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

Rockefeller Leadership Fellows

RLF Recap: "Leading Creative Collaborations"

Dartmouth College alumnus and the speaker for Session 8 of the Rockefeller Leadership Fellows program Professor Peter Robbie ‘69 opened the session with an award-winning Nike advert titled “Write the Future.” The video depicts a number of famous soccer players having widespread impacts around the world as they play their sport. To Professor Robbie, the takeaway of the ad is simple: leaders lead the world into the future with playfulness and creativity. The crux of Professor Robbie’s presentation mirrored his initial thoughts: Leading creative innovation is a key leadership challenge. Because we are living in a creative economy, it is critical that future leaders like the Fellows learn to facilitate creative collaboration.

RLF Recap: "Adaptive Action: Leading Change in Uncertain Times"

The opening words from Kerry Priest for the seventh session of Rockefeller Leadership Fellows were “leadership is an activity so we can get better at it.” Kerry shared that she views a difference between a leader as a noun and leadership as a verb. To her, the word leader focuses on a person or position–something people “are.” Leadership focuses on people (relationships) and processes (activity)–something people “do.” The entire point of RLF is to develop leadership skills, supporting Kerry’s hypothesis. “Leadership is motivated by challenges and finds opportunities,” emphasizing the courage necessary from future leaders to confront problems.

RLF Reflection: Decision-Making in Uncertain Times

On October 29, Coco Chu gave a presentation on decision-making in uncertain times. This proved to be a timely topic as converging pandemics has largely disrupted every aspect of our lives. At the end of her presentation, we were able to recognize different types of uncertainty, define “ambiguity absorbers” vs. “ambiguity amplifiers” and discover news ways to effectively make decisions in uncertain and unprecedented times. Ultimately, Coco believes decision-making is inherently data-driven. However, it is important to note that sometimes the necessary data to make good decisions remains inaccessible.

RLF Reflection: Leadership and Friendship

On November 6th, Olivia Lovelace gave a presentation on Leadership and Friendship. According to Olivia, while it is possible to be a friend and a leader simultaneously, it’s important to prioritize being a leader. She believes it’s important to establish clear boundaries and ensure that you never give a friend preferential treatment, or hold back on honest feedback due to friendship. Furthermore, Olivia also encourages leaders to seek out mentorship to help them navigate such challenges.

After watching Olivia’s presentation, I reflected on the boundaries between being a leader and a friend. As both a leader and a friend, one must be there for others, be empathetic, help them when they need it, and mediate conflicts. Shared virtues such as trust, loyalty, honesty, and reciprocity exist, yet there’s a fundamental difference – leaders also have to lead their teams to a shared goal.

RLF Reflection: Empathetic Leadership

On October 29th, Sarah Solomon gave a presentation of the importance of empathetic leadership. In particular, Sarah argued that a focus on empathy could help transform management into leadership and would create a safe and supportive working environment. According to Sarah, empathetic leadership requires a dedication to emotional simulation and perspective taking in combination with an ethical approach to decision-making. Together, Sarah suggested, leaders could create strong bonds within their communities and safe spaces for their communities to work.

RLF Reflection: Embracing Courage in Leadership

“Profiles in Courage: Leading through Bravery” Jonathan Briffault 

On Thursday, October 15th, Jonathan Briffault presented on “Profiles in Courage: Leading through Bravery.” Jonathan is a History and Government Double Major at Dartmouth. Additionally, he is the Vice President of Dartmouth’s Student Assembly and the Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society, and he holds various other leadership positions in his organizations of interest. His interest in politics and the US Senate inspired him to study the profiles of great political leaders and engage in discourse on the key to their greatness. In his presentation, he speaks on what he believes to be the values that make a great leader—specifically courage—and draws from the experiences of political leaders he admires to illustrate how their courage to do the unexpected and take risks in times of need separates them from other leaders in US history.

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.


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