Interview with Laura Tyson, Interim Dean, Haas School of Business
Located in the heart of the world’s innovation center, UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business aims to address the need for lifelong learning by creating a “new thinking for a new economy.” The institution’s culture of excellence, faculty’s breadth of expertise and knowledge, and an impressive understanding of their client’s business objectives, allow programmes at UC Berkeley Executive Education (a Haas affiliated company), whether custom designed or open enrollment, to help shape careers and put companies ahead of the curve. To understand more about what makes UC Berkeley Haas the west coast business school which best meets client’s needs, we sat down with their Interim Dean, Professor Laura Tyson.
Good day, Dean Tyson! Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. Let’s start this interview by giving us a glimpse of what a day looks like for an academic leader like yourself ?
The two primary responsibilities of a dean are direction setting and fundraising. That said, I’m afraid there is no typical day in the life of a dean or academic leader. Business schools have a wide variety of stakeholders. Students come here to learn and transition into successful careers. The faculty teaches our students and conduct research; sometimes they consult with corporate partners. Alumni engage with their alma mater throughout their lives as they seek continued learning, career support, and networking opportunities. Recruiters look for talent to lead their organisations. Business professionals seek continued education and leadership development through executive education. Each group places different demands on a business school and its leaders. As a consequence, the work and responsibilities of the dean are quite varied.
As the Dean of Haas School of Business, what excites you most or what do you eagerly anticipate in terms of the school’s present and future endeavours?
I am excited about the significant progress of Berkeley Haas in executive education. When I was Dean 20 years ago, the school had a small executive education programme with limited participation by the academic faculty. Today, the programme is growing strongly, with exciting new offerings in areas such as blockchain and artificial intelligence and with much greater faculty participation. I am also thrilled to see that several of the programmes I helped launch when I was Dean are now top ranked programmes – the #1 MFE program, the #1 Evening-Weekend MBA programme and the #4 Executive MBA programme. I am delighted that Berkeley Haas now offers students a variety of options and formats to obtain an MBA degree. I am also delighted about the growing links between Berkeley Haas and other units on the Berkeley campus, including the Engineering School, the School of Public Health, the Law School, and the biological sciences. Students at Berkeley Haas can draw on the comprehensive excellence of UC Berkeley to tailor their education and career paths to meet their unique interests.
Finally, I am inspired by the fact that a growing number of our students seek to make a positive social impact early in their careers, regardless of the field they plan to enter. Some students start social ventures, some go into impact and sustainable investing, some go into existing companies to innovate and change how business is done. As the faculty director of the Institute for Business & Social Impact at Berkeley Haas, I am responsible for overseeing the courses, activities and research that help students develop such career paths. Berkeley Haas offers a “values-based” business education, one that encourages students to question the status quo and to think beyond themselves. These defining characteristics of Berkeley Haas reflect the commitment to the public good and the progressive culture that have defined UC Berkeley from the beginning of its 150-year history.
Having held various positions at Haas and in other areas of academia, can you tell us the most significant development you’ve witnessed thus far? How about the next big thing in business / leadership education?
Diversity and inclusion are among the most important topics in both business education at all levels including executive education and in the business community today. There are many areas where society is far from providing equal opportunities, and higher education is one. As a result, Berkeley Haas is embarking on a new and comprehensive strategy to increase the diversity of its student body, faculty, and staff. This is not easy to achieve, but it is the right thing to do. It is also the necessary thing to do. In order to teach our students how to lead diverse teams and be comfortable with sometimes uncomfortable conversations about race, and gender – conversations they will likely encounter throughout their careers – we need to make sure their learning environment is diverse and inclusive and reflects the society in which they live and the institutions they will lead.
In today’s fluid and quickly shifting market, it is essential to stay ahead of global trends and to anticipate what’s next for business. In response, our leadership education, through Berkeley Executive Education, is continually creating and offering programmes to empower our custom clients and individual participants to thrive in a world of change and disruption. Some of the latest topics in our executive education portfolio highlight technology disruption, open innovation, blockchain, artificial intelligence, and data science analytics for entrepreneurship.
UC Berkeley Haas is known for its culture of excellence and being client focussed. Can you tell us more about Berkeley Haas’ difference?
