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War Stories: MIT Sloan academic’s new book proposes an alternative, sustainable business model to counter our nation’s permanent war footing

Cambridge, Mass., January 13, 2016—Our country’s emphasis on competition and individual initiative has made us the standard-setters for a truly global economy. It has also resulted in a nation on a permanent war footing, threatening to undermine much that we as a nation have achieved.

War Stories: Fighting, Competing, Imagining, Leading (Business Expert Press / December 2015), written by Leigh Hafrey, a longtime senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, proposes a new business leadership model that takes Americans beyond combat and competition as the default setting for our daily enterprise.

Rooted in the history of World War II and the Vietnam era, War Stories traces an arc of military American self-perception on the screen, the printed page, and in public conversation.  Focusing on the past 20 years, Hafrey illustrates how armed triumphalism informs our nation’s perception of its business practices. Commercial and military ventures go hand in hand, often to our immediate, as well as longer-term, disadvantage. 

To this societal inclination, War Stories juxtaposes a different, potentially more liberating and productive story.  

Chapter by chapter, the book stages conversations among military-service veterans, active-duty officers, business leaders, senior executives, government officials, academics, and others to capture the spirit of service that motivates them and the leadership challenges that come with that service.  War Stories then applies practical leadership principles derived from America’s most cherished founding principles to 21st-century realities. This new model goes to the heart of any sustainable profession: a service orientation that puts others' interests ahead of one's own, emphasizing excellence and adherence to a code. 

"War Stories" is an exercise in cultural criticism, illustrating the effect on individuals and communities of an economy perpetually flirting with, or engaged in, conflict.  For the business reader, it emphasizes the need to rethink how we manage our organizations, and how to advance the cause of ethical business practices that work. 

Ultimately, the cultural acceptance of sustainable business practices depends on leaders who can tell the story of business in society, integrating public, private, and civil sector imperatives for an audience often eager to engage them.

About the Author

For the past twenty years, Leigh Hafrey has served as a Senior Lecturer in Behavioral and Policy Sciences at the MIT Sloan School of Management, where he teaches communication, ethics, and leadership in the MBA and other graduate programs in the United States and abroad. In 2014, he was honored as Teacher of the Year at the 24th Annual MIT Sloan Excellence in Teaching Awards.

Hafrey taught at Harvard Business School from 1989 through 1993, and served as co-Master of Mather House, one of the undergraduate residences in Harvard College, from 1993 through 2010. He is a Senior Moderator for the Aspen Institute, an international educational and policy studies organization focused on values-driven leadership.

A former staff editor at The New York Times Book Review, Hafrey has published translations from French and German and reporting, essays, reviews, and interviews in The New York Times and other periodicals, as well as blogs and case studies for MIT Sloan and various on-line media. Hafrey’s earlier book on story and storytelling, The Story of Success: Five Steps to Mastering Ethics in Business (Other Press, 2005), explores how we articulate ethical norms in and out of the workplace. 

Hafrey holds an AB in English from Harvard College and a PhD in comparative literature from Yale University.

About the MIT Sloan School of Management

The MIT Sloan School of Management is where smart, independent leaders come together to solve problems, create new organizations, and improve the world. Learn more at http://mitsloan.mit.edu/