The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

RLF Recap: "Business, Strategy, Society"

Fellows participate in a SWOT analysis of a case study in order to develop a strategy. 

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On Thursday, February 17th, Professor Curt Welling ’71 came to talk to us about the leadership challenges presented by controversial social issues. Professor Welling graduated from Dartmouth College as part of the class of 1971, and later graduated Tuck Business school in 1977. After graduating from Tuck, Professor Welling spent 25 years working in the investment banking and securities industries, and then spent the next 11 working for AmeriCares as their president and chief executive officer. He now teaches classes on Impact Investing, Social Entrepreneurship, Business and Society.

During our session, he spoke to us about how to handle potential obstacles that might arise due to controversial social issues. He began by outlining all of the various considerations that a leader must take into account when faced with a challenge. After that, he helped us establish a framework by which we could lay out the opportunities and obstacles that are associated with facing a difficult challenge. He then took these concepts out of the abstract and had us role play through a real-life case study.

The case study was about the challenge eHarmony faced when their policy regarding same-sex marriage was scrutinized. Online dating was at its peak, and while eHarmony touted an impressive system that used a matching algorithm that was based on 30 years of data, they did not offer a same-sex alternative. Their competitors saw this as an opportunity to slander them and take some of their user base, and some individuals actually sued the company for their lack of a same-sex option. We then roleplayed as eHarmony executives and worked out a solution.

This exercise was an extraordinary opportunity to not only learn how to prioritize various considerations when facing a difficult situation, but it was also an amazing opportunity to actually put that skill to use. Leaders need to know how to appropriately deal with controversy, and use those moments as a time to reflect, grow, and improve. It was also an extremely well-timed session, as just later that week I had to face a challenging controversy in one of my own organizations, and I felt incredibly well prepared to both handle it and use it as an important learning moment for our group.  It was certainly a session that I believe will have great practical implications on the way I handle difficult situations for quite some time to come.

-Written by Jonathan Gliboff, Class of 2020 Rockefeller Leadership Fellow

As Rockefeller Leadership Fellows, seniors gain a better understanding of the qualities and responsibilities expected of leaders. As Fellows take part in the workshops, dinner discussions, and team-building exercises, they examine their skills, qualities, and attributes as leaders and analyze how these influence teamwork and achieving goals. 

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