'High-Impact Leadership' Symposium to be Held on April 13

Symposium History & Program Summary

In 2000, the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia initiated a series of symposia considering the complex nature and origins of organizational success. The symposium was created, in part, to reflect commerce’s integral role in the cultural development and societal expressions reflected in the arts, humanities, and sciences. Its focus, to date, on the broad theme of organizational success or excellence reinforced the desirability and necessity of collaboration among business, other professional studies, and the liberal arts in the creation of knowledge. Discussions involving a diverse set of perspectives facilitate such ends, and the symposia attracted a dynamic, cross-disciplinary audience to achieve these goals. Previous symposia were sponsored by McIntire’s centers in conjunction with the University’s Miller Center of Public Affairs, drawing faculty and students from Commerce; Law; Medicine; Engineering; and the College’s numerous departments, including economics, psychology, sociology, political science, and foreign affairs.

Recent Symposia

Organizations and their relative success or failure, their excellence or mediocrity, reflect the sum of their collective decisions over time. The 2003 symposium addressed the very foundation of organizational excellence — decision-making theory and practice. Its program dramatized the critical importance of theory to enlightened practice and was anchored by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman’s research that documents man’s regularized irrational decision making. Heightening managerial awareness of the behavioral traps has great potential to have a positive impact on managerial practice and, over time, the path of societal progression.

Moving from a micro to a macro perspective, the 2004 symposium addressed the managerial implications of the most important revolution of our time — globalization. Accompanied by a historical expansion of world trade, the “triumph of markets” was imbedded in the unprecedented economic expansion of the 1990s. It was also marred by a series of major international financial crises and near meltdowns, risks that are now only beginning to be understood. Within that context, it also unleashed a highly acrimonious international debate that spread to the streets over globalization’s alleged social costs, including income inequality and environmental externalities. The 2004 program assessed globalization’s future directions with the hope of establishing an intellectual base from which the University community could consider the strategic and leadership challenges facing our world’s leaders — both corporate and public.

The 2005 symposium topic evolved from the unresolved discussions during the 2004 symposium regarding risk in a global age. Increased levels of globalization and geopolitical complexity tend to heighten global perceptions of risk and uncertainty. What is the reality of such perils? Are we really living in a more risky world? What is the most likely future impact of such “risks” on businesses, investment strategies, and society as a whole? The 2005 symposium explored these topics as well as the shifting burdens of risk and the potential for new risks, both expected and unforeseen.

These key symposia spawned numerous interactions between commerce and the broader University as well as a series of more focused forums addressing specific topics. The Fall 2005 Forum, “Bubble Trouble? A Hard Look at Today’s Real Estate Markets” addressed unresolved questions formulated during the 2005 “risk” symposium. In a similar fashion, the Spring 2006 Forum, “Crisis Leadership” sought behavioral understanding of leadership models appropriate to risk derived situations. We examined leadership models, including Hurricane Katrina’s impact on a private New Orleans barge line, the 9/11 attacks' impact on Sandler O’Neil Trading Partners, and various distressed debt situations.

The Fall 2006 Forum, Leadership and Positive Society Change, coincided with the kickoff of McIntire’s UVa LEAD initiative (a three-year interdisciplinary leadership program for U.Va. students who aspire to grow intellectually in their chosen domains and to enhance their abilities to lead effectively within their respective organizations and fields) and the launching of the University’s Capital Campaign. The program featured Harvard’s Howard Gardner discussing leadership and changing minds followed by two excellent case studies of taking an “indirect” leadership role into the public domain. The two U.Va. role models were Medicine’s Dr. Michael Scheld, who quietly leads his area’s global fight against infectious diseases, and Architecture’s Julie Bargmann, whose student teams have set a global standard with their landscape design interpretations of severely environmentally impaired sites.

The 2007 Spring Symposium

The 2007 spring symposium, High-Impact Leadership, continues to address the themes of the LEAD initiative and concludes our broad investigation of organizational success that evolved from McIntire’s interdisciplinary focus of global trends. Our outstanding lineup of speakers includes Simon Robertson, Chairman of Rolls-Royce; Discovery’s highly acclaimed former CEO, Judith McHale; and groundbreaking historian Douglas Brinkley, author of The Great Deluge. Charles Sydnor, former President and CEO of Commonwealth Public Broadcasting and Moderator of the "For the Record" series, will moderate the session.

The program centers on the challenges and prospects global corporate leaders face in today’s complex and turbulent world. What key leadership challenges are critical to positive change within the world’s evolving global enterprises? What experiences, positive and negative, molded our speakers’ leadership styles and techniques? What avenues are open within the global corporation from which one can initiate positive changes? How do they see our global enterprises evolving in terms of their real as opposed to stated goals and objectives? How does a socially responsible orientation impact a global corporation’s ability to create shareholder wealth? What can we learn from leadership failures such as those Douglas Brinkley documents in The Great Deluge? Indeed, what can history tell us as we contemplate the complexity of our world’s future and the need for the right leadership? What does the future hold for those of us attempting to educate their successors?

High-Impact Leadership in a turbulent world is an important topic given the rise in global complexity juxtaposed against recent leadership failures at both corporate and political levels. Has the world changed faster than our leaders’ understanding and ability to react successfully? Given the challenges our world and its evolving global enterprises face, our McIntire faculty and student body believes it is imperative to explore these issues. Effective assessment of the global changes influencing effective and positive leaders requires global experience and an understanding of history. The backgrounds and mix of participants reflect this requirement:

I. “Long -Term Thinking, Short-Term World: Leadership Challenges in a Global Age," Simon Robertson, Chairman, Rolls-Royce

II. “Doing Well by Doing Good, Perspectives on Discovery," Judith  McHale, past President and CEO, Discovery Communications Inc.

III. "Leadership Lessons from the Past," Douglas Brinkley, Historian

IV. Roundtable Discussion, moderated by Charles Sydnor, former President and CEO, Commonwealth Public Broadcasting

The benefits emanating from the symposium series have been significant, including the discussions, both formal and informal, stimulated by insights from a series of outstanding, articulate scholars and scholar practitioners. The output of these events has informed and inspired student activities and professional choices, faculty research and teaching, and managerial behavior within the circle of alumni and friends who have participated. More important, they have served as catalysts—rekindling old friendships, inspiring our daily lives, and positively modifying our intellectual approaches to life. They made us reconsider the significance of Mr. Jefferson’s University in our lives and the vitality of the nation. Dean Carl Zeithaml extends a warm invitation to you, and we look forward to your attendance and participation.


Old Cabell Hall Auditorium, The University of Virginia

8 a.m. Welcome Reception

8:30 a.m. Introduction of Program
    Carl P. Zeithaml, F.S. Cornell Professor in Free Enterprise and  
    Dean, McIntire School of Commerce

8:45 a.m. "Long -Term Thinking, Short-Term World: Leadership Challenges in a Global Age"
   Simon Robertson, Chairman, Rolls-Royce

9:10 a.m. "Doing Well by Doing Good, Perspectives on Discovery"
   Judith McHale, former President and CEO,
   Discovery Communications Inc.

9:35 a.m. "Leadership Lessons from the Past"
   Douglas Brinkley, Historian

10 a.m. Break

10:15 a.m. Panel Discussion (all participants)
   Moderated by Charles Sydnor, former President and CEO,
   Commonwealth Public Broadcasting

11 a.m. End