At a high-level the school’s larger public mission is to train business leaders for successful careers with positive social impact. Eight years ago, Berkeley Haas put a stake in the ground to compete in excellent business education based on a distinctive culture with four Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence without Attitude, Beyond Yourself, Students Always.
These principles have always been an essential part of the culture at Berkeley Haas and they guide ethical and responsible behaviours and decision-making in everything we do and across all our programmes. So, these principles are also very much reflected in how we approach our executive education programmes.
Beyond Yourself means that we make decisions that take into account their long-term impact and the impact on those around us. Question the Status Quo asks whether there is a better way of doing things – innovation. Confidence without Attitude refers to working with and through others, in a respectful manner, knowing that we don’t have all the answers. And Students Always is about continuing to learn and keeping an open mind – and that, of course, is the basic purpose of executive education.
This sharp focus on principled business leadership is reflected in the courses and programmes we offer, and benefits our clients and their approach to business. So, on the whole our Executive Education programmes are about how we can drive innovation and create business success in a responsible and ethical manner, one that will have positive long-term impact for our clients, for their clients, and for the societies in which they live and operate.
Competition is stronger than ever. What attributes/features of your executive education do you feel set Haas apart from other business schools?
UC Berkeley is located in today’s most dynamic business ecosystem. Our faculty bring content, research, and insights from Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area to our executive education clients. We are at the center of innovation and have relationships with and proximity to many of the world’s cutting-edge companies that are defining the future.
We also bring our distinctive focus on culture and values, and their implications for business organisations, leadership and success to our executive education clients. Organisations with strong cultures and values often have an edge in increasingly competitive markets.
How do you cultivate a unique design for your executive programmes? What are some of the strongest programmes offered by Berkeley Executive Education?
We are recognised for co-creating our custom executive education programmes. These programmes are not “off the shelf ” – they are designed with our clients. We collaborate with our corporate, government, and university clients when building their custom programmes so that they can directly apply skills to address a new problem or opportunity of strategic significance. The design process starts with understanding the client’s goals and the programme design reflects the client’s perspective.
The executive education programmes for individuals in our open enrollment portfolio include a breadth and depth of courses across our four academic pillars: leadership and communication; strategy and management; entrepreneurship and innovation; and finance and business acumen.
Berkeley is always pioneering new offerings within these academic pillars, with programmes such as our Financial Analysis for Leaders which must adapt as the world of finance changes, as well as programmes surrounding cutting-edge topics such as our new Data Science and Blockchain programmes.
We are also continuing to offer some of our most enduring and popular programmes, such as High-Impact Leadership, Product Management, Venture Capital for Executives and the Berkeley Executive Leadership programme.
In part because our executive education programmes are focussed on lifelong learning, Berkeley offers a Certificate of Business Excellence for individuals who take at least one programme from each of our four academic pillars over a period of three years. This certificate is designed to develop leaders who are already at the top of their field, and to encourage participants to join our commitment to lifelong learning. Students always!
How do you make sure that the results will be worthwhile for participants and their organisations in terms of knowledge acquisition, career advancement, long-term profitability for business, and other measures of ROI for an executive education?
We understand that the learning journey goes beyond the days that are spent in the classroom, so our faculty work with clients to create an action plan at the end of our programmes to prompt implementation and successful execution.
We assess participant learning outcomes purposefully after programmes to review the impact of their action plan, understand what is working, and review if there are any areas for additional development. Short and longer-term assessments and outreach enable us to ascertain career movement, business impact of projects/ plans, and other client-specific measures of ROI.
What’s the most challenging when addressing the needs of your participants? How do you meet their expectations and have them better prepared upon returning to their respective workplaces?
One of the most challenging aspects of creating executive education programmes is to help clients develop a clear idea of what they want or need. We work closely with our participants at the beginning of a programme’s design process to uncover clarity of expectations and discover what success means to them.
A challenge during our programmes for individuals is that people come from a wide range of organisations, industries and geographies. We turn this diversity into a benefit for our participants by engaging them in activities in which they will learn from one another – broadening their perspectives on a particular challenge or opportunity. These activities are often in the form of a culminating project or capstone experience intentionally designed so that participants can take their learnings back to their organisation to implement – particularly as they assume roles of increasing leadership responsibility and need to work more in cross-functional roles.
