“Finding true north” and other adventures in leadership

Dean's Innovative Leader Series brings creative and influential leaders to MIT Sloan campus

“True North is what should remain constant in a company — an internal mechanism that states who and what you are.”

Orit Gadiesh Photo: Orit Gadiesh, chairman of the board of Bain and Company, speaks to the MIT Sloan community in December 2004 as part of the Dean's Innovative Leader Series.

Orit Gadiesh, chairman of the board of Bain and Company and a widely acknowledged expert on corporate strategy, was sharing this and other straight talk about leadership at MIT Sloan last December as part of the Dean's Innovative Leader Series.

Gadiesh went on to describe a turning point in the life of Bain & Company that tested its core values, then described similar crises facing other firms. The “true north” issue, she said, was one that came up frequently in her discussions with CEOs.

The Dean's Innovative Leader Series brings to campus annually a half dozen of the most creative and influential leaders from the public and private sectors to share their experiences with the MIT community. The series is sponsored by the MIT Leadership Center in collaboration with student organizations.

Faculty, staff, and students all provide input on the roster of speakers, which includes CEOs, company founders, and key executives chosen from a wide variety of industries. The common denominator among them is an ability to offer tried and tested knowledge, inspiration, and insights into leadership issues at the highest levels of an organization.

Dave Weber, director of corporate relations, says that the three to six speakers chosen annually are distinguished by their broad appeal and high visibility within the MIT Sloan community. “They're also chosen for their accomplishments,” he says, “and their ability to share their thoughts on leadership and innovation in a global context.”

John Reed with students Photo: NYSE Chairman and former Citigroup CEO John Reed chats with students after speaking in November 2004.

Weber cites as a prime example NYSE Chairman and former Citigroup CEO John Reed, SB '61 and SM '65. When Reed visited MIT Sloan in November 2004 as part of the series, he discussed his 35-year career building Citigroup. With a particular focus on the role of technology in the banking business, he revealed the evolution of Citigroup's global expansion, rendering it one of the largest financial services institutions in the world.

Reed also shared his experiences in leading the NYSE as both interim CEO and ongoing chairman during a particularly tumultuous time in the leadership of the Exchange.

Gadiesh and Reed illustrate the perspective that senior leaders of major organizations bring to campus, Weber observes.

“Speakers of this caliber and this depth of experience,” he says, “add immense value to the other classroom and project activities that make up the bulk of the MIT Sloan curriculum.”

Related links

- MIT Leadership Center
- Corporate speakers at MIT Sloan in fall 2004