such that others want to follow his grounded, visionary leadership. He is the leader to recharter HBS's future and bring our critics, donors, supporters, and naysayers together on a collective journey to re-establish our institution's brand and global position in management education.
  • Visionary Leadership: Over the past nine months, Professor Nohria's exceptional leadership for the MBA Oath movement - an effort that many of us were closely involved with - has been unbelievably impressive. From providing the original vision for this worthy initiative, to nurturing and supporting our efforts through the initial development stages, to outreaching to schools beyond HBS, to helping obtain critical financial support, Professor Nohria has been a visionary leader and true inspiration for many of us for this effort. As he spearheaded this initiative greater than him, greater than all of us, he didn't as much as hint of any expectation around personal credit or returns. By putting the dream for a better, more responsible business leadership above personal or organizational agendas or egos, Professor Nohria has proven he can inspire and motivate masses to drive unprecedented results.
  • Nuanced Business and Organizational Savvy: Professor Nohria's exceptional body of work around the essence of management success, business leadership, human motivation and ambition, and social and organizational culture - authoring more than ten books, publishing over 75 journal articles, cases, working papers, and more, and advising several companies around the world - affords him a level of depth in understanding organizational and business challenges and opportunities that are not available to many of his peers. No question, continuing to manage a strong financial standing for the school will be one of the core responsibilities of the new Dean as would guiding administration for the institution including making critical staffing, evaluation, and program development decisions. Professor Nohria's nuanced organizational savvy developed through his traits of questioning the status quo, asking the tough questions, and seeing the bigger picture that many around him miss, gives him a notable advantage to others in fulfilling the critical day-to-day management role for the school.
  • Level 5 Leadership: Jim Collins, an expert on high-performing organizations and author of "From Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't", defines level 5 leaders as those who build enduring greatness through a paradoxical combination of personal humility and professional will. We studied this concept at HBS in both Building & Sustaining Successful Enterprises and in Authentic Leadersihp Development. It is a central tenet of our education, and yet one that, according to Collins, is primarily innate. Professor Nohria is a level 5 leader: exceptionally attuned to the development of the class, its students and the institution, and yet personally humble - sometimes saying "Perhaps I'm wrong - what do you think?", and frequently asking the class to challenge him and ourselves. To advise the committee to select a candidate based on humility may sound counterintuitive for an institution that prides itself on churning out CEOs and big personalities, yet this is precisely the type of leader that HBS needs to bring our school to its greatest potential.

We believe if given the opportunity to lead HBS, Professor Nitin Nohria will prove to be an exceptional Dean at Harvard Business School, and also an exemplar leader for both Harvard university and the world of business management.

Designating the next Dean for our great institution must clearly be a very tough and weighty decision, and we wish you all the very best in your deliberations and final decision. We truly thank you for your kind invitation to provide you with our input and for taking the time to listen to us.

Should you desire additional information or would like to discuss our endorsement in more detail, please do not hesitate to contact any of us. Each of us would be very happy to discuss our personal observations and input further.

Most sincerely: