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

Rockefeller Leadership Fellows

RLF Reflection: Leading with Empathy

Jake Maguire put together a presentation on the connection between empathy and leadership, including developing empathy as leaders. In the presentation, Jake clearly identified many examples of leaders in our society who organize their leadership around empathy, such as Oprah Winfrey and Pope Francis, as well as the striking dichotomy of higher levels of female empathy and their positions in public office. Of the ways to develop empathy that Jake discussed, the most interesting, in my opinion, was how to use open-ended questions in conversations and acknowledging that empathy is not the final step. The steps that Jake outlined for developing and exhibiting empathy in leadership are straightforward to implement in our every day relationships and helped me think of empathy less as a personality trait but rather a practice. I believe that empathy is desirable in personal relationships and leadership contexts because it makes the person with whom you are interacting feel heard and accepted.

RLF Recap: "The Art of Difficult Conversations"

Dr. Roshini Pinto-Powell, a professor at Geisel Medical School and physician, joined the Fellows for their session during Week Six of the Fall term. The focus of the session was learning how to have difficult conversations and was heavily guided by the assigned summer readings for the Fellows. The assigned books were Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most and Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High. To start the discussion of difficult conversations, Roshini offered insight into how learning how to have difficult conversations has helped her in her career as a physician, in developing stronger bedside manners. The Fellows were asked to consider any recent difficult conversations they have had and reflect on why the conversation was difficult.

RLF Recap: "Facilitative Leadership: Blending Individual Styles to Achieve Common Goals"

The director of both the First Year Student Enrichment Program and the King Scholars Program at Dartmouth, Jay Davis ’90 has a wealth of experience working with students to prepare them for the rigorous of academics at a prestigious college. Through this experience, Jay has learned a lot about cultivating effective group dynamics and developing strong interpersonal skills. For the Fellows’ fifth session, they joined Jay to learn about how to blend their individual work styles in a group to achieve common goals.

RLF Recap: "What's the Fuss? Understanding the Impact of Inequities"

For their fourth virtual session of the Rockefeller Leadership Fellowship program, the Fellows were joined by Dr. Lowell “Chris” Matthews, an associate professor and the director of the Honors Program at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). Chris’s goal for the session was to breakdown the definitions of the vague but ubiquitous terms equality and equity. With an extensive background in global management and leadership strategies, Chris also has immense experience with being a member of and leading teams, giving him first-hand knowledge of how equality and equity often operate in different settings.

Through his presentation, Chris challenged the Fellows’ understandings of equality and equity, investigating their application to leadership through a systems-thinking framework. By reading a selection of articles, Fellows were tasked with collectively defining the two terms and discussing how the pursuit of both often plays out in academic and professional spaces. Consideration of best practices for and improvements to instilling equality and equity into the Fellows’ leadership styles was central to the outcome of the discussions.

RLF Reflection: The Role of Community Building in Leadership

On our October 22nd session, Tola Akinwumi gave her presentation on why community building should be at the forefront of our leadership philosophies. Citing a TedTalk, she defined community as a group of people with shared interests and goals building “common unity” between minds, spirit, citizenship, and people. Tola outlined some of the necessary ingredients to build community: engagement and continuous effort; collective guidelines to inform norms and community culture; and collective goals based on an understanding of community and individual strengths and weaknesses. Lastly, the benefits of community building are that the more community building is done, the greater the community will be! Based on Tola’s presentation, I began to see it as a positive feedback loop; the more people were engaged in community building, the stronger the community would become, and the more they would community build together.

RLF Recap: Fall Retreat 2020

Members of both the synchronous and asynchronous cohorts of the Rockefeller Leadership Fellows Class of 2021 attended the annual fall retreat on September 25-26, 2020.

RLF Retreat Day 1 (September 25, 2020)

The first retreat of the year began with a session hosted by Eugene Korsunskiy, one of the lecturers for the famous Dartmouth class ENGS 12, Design Thinking. Eugene began the session by asking the Fellows to complete a simple drawing exercise. Despite the simplicity of the instructions, the ensuing discussion revealed that many of the Fellows reported struggling with the activity for various reasons, which prompted Eugene to point out that many of the Fellows had self-imposed rules on what was meant to be a simple task. The reason for feeling stuck was that the Fellows where pulling ideas for their drawings out of schema, or specific categories of ideas, such as different types of smiley faces. When all the ideas in one scheme are depleted, we can feel stuck, but by learning to recognize our body’s physiological signals to being stuck, we can overcome the issue by consciously moving on to a new schema of ideas.

RLF Recap: "How Should I Lead? Exploring Leadership Theories from Origins to Contemporary Times"

For the third session of the program, the Fellows were joined by Dr. Stephen Gonzalez, the Assistant Athletic Director for Leadership and Mental Performance at Dartmouth College. With the week’s assignments focusing on leadership philosophies and values, Stephen’s focus on leadership theories was apt. Stephen began by introducing the evolution of leadership theories through time, from the “Great Man Theory” that supported monarchies to the more modern theories that are endorsed today. Central to the discussion was the differences between leadership traits and leadership skills. According to Stephen, leadership is not innate but something that can be learned; this understanding supports the notion of leadership skills over leadership traits.

RLF Recap: "In the Arena: Translating Thought Into Action as a Young Leader"

For the second session of the Fall 2020 term of RLF, the Fellows were joined by their first guest speaker, Nate Fick ’99, whose session was titled “Into the Arena: Translating Thought to Action as a Young Leader.” Prior to the session, the Fellows were asked to read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Self-Reliance” and a speech given at West Point by William Deresiewicz. The focus of both articles was the power and importance of solitude, in all its connotations, to leadership. Although a perhaps surprising combination, Nate began his time with the Fellows by elaborating on his personal experience with solitude and how it has benefited him in his leadership roles. Nate believes that solitude and leadership are closely related, and that solitude enables you to know yourself better, and in turn better understand others.

Rockefeller Leadership Fellow Reflections

Rockefeller Leadership Fellow (RLF) alumni, Oyebola Olabisi '06 and Jenny Ratner '08, reflect on how the RLF program continues to impact their leadership today.

RLF Recap: "Business, Strategy, Society"

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