Over the years, Berkeley Executive Education has created positive impact on leadership development and bottom line results. What have been the remarkable achievements and best feedback that you have received?
Upon completing a Berkeley Executive Education programme, leadership teams have solved problems together and gained a common language and toolset that they use daily in their organisation to create strategy and make decisions. Felix Zimmermann, Chairman of the Management Board, TAKKT AG, told us his organisation partnered with Berkeley Executive Education for a custom programme “to understand our current leadership style, to see our employees’ view, and to develop a new leadership approach.” He found: “Our customised programme ‘TAKKT Leadership in the Digital Age’ was outstanding in terms of content, methodology, energy, learning success and practical relevance. Thank you, for your extremely valuable contribution to our digitisation journey.”
As the world and businesses advance, leadership becomes more challenging. What do you think are the important qualities a business leader must have in order to drive business functions successfully into the future?
More than business acumen, leaders must have a vision and the ability to engage the talent of their organisations to realise the vision. Great leaders are often exceptional storytellers, as they inspire others to work together toward achieving their shared vision. Business leaders are also great listeners. They listen to their employees, peers, and other thought leaders to inform their vision.
In a very concrete sense, Professor Jennifer Chatman discusses the strategic deployment of six leadership styles in our Leading High-Performance Culture programme. These styles include coercive, authoritative, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, and coaching. Effective leaders must be able to employ different leadership styles in different scenarios. I think these styles capture much of what a business leader must balance and employ to drive their organisations successfully into the future.
One of the global advocacies we have nowadays is to empower women for leadership roles across all industries. As a female leader yourself and a co-chair at the World Economic Forum’s Council on Women’s Empowerment, how could we progress in such an endeavor?
There are many opportunities to help others to fulfill their dreams and to live up to their potential. I have focussed much of my career on research and teaching to create change and have also played an advisory role in the public sector. As we progress in our careers, women can make sure that we create opportunities for other women around us and that we draw on the many resources available to advance gender parity. Berkeley Executive Education, for example, offers both custom and open enrollment programmes that focus on how to achieve gender parity in business. Professor Laura Kray, who has done path-breaking research on gender differences in negotiations and leadership styles, and Kellie McElhaney, who leads our new Center for Gender Equity & Leadership, teach in our highly regarded Women’s Executive Leadership programme. Executive Education also delivers leadership training to women executives in numerous blue-chip companies and government entities.
With your long-established career working for positive social change, how could we achieve a sustainable future and society for all?
Social impact starts with the little decisions we make every day. As I mentioned before, Berkeley Haas has put a stake in the ground to compete on culture. If we can inspire this principled values-driven approach to conducting business with our students and executive education clients, we will redefine how business is done.
People in the upper echelons naturally have a lot on their plate. How do you make sure that you maintain a healthy lifestyle, both in your professional and personal life? What are your favourite routines?
I am fortunate that I am passionate about my work. I am surrounded by very smart, creative, and capable people, and we work together to create a better future for our students. I love helping Berkeley Haas develop values-driven future leaders based on the school’s defining leadership principles. That energizes me and gives me purpose both on a personal and a professional level.
Thank you very much, Dean Tyson. It was a real pleasure speaking with you.
About the Interviewee
Laura D. Tyson is the Interim Dean at the Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley (July 2018 – December 2018). She chairs the Blum Center for Developing Economies Board of Trustees at UC Berkeley and is a Distinguished Professor of the Graduate School and Faculty Director of the Institute for Business & Social Impact at Berkeley Haas. Tyson was the Dean of London Business School from 2002 – 2006 and the Dean of the Berkeley Haas from 1998 – 2001. Tyson was a member of the US Department of State Foreign Affairs Policy Board. She was also a member of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. She served in the Clinton Administration as the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers (1993 – 1995) and as Director of the National Economic Council (1995 – 1996). She is a member of the Board of Directors of AT&T, CBRE Group Inc., Lexmark International Inc., and Apex Swiss Holdings SARL. She is the co-author of Leave No One Behind, a report for the United Nation’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment.