In 1998, Vijay Govindarajan, the Coxe Distinguished Professor of Management, called up his friend Hans Becherer, the CEO of Deere & Company, and asked him to imagine Deere in 2020.
Becherer said he envisioned Deere as a $50 billion company (it’s right on track) with global sales and operations (it is). Govindarajan inquired about what Becherer would need in order to create that future company. Becherer responded with three key components: “leadership, leadership, leadership,” he said. Govindarajan asked other CEOs the same question, and they all had similar answers. “So I went back to Becherer and said, If I develop an executive education program for global leaders, will you sign up? He said sure,” Govindarajan recalls.
That’s the origin story of the Global Leadership 2020 program (now called Global Leadership: Discover and Create the Future), an innovative executive education consortium composed of John Deere, Colgate-Palmolive, Corning, Rolls Royce, and Genworth Financial. The program, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, consists of three modules: classroom learning from Tuck faculty in Hanover (covering strategy, innovation, and leadership frameworks), and two seven-day modules in India and China. Each company sends about a dozen high-potential senior leaders to the program, who also collaborate on a strategically important Action Learning Project within their company.
Those were the initial pieces of the program, and they remain so today. “Because of these three important ingredients—world-class participants, a world-class curriculum, and the Action Learning Projects—the program creates lasting impacts on the participants and their companies,” Govindarajan says.
Marc Howze, a senior vice president and the chief administrative officer at Deere, entered the program in 2003, when he was new to the company. “When I got the call to do it, I said, ‘I’m really busy, do I have to?’” he recalls. “It wasn’t until I actually got to Tuck, when I saw the quality of the people, the depth of the discussions, the experience of learning with other companies and the rest of the team at Deere, that I really understood the value of it and was humbled that I had been selected to attend.”
Participants have the opportunity to see how a variety of industries across the world are adjusting to global change.
Howze’s cohort from Deere included some mid-career hires, and people who started their career at the company. As it turned out, they worked together (and still do) for many years after completing the program, and built relationships founded on their shared experiences in Hanover and on the India and China modules. “It accelerated my learning about Deere and helped me develop deep and enduring relationships with people around the company,” Howze says. “Deere is a relationship company; that’s how you get stuff done here. So the program’s role in helping to develop those relationships has been hugely important for me.”
It’s particularly eye-opening for the people who go on these experiences. This idea of broadening our perspective of how business operates at a global scale is really a crucial element for us.
Around 2012, when Howze assumed control of the human resources depart-ment at the 73,000-employee company, he conducted an informal poll of GL2020 alumni. He wondered, given that most of them traveled to India and China regularly, whether the program would still be valuable for employees in similar roles. Their unequivocal answer was yes. “It’s because when they go on a business trip, it’s to a Deere facility, where they talk to Deere people about Deere topics,” Howze explains. “The GL2020 experience, on the other hand, gave them a much richer experience with the culture and people. It opens up your thinking around what’s possible on an everyday basis.”
Those trips have been equally significant to senior leaders from Rolls Royce, a leading global manufacturer of gas turbine engines in the military and civilian aerospace sectors. Part of the company’s overall strategy is to look for partnership opportunities around digitization and to expand into other products and geographic markets, which requires leaders to have global mindsets and perspectives. “That’s why the immersive nature of the modules in India and China are really special,” says Ragnhild Oye-Taylor, the change partner for talent, leadership, and capability, who served as the company coach during the program recently. “It’s particularly eye-opening for the people who go on these experiences. This idea of broadening our perspective of how business operates at a global scale is really a crucial element for us.”
Scott Torrey, the director of marketing and commercial operations for the Gorilla Glass division at Corning, has distinct memories of his trip last year through the outskirts of Chennai, India, during one of the in-country modules in Asia. “I met migrants moving to the city for the first time,” he says. “Seeing that has made these abstract global trends, like urbanization, more real, and allowed me to better understand the desires and aspirations of people around the world.” On a more company-oriented level, Torrey’s experience in the program, through the Action Learning Project, enabled him to work with people at Corning he normally wouldn’t have collaborated with, at locations across the globe. “And the project was assigned and reviewed by a steering team of our most senior executives,” he says. “Having the opportunity to interact with the steering team and a global team of my peers has been a very positive experience for me.”
I met migrants moving to the city for the first time. Seeing that has made these abstract global trends, like urbanization, more real, and allowed me to better understand the desires and aspirations of people around the world.
The legacy of Global Leadership continues, as the program began another cohort this fall with the new addition of Genworth Financial, Fortune 500 Insurance Holding Company with the number one market position in long-term care insurance in the U.S., and leading mortgage insurance platforms in the U.S., Canada, Australia, India, and Mexico. The company is being acquired by the Chinese firm China Oceanwide, which is investing in Genworth to build the first long-term care insurance business in China. Thomas McInerney T’82, CEO of Genworth, has global business experience dating back to the late-1980s, when he was helping Aetna become one of the first American insurance companies licensed in China. “Today, my team and the people we’re putting into this program don’t have that experience,” McInerney says. “China will be a significant opportunity for us, and Global Leadership will help further develop some very talented Genworth people and make them more effective.”
As Genworth and the other consortium companies know, the business world is changing faster than ever before, and in increasingly unpredictable ways. That’s why Govindarajan’s original idea for the Global Leadership program is still relevant. “It’s about changing leadership mindsets, about discovering and creating the future,” Govindarajan says. “It’s about this one question: can you be ready, no matter what the world brings you?”
To learn more about the program, visit http://gl.tuck.dartmouth.edu.
*This article originally appeared in print in the winter 2019 issue of Tuck Today magazine.