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“Education for future leaders…

Spring 2009 The Definition

“Education for future leaders…

educationfutureThe education of the international business or political leader of the future must…

Jake MacDonald

“…include serious exposure to the art of the story. Films, plays, songs, and memoirs all tell stories, and the highest expression of story is the literary novel. Many people regard stories as mere entertainment. “I only read books of business and politics,” someone will boast. “I want to learn something.” But what we learn from non-fiction books has a brief shelf-life. What passed for state of the art knowledge in the fields of technology, science, business, and medicine, only a generation ago, is now regarded as obsolete. And much of the ‘factual information’ we now accept as gospel will one day cause our grandchildren to hoot with laughter.

Ironically, facts are temporary, while fiction is as permanent as the rocks and the stars. If knowledge is the goal of learning, we will learn more from reading a Jane Austen or a Cormac McCarthy over breakfast than a fact-packed newspaper. And what we learn from good fiction will still be true twenty years from now. Educators have long known that kids learn more quickly if facts are buried in the medium of a story. They make society and behaviour intelligible. And, at its best, good fiction teaches us what it is to be human.”

» Jake MacDonald is a Canadian journalist and author whose new book is entitled Grizzlyville.

John W. McArthur

“… recognize that the common global agenda is not just multilateral, but also multi-sectoral. Essential priorities like macroeconomic coordination, food production, energy, climate change, security and disease control are deeply interrelated. A new generation of science-savvy generalists is needed to bridge the insights of specialists across health sciences, physical sciences, social sciences and management. Throughout all regions and countries, we must move quickly to train the leaders and practitioners who will manage the complex course ahead.”

» John W. McArthur is the CEO of Millennium Promise, a Research Associate at the Earth Institute at Columbia University and a faculty member at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Margaret Somerville

“…sensitize them to ethical issues so that they recognize when they are raised; have some idea of how to go about dealing with those issues; and can identify when they need professional help to do so. Ethics education should encourage in our leaders open-mindedness without loss of principle; courage without loss of prudence – that is, wise ethical restraint; and use of all their ‘human ways of knowing’ without loss of analytic rigour. These ways include common sense; imagination and creativity; intuition (especially moral intuition); reason; ethics; ‘examined emotions;’ intellectual, emotional and spiritual curiosity, as well as its necessary companion, doubt; and experiential knowledge, which cuts across all our other ways of knowing.

Ethics education should result in leaders seeing good ethics as essential to good business, and bad ethics as bad business – no matter how lucrative this might be. These future leaders would regard ethics as integral to their leadership, and not, as has often been the case, a requirement unjustifiably restricting their ‘right’ to do business or at best an ‘add-on’ for public relations purposes. They would also know that the ethical tone of an organization is set by a small handful of leaders at the top: if those people are ethical, the organization as a whole will be ethical – and strive to be ethical. If I had a wish list of values-virtues that ethics education might elicit in the international business or political leader of the future, it would include: the moral courage to say ‘no,’ even at financial or political cost to themselves or their organizations; the capacity to exercise wise moral restraint; personal and professional honesty, authenticity, integrity and trustworthiness; and the ability to engage their ethical imagination in such a way as to hold our world – which includes our ethics and values – in trust for future generations.”

» Margaret Somerville is the Samuel Gale Professor of Law, Professor in the Faculty of Medicine, and Founding Director of the Centre for Medicine Ethics and Law at McGill University. She is the author of The Ethical Canary: Science, Society and the Human Spirit and The Ethical Imagination: Journeys of the Human Spirit.


“…be comprehensive in nature, reflecting the current nature of globalization. It is no longer possible for business or political leaders to be narrowly focussed; they must have a broad vision of the world. In an interdependent world, leaders must essentially train to be not only national citizens, but global citizens with a national passport. Understanding people across the boundaries will become a critical skill for our leaders, and their education must give them knowledge and understanding on a cross-cultural platform. Inter-faith understanding will also become a major ingredient of the proper education of future leaders. The ability to adapt to changing circumstances will become a natural requirement of these leaders; otherwise, they will soon find themselves out of tune with the times. As the world becomes more and more technology- and particularly IT-driven, leaders’ education must provide them with the basic skills to operate in this tech environment. But, above all, the education of our future leaders must teach them to think, dream and have a vision of the future that is much broader and above the level of the common man – for that is why they will be leaders.”

» Major General Muniruzzaman is the President of Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies. He specializes in South Asian security.

Marc Kielburger

“…teach interconnectivity. The challenges facing our world today are not individual threats to be dealt with in an orderly fashion. Yet, that is how we present the issues – in separate categories, such as the environment, poverty, human rights and sanitation. This is not the best way to teach or to solve. That is because each category is inextricably linked to the others; understanding this is essential for moving towards solutions.

We need the next generation to understand this concept of interconnectivity. Global warming – a product of our lifestyles in the industrialized world – is causing droughts and unpredictable rains in sub-Saharan Africa. Those weather patterns are devastating the crops of the region’s people, causing heightened levels of poverty. Because of this poverty, we have witnessed high incidences of child labour, conflict over scarce resources and greater environmental problems as erosion damages the landscape and the last few remaining trees are cut down to clear more land for food. This in turn exacerbates the global warming problem, and the cycle continues. And as this cycle threatens our world as a whole, we continue to divide the relevant issues into their own distinct categories. But what our future leaders must recognize, and our education system must teach, is the very interconnectedness of the issues themselves. By developing a multi-faceted approach for debating and discussing solutions and intervention, we can teach interconnectivity and lead ourselves into a better future.”

» Marc Kielburger is chief executive director of Free The Children, the world’s largest network of children helping children through education. He is also co-founder and director of Me to We, a social enterprise that promotes responsible lifestyle products, while helping Free The Children achieve financial sustainability.

Jack Mintz

“…help in the development of skills consistent with the needs of diverse, globally integrated and innovative societies.

The current financial crisis demonstrates how decisions in innovative financial markets can lead to systematic risk affecting the world economy when governments do not have in place the right public policies to ensure economic growth and political stability. It would have taken strong

leadership skills in both the private and public sectors to ensure that significant policy mistakes were avoided.

Leaders will need to educate themselves better to understand how global and country-specific risks can affect progress. Leadership requires not only creativity, but also the ability to understand and manage risks.”

» Jack Mintz is the Palmer Chair of Public Policy at the University of Calgary. He is a research fellow of CESIfo Munich Germany and the Centre for Business Taxation at the University of Oxford.

Dezsö J. Horváth

“…, in the case of the business leader, be built on a foundation of business fundamentals, in addition to in-depth business specializations and industry-specific learning for sectors like biotech, media, real estate and energy. The sheer complexity of managing a large, transnational enterprise is why the one-size-fits-all MBA has become obsolete. The watershed events of the past several months, coupled with growing concern about climate change and environmental degradation, are together forcing companies to deal with the triple bottom line of social, environmental and economic issues in a way that they are not used to. The best MBA programmes of the future will therefore champion a balanced stakeholder approach, rather than the narrow shareholder model of business. In the dynamic environment of accelerated change and enhanced expectations that will come to characterize business in the years ahead, business leaders will have to be fast on their feet – more entrepreneur than traditional manager, able to react quickly and to seize opportunities that present themselves as the sands continuously shift. MBA programmes will therefore need to place a greater emphasis on entrepreneurial skills and the ability to innovate, as organizations will increasingly covet these qualities in their managers and leaders. And lastly, MBA programmes must become more global in their curriculum, content, scope and outreach. Business leaders – whether they are small entrepreneurs or managers within large multinationals – can simply no longer succeed without a global orientation and outlook.”

