Dean Robert Joss: Leadership Means Responsibility | Summary and Q&A

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June 3, 2009
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Stanford Graduate School of Business
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Dean Robert Joss: Leadership Means Responsibility

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Summary

In this video, the speaker discusses the definition of leadership at "the top" and the responsibilities that come with it. He emphasizes the importance of taking responsibility for a group with a mission to fulfill and the need for a clear view or direction for the group. The speaker also discusses the need to develop management systems and effectively communicate with and earn the trust of followers. He shares personal experiences and insights from his career in various leadership roles. Finally, he encourages the audience to take on leadership roles and make a positive impact on the groups they are responsible for.

Questions & Answers

Q: How does the speaker define "the top" and what does it entail?

According to the speaker, "the top" refers to any position where one takes responsibility for a group with a mission to fulfill. It can be any job or role in which one feels a sense of responsibility and ownership. The size and scope of the group can vary, ranging from a small team to an entire enterprise. The speaker believes that the responsibility for the group is the most important aspect of being at "the top" and implies that it is not about power, fame, or fortune.

Q: How does the speaker describe the view from the top?

The speaker describes the view from the top as the need for leaders to have a clear view or direction for the group they are responsible for. He believes that leaders need to know where the group currently stands and where they would like to see it headed in terms of growth and improvement. This view should encompass all dimensions of the group, including how it acts, thinks, feels, and performs. The speaker explains that it is the leader's responsibility to develop and communicate this view, ensuring that the group has a sense of direction.

Q: What are some examples the speaker gives of different leadership roles he has held?

The speaker mentions that he has worked for four big institutions and had 10 opportunities at various leadership roles throughout his career. These roles have ranged from small groups to large groups, line to staff positions, and businesses to corporate or business functions. He mentions working at a bank, a business school, and having experience in both the private and public sectors. The speaker also references his role as the Dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Q: How does the speaker emphasize the importance of responsibility in leadership?

The speaker believes that responsibility is the key aspect of being in a leadership role. He explains that being at "the top" is not about power, fame, or fortune, but about taking on 24/7 responsibility for the group and driving it towards improvement. The speaker highlights the importance of being accountable for all aspects of the group, including its actions, thoughts, feelings, and performance. He emphasizes that responsibility cannot be delegated and that it is the leader's duty to ensure the group's success.

Q: How does the speaker discuss the relationship between power and leadership?

The speaker shares a quote from Margaret Thatcher, stating that being powerful is like being a lady - if you have to say you are, you aren't. He explains that power is not the essence of leadership but rather, responsibility is. He emphasizes that leadership is not about exerting power and control over others but about being responsible for the well-being and success of the group. The speaker suggests that leaders should aim to earn the trust and respect of their followers, rather than relying solely on their positional power.

Q: How does the speaker describe the view and what leaders can do to make it a reality?

The speaker suggests that leaders should develop a view or direction for the group they are responsible for. This view should serve as a guiding framework for the group's choices and actions. The speaker explains that leaders can turn the view into a reality by implementing effective management systems and communicating with the group. He mentions planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling as management processes that can push the group in the right direction. Additionally, the speaker highlights the importance of effective communication and the ability to enlist followers.

Q: How does the speaker emphasize the role of followers in leadership?

The speaker believes that leaders are highly dependent on their followers. He emphasizes the need for leaders to inspire, motivate, and engage their followers. According to the speaker, leaders should aim to create a sense of commitment and confidence in their followers so that they willingly support and work towards the group's goals. He mentions the importance of building trust and being a trustworthy leader who prioritizes the group's welfare over personal gain. The speaker suggests that leaders should focus on the relationship between themselves and their followers to foster a strong and productive dynamic.

Q: How does the speaker discuss the challenges of being at "the top" and the need for feedback and open criticism?

The speaker recognizes that being at "the top" can be challenging and that people may not always provide honest feedback. He emphasizes the importance of inviting open criticism and being willing to listen to different perspectives. The speaker shares various strategies for gathering feedback, such as managing by walking around, conducting surveys, or establishing hotlines. He highlights the need for leaders to be open to criticism and to actively listen to understand the perspectives and experiences of employees and customers. He suggests that leaders should aim to continuously learn and improve based on the feedback they receive.

Q: How does the speaker stress the role of leaders as representatives and role models for their groups?

The speaker emphasizes that leaders are the representatives and symbols of their groups. He explains that leaders stand for the group everywhere they go and in everything they do. The speaker believes that leaders cast long shadows and that their actions and behaviors influence those around them. He highlights the importance of leaders earning the trust and respect of their followers by being genuine, trustworthy, and demonstrating care for the group's welfare. The speaker shares personal anecdotes to illustrate the impact leaders can have on the perception and trust of their organizations.

Q: What does the speaker suggest young MBAs should focus on to become effective leaders?

The speaker suggests that young MBAs should focus on not taking themselves too seriously, listening a lot, having a clear view or direction for their group, and turning that view into reality. He believes that leaders should be aware of their group's needs, analyze situations, and take action when necessary. The speaker encourages young MBAs to take responsibility for their groups' performance, even if it is not explicitly part of their job description. He also mentions the importance of continuously learning and adapting one's leadership style through experience and reflection.

Q: How does the speaker emphasize the importance of doing meaningful work and making a positive impact?

The speaker believes that doing meaningful work and making a positive impact is essential in leadership. He suggests that individuals should aim to do work that they believe needs to be done and work that they feel passionate about. The speaker emphasizes that leaders should care about the success and well-being of their groups, and that achieving better outcomes for the group is incredibly satisfying. He encourages individuals to take on leadership roles and make a positive impact on the groups they are responsible for, as they have the power to change the world.

Takeaways

The speaker emphasizes that leadership is about taking responsibility for a group with a mission to fulfill. He highlights the importance of having a clear view or direction for the group and turning that view into reality through effective management systems and communication. The speaker stresses the need for leaders to earn the trust and respect of their followers and to invite open criticism and feedback. He discusses the challenges and rewards of being at "the top" and the role leaders play as representatives and role models. The speaker encourages young MBAs to focus on doing meaningful work and making a positive impact, and to strive for continuous growth and learning in their leadership journey.

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