Senior Associate Dean Anjani Jain Encourages New MBA Class to 'Lead by Example'
The following is the welcoming address given by Senior Associate Dean Anjani Jain to Yale SOM's new full-time MBA class during orientation on August 8, 2012.
On behalf of the entire faculty and administration of Yale School of Management, I too am delighted to welcome you to the MBA Class of 2014. Your arrival at this eminent University marks the beginning of an important new chapter in your lives and is an occasion for all of us to celebrate. Your presence here—certainly my own at this podium—is also a measure of the privilege and responsibility we inherit as we join a university that has been a beacon to some of the greatest minds during the last three centuries and whose purposeful influence reaches every corner of the globe.
There is a complex interplay of shared values, beliefs, and norms that make up this great University's culture, and at its center lies the invariant and unostentatious pursuit of what Yale's motto captures in Hebrew and Latin: Urim V'Tumim or Lux et Veritas—the illumination of knowledge and the pursuit of truth. This ideal requires uncompromising intellectual integrity in the design and delivery of academic programs and the evaluation of teaching and research. It is manifest in a preference for substance over form, performance over pedigree, caliber over credentials. Yale's reputation is built upon the knowledge that her faculty have created, and the superior abilities that her graduates have carried into the world.
You inherit this proud tradition today, guided by the core belief that it is not your pedigree but the breadth of knowledge and ideas you bring to your pursuits, the quality of your leadership, and the luminosity of your example that will shape the legacy you leave behind. This tradition requires each of us to be mindful of the subtle boundary beyond which pride becomes arrogance, and self-confidence turns into the conceit of entitlement.
Your arrival at Yale SOM tells us that these values resonate with you and that you are drawn, as I was, to the distinctive character of Yale's community, and to the shared sense of purpose at this pre-eminent university. You value SOM's deep and broad connections to the rest of the University—to Yale College, Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, Yale World Fellows, and to all of Yale's graduate and professional schools with which SOM has joint degrees and interdisciplinary programs. You are joining a School whose faculty, leading scholars in their disciplines and much sought-after outside the academy for their insight and counsel, take a deep interest in your intellectual growth and hold you to high standards of learning. You are at a University that keeps all its graduate programs small and very selective, and maintains a faculty-student ratio that few other institutions can match.
You are here because you recognize that our mission of educating leaders for business and society requires of us a nuanced understanding of how markets and organizations work—and sometimes fail—in the larger context of society and government. You appreciate that the solution to the most pressing problems facing us must draw upon the best ideas in business, entrepreneurship, nonprofit, and government sectors across the globe. You are attracted to Yale SOM's educational approach and its integrated curriculum. You refuse to accept the facile dichotomies sometimes used to characterize academia: research versus teaching or theory versus practice. Business problems require practical solutions, yet they are often beset with ever-changing complexities that defy common sense and require the most rigorous application of thought and analysis. SOM's tradition of scholarly research therefore combines intellectual exuberance and pragmatic wisdom that faculty bring to bear on emerging management problems. SOM's curriculum reflects the depth and breadth of our faculty's knowledge creation and makes no apologies for its intellectual rigor. SOM's teaching is guided by the belief that even good teachers, in the absence of sustained research and engagement with management challenges, eventually turn stale.
The main idea I wish to convey as you stand on this threshold of your Yale SOM experience is that graduate professional school is not meant to be a simulation of the world outside. If the graduate business school is not meant to be a simulation of the business world and if it aspires to be more than merely a trade school, what then is its purpose? Many thinkers have pondered this question and for me the best answer still lies in a wonderful book that Cardinal John Henry Newman wrote over 150 years ago, The Idea of the University. To paraphrase Cardinal Newman, a university should engage its students in the pursuit of an ascending hierarchy of four goals: information, knowledge, wisdom, and faith.
Allow me to interpret Cardinal Newman's vision of the university in the context of today's management education. We certainly aim to impart information and knowledge. Crudely speaking, the distinction between information and knowledge is that information is the response to the question what, and knowledge the response to the question how.
Taking this simple classification further, wisdom may be said to be the response to the question why. Wisdom, however, seems to be an elusive quality that does not always reveal itself to its seekers. Speaking at least for myself, the pursuit of scholarship and the conferral of higher degrees and a professorship certainly do not guarantee wisdom. Perhaps that is what Oscar Wilde meant when he said, "Education in itself is an admirable thing, but nothing worth knowing can be taught."
I am, however, less skeptical than old Oscar, at least where graduate business education is concerned. To me, the business analogue of Cardinal Newman's notion of wisdom is the keen intuition and judgement that successful leaders often exhibit in their decisions. Can that be taught? Though I hesitate to make a categorical assertion, I believe that a good business school provides the crucible of critical reason and creative thinking within which sound judgement can be synthesized.
Faith, the ultimate goal for Cardinal Newman, held a deep, spiritual meaning for this former agnostic who converted to Catholicism. In our context of secular management education, I tend to think of it in terms of ethics, morality, and the dignity of the fellow human being. One may indeed question if ethical values can be taught. And it seems reasonable to speculate that one's moral character, to the extent it is not already encoded in our inherited traits, is shaped in early childhood, at our parents' knees. Thus shaped, character guides our instincts and choices when we face ambiguities or ethical dilemmas. It gives courage—or fails to—when we face adversity. This intrinsic, or early development view of moral character as a determinant of individual choices seems quite plausible, almost axiomatic.
But what I think is equally probable, but underestimated generally, is the converse possibility that our actions and choices, over time, shape and re-shape our moral character. The extent to which we bring ourselves, in even small, inconsequential matters, to speak truth to power, question orthodoxies of belief (especially our own), and stand for principle over self-interest or expediency, we train our instincts and develop patterns of thought and responses that become our second nature. As you assume positions of leadership and greater responsibility, the ethical dilemmas you face will arise in situations of ever-increasing ambiguity and complexity. The habits of thought and action you display or acquire even in the un-businesslike and rarified environment of Yale will guide your future choices in business and society. Taken individually, each choice or action may seem immaterial, but the accumulated history of these choices will simultaneously reflect and shape your moral character. In your academic and co-curricular pursuits at Yale SOM, you will have the chance to lead by example, demonstrate uncompromising integrity in matters small and large, and ponder some of the deeper questions of moral philosophy.
I'll close by saying that it is wonderful to have you here! We look forward to teaching you and learning from you. We welcome your ideas, questions, and suggestions. This is the beginning of an exciting adventure whose course you do not yet know and which will transform you in ways you cannot yet predict. With your energy and creativity, you will leave a lasting imprint on this school, and you will continually enhance a heritage whose stewardship you have now begun for the rest of your lives.
Anjani Jain is the Senior Associate Dean for the Full-Time MBA Program & Senior Lecturer at the Yale School of Management. His research interests include the analysis and design of manufacturing systems, optimization algorithms, and probabilistic analysis of combinatorial problems. Read full profile.