» Dezsö J. Horváth is Dean and Tanna H. Schulich Chair in Strategic Management, Schulich School of Business, York University

Jennifer Jeffs

“…be multidisciplinary and include an element of life-work-study experience outside her or his home country. To be successful and effective in today’s complex and shifting international political, economic and business environments, corporate and political leaders need to adopt a flexible outlook and an understanding of the world and its issues that crosses a variety of boundaries. These boundaries will traverse more than graphically defined borders, often reaching beyond familiar economic, political, social and psychological terrains. While social science programmes are meshing in new ways in university calendars and on academic conference agendas to create a variety of co-disciplines – economic geography, political sociology, and social anthropology are just a few examples – business schools and polling agencies have also been championing the applicability of various hard science backgrounds – physics, in particular, with its problem-solving characteristics – to business and political life.

International experience is quickly becoming a valuable asset – not only for leaders operating globally, but also for local and community figureheads. Understanding how not only political structures and stages of economic development vary across the world, but also the extent of variations in human experience regarding work ethics, social habits, consumer choices and personal priorities will help to provide leaders with valuable insights relevant to their local customers and constituencies.

» Jennifer Jeffs is the Senior Vice President of the Canadian International Council, and a Senior Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).

Yves Fortier

“focus on a world without borders. Be it in finance, economics, politics, trade, law or some other related field, the interface between all actors will continue to have an ever-growing global dimension. Educators of tomorrow will need to be aware of this evolution.”

» Yves Fortier is Chairman and Senior Partner of Ogilvy Renault. From 1988 to 1992, he served as Canada’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN. He now focusses his practice on international arbitration and is an ad hoc judge of the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Tom Quiggin

“…be more focussed on generalization and less on narrow specialty degrees. A complex and uncertain international environment means that rate of change and the incidence of surprise will continue to increase. Specialists articulate arguments from within their own areas of expertise, and they have problems integrating knowledge across the boundaries that define specialization. Tomorrow’s leaders will face strategic surprise and complex problems that will require the ability to integrate ideas and responses across the artificial boundaries of specialization. Trying to anticipate and to respond to the rate of change in the future will require the knowledge and skills of the generalist, not the specialist.”

» Tom Quiggin is a former intelligence officer who has worked domestically and internationally for a variety of agencies. He is also a court-recognized terrorism expert and a certified knowledge management professional.

Sujit Choudhry

“…include a significant period of time spent in Asia. It is a cliché to say that the centre of gravity of economic and political power is shifting toward Asia. What requires serious reflection and attention are the implications of the rise of Asia for educating future leaders. For far too many North Americans and Europeans, international experience in study or work is for the most part strictly regional in character; that is, entirely within the same region, or at most, between those two regions (that is, North America and Europe). As a consequence, future leaders in those parts of the world have little personal understanding of developments in Asia. Without first-hand experiences in Asia, our future leaders will be unable to navigate in that environment.”

» Sujit Choudhry is Scholl Chair and Associate Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto. His books include Constitutional Design for Divided Societies and The Migration of Constitutional Ideas.

Senator Hugh Segal

“…embrace the humanities and the geopolitical realities of migration, resource shortages and strategic balance. In business, the classical disciplines of finance, marketing, engineering and, among others, human resources will always matter. But strategic and contextual awareness, and gleaning the tactical measures vital to plan and execute efficiently will make all the difference. And social responsibility will be as vital an investment globally as any other one might make…”

» Senator Hugh Segal is Executive Vice-Chair of the Canadian International Council. He is past president of the Institute for Research on Public Policy and was chief of staff to the Prime Minister of Canada.

George Roter

“…urgently change if we are to be successful in tackling the complex global challenges before us. Leadership of the future cannot involve setting a direct course and managing people to execute – the challenges are simply too big and hairy for one person to understand. Rather, our leaders need to understand and be able to embrace complexity – in multidimensional problems, social systems, time and space – and have the skills to lead and enable large groups of citizens and employees to jointly search for solutions.”

» George Roter is the Co-CEO and Co-Founder of Engineers Without Borders Canada, which focusses on programme innovation in Africa, and on building connections between Canada and Africa through young leaders and engineers.

(Illustration: Christian Northeast)