Lt. Gen. (Retired) Ken Keen joined the staff of Emory University’s Goizueta Business School in August 2013. As the Associate Dean of Leadership Development, Keen will be responsible for reviewing Goizueta’s leadership development activities across all degree programs and the coordination, implementation, and evaluation of those activities with emphasis on co-curricular and experiential learning activities.
Bringing over 38 years of military experience and leadership expertise, Keen has commanded some of the U.S. Army’s most elite organizations including units in Special Forces, the 82nd Airborne Division, and the 75th Ranger Regiment. With over 11 years working and living abroad, Keen has led military units while serving in Pakistan, Central America, South America, and Haiti.
Goizueta has a long history of developing principled business leaders for a global enterprise, as championed by the school’s namesake, former Coca-Cola CEO Roberto C. Goizueta.
In this interview, Keen shares insights into what it takes to be a good leader and develop individuals into quality leaders both in business and in life.
Q: What degree of change do you anticipate in Goizueta’s approach to teaching leadership development?
A: I look forward to building upon the leadership development initiatives already in place and growing the effectiveness of Goizueta’s offerings. Our goal is to prepare students for leadership at all levels. Leadership doesn’t come through osmosis. Students must get out there and put their skills and abilities into action. Goizueta offers wonderful opportunities to do so through student organizations and the Goizueta Advanced Leadership Academy. Leadership coursework and project-based activities also achieve this goal. I’ll be evaluating our offerings to determine in what ways we can expand opportunities and create even more valuable hands-on experiences.
Q: What areas of leadership development are most important?
A: Each student’s leadership development is a personal journey. We can create a general template, but effective leadership development requires a level of self-awareness and commitment. I encourage students to take advantage of the opportunities that Goizueta affords. They have access to numerous assessment tools, classes, and world class faculty to help target areas for improvement. Targeting such areas could payoff in the future. It could make the difference in their ability to distinguish themselves not only as a leader but as a key contributor to any team .
Q: How do leaders involve their network to impact decision-making?
A: Relationships that you’ve had over time will play a large role in how effective you will be as a leader. Leaders must invest in building relationships. Many times, as you increase you responsibilities and duties, it’s the relations that you’ve built that will enable you to break down barriers and get through doors quicker. Students are able to develop enduring relationships during their time at Goizueta. Their peers, the faculty, and school leadership are not only valuable on campus and during their enrollment but also in the professional lives of part-time students and after full-time students return to the workforce.
Q: How can students make the most of their time at Goizueta and enhance their leadership skills?
A: Without a plan you may not end up where you want to be. I advise students to develop a personal leadership development plan, starting with where they want to be at the conclusion of their MBA program. At Goizueta, there are so many opportunities to get involved, get out of your comfort zone, and involved in leadership activities.
Q: A good leader …
A: Doesn’t lunge at the ball or sit on it too long – Part of leadership is dealing with uncertainty and the unknown, knowing when to make a decision. An effective leader shows patience in gathering and weighting all the facts in order to make a timely decision. However, many times you won’t have the luxury of having 100% of the data, and that gets into the art and balance of leadership and knowing when to make a decision.
Knows how to be a team player and works to build a cohesive team – It takes a team to win! One of the most effective skills you can develop is to learn to lead without being in charge. In other words, it’s just as important to learn how to be the most effective member of a team. A high performance team requires all parts to contribute and be willing to work together.
Listens – Leaders are life-long learners. You must ‘walk’ the ‘talk’ and set the example. They know the importance of listening, and they embrace diverse viewpoints. Leading is more than influencing others. It requires effective communication skills, including both clear articulation of intentions and listening. There are a few secrets to leadership. It takes hard work, study, and constant nurturing.