A Call to Leadership at Yale SOM Commencement
On May 25, students of the Class of 2009 received their degrees at the Yale School of Management’s 32nd commencement. As the 172 full-time MBA and 20 MBA for Executives: Leadership in Healthcare Program students sat under sunny skies, they listened as speakers reflected on leadership lessons learned and also looked ahead, confident in the abilities of this year’s graduates to take on the responsibility of leadership.
In her first commencement address as Dean, Sharon Oster told students, "In one of the first emails I wrote to you when I became the Dean, I quipped that I was now being asked to practice management, having spent many years teaching it and writing about it." Oster, who has taught SOM students for the last 17 years, shared with them some of the lessons that she has learned on the job as Dean over the last six months about leading the two key assets of Yale SOM, and of every organization: human capital and reputation capital.
On human capital, Oster remarked, "I’ve actually learned something very simple that probably many of you knew a long time ago. Organizations become and remain great because there are people inside of them who routinely do more than they have to do." She continued, "I hope for each of you that you will go out and join new organizations and find yourself so inspired and excited by your own work that you become one of those people who delivers consistently beyond what is required."
In sectors in which human capital is key, Oster explained, an organization’s reputation depends on the actions of its people. "In such institutions, and SOM is one of them, we are bound together as a community. We rise and fall as a function of each others’ behavior. Each one of you carries a piece of the SOM reputation in your own hands. As each of you goes out and works hard and creatively for an organization you believe in, you enhance our reputation. As you work in your communities and fulfill your commitments to society, you make us look good."
Keeping with SOM tradition, one student from each program was selected by their classmates to deliver a commencement address. This year’s class speakers recounted the leadership they have seen demonstrated by their classmates over the past two years, and their readiness to solve the hard problems that matter.
Janhabi Nandy '09 spoke for the MBA class, reflecting on the hundreds of emails exchanged between classmates every week about conference planning, feedback on résumés, and sharing job contacts. "All these messages tell a story, a story about leadership and friendship."
"While sometimes, some leaders perform heroic acts, more often leadership is about facing the challenge of the everyday….In our emails I see the same thing that we hear from alumni and guest speakers and read in cases: that leadership is getting up every morning and choosing the responsibility of setting the path, living our values, taking a chance, making the call. We don’t sit around waiting for a different time or a different place. We came in as people who had demonstrated leadership, we enacted leadership everyday here, and now we go back out in the world to be leaders."
Dr. Jason Naidich '09 spoke for the third graduating class of the MBA for Executives: Leadership in Healthcare program. Naidich bridged the healthcare and financial crises in his speech, saying that underlying both is a crisis of conscience and a failure of leadership. "We did not create this mess, but we will clean it up. We will leave a better world for our children than the one we have inherited. The time has come for us to lead. We must accept and embrace the responsibility of leadership. By this I mean we must choose equity and justice over self-interest. We live in a society where all too often principles have been subverted by cultural norms. As leaders, we must define what is right, articulate our principles, and personally adhere to them."
Read a transcript of Sharon M. Oster's Commencement remarks.(pdf) (8:16)
Read a transcript of Janhabi Nandy's '09 Commencement remarks.(pdf) (9:37)
Read a transcript of Jason Naidich's '09 Commencement remarks.(pdf) (7:23)