Business and politics have merged in a way that many of us have not seen before. Companies are expected to speak up and engage on political and social issues, even if these issues have nothing to do with their businesses. In one prominent example, a video went viral of two black men being arrested at a Starbucks while waiting for an acquaintance after an employee called the police. Starbucks quickly responded with an announcement that they would be closing down their stores for several hours in order to provide employees with racial bias training. As consumers become more selective about the types of companies where they spend their dollars, the ‘safe’ option of staying silent is no longer acceptable.
In my Advanced Corporate Strategy class last spring, Professor Aaron “Ronnie” Chatterji and my classmates challenged me to reflect on my current beliefs and how this would affect my decision making as a leader after leaving Fuqua. One of my favorite things about the class was that cases were on current events. We discussed different types of organizations such as the NFL, Airbnb, and Facebook. After each case, we reflected on previous decisions we made. At times, the choices we made contradicted stances we had taken previously. Ronnie also pulled two of us aside after each class to record a video in which we revisit some of the points made during the class discussion. You can watch the one I participated in below and the rest of the series here, concluding with a wrapup summarizing some takeaways from the course.
In my professional experience, there haven’t been many opportunities to comfortably talk about topics involving race, politics, gender, etc. However, Advanced Corporate Strategy created a safe, professional space to exchange opinions and ideas with my peers. Ronnie did an excellent job of facilitating the discussion and getting us to question the beliefs we walked in with. We learned from one another and although there were times where we agreed to disagree, I felt I was able to get a clear understanding of another leader’s perspective, a skill necessary for every well-rounded leader of consequence.