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The Center for Leadership Gets a New Leader

Sydney Finkelstein discusses his new role as the faculty director of the Tuck Center for Leadership.

Sydney Finkelstein, the Steven Roth Professor of Management, discusses his new role as the faculty director of the Tuck Center for Leadership.

On Thursday, Dean Paul Danos announced the appointment of Sydney Finkelstein as the faculty director of the Center for Leadership. Finkelstein, Tuck’s associate dean for executive education and Steven Roth Professor of Management, is replacing the center’s founding faculty director, management and organizations professor Pino Audia, who stepped down earlier this year to focus on research and teaching.

While the mission of the center—supporting and creating leadership-building curricula, activities, and research at Tuck—remains the same, Finkelstein hopes to expand and innovate upon this foundation, including further engagement with the broader Tuck and Dartmouth communities.

“My vision for the center is for it to serve as a platform that will have an even bigger impact on leadership opportunities and development for students, alumni, and faculty members,” Finkelstein said. “In addition to our courses, we’ll have a greater number and variety of visitors, panels, and research. I want the center to be a resource for all.”

We sat down with Finkelstein recently to learn about his devotion to leadership education and how he sees the center evolving under his watch.

You’re already a busy guy, with your teaching, writing, and involvement with Tuck Executive Education. Why did you want to take on yet another role at Tuck?

Leadership education is what I’ve spent my career doing. I’ve written books on leadership, I teach leadership. So this is my sweet spot. The center is not just a natural place for me to be; I have an affinity and a passion for leadership education and I think it’s incredibly important.

Why do you find leadership so interesting, as a field of study and practice?

Because leaders are the ones who change the world. But also because there’s really nothing you do in the world where leadership is unimportant. You can work 24-7 on a project by yourself, but if you can create an organization where you empower and inspire others, the leverage point is exponential. This is not just about business; it’s true for nonprofits, NGOs, government.

What’s distinctive about Tuck’s approach to leadership education?

The Personal Leadership course has really accomplished a lot. It’s about self-awareness, emotional intelligence, things that are real differentiators. But we’re also a close-knit community that has almost every club you could imagine, and the students are much more engaged here than almost anywhere else.

So in the course of two years, virtually every student is a leader of something outside the classroom. And if they want to create something, they go ahead and create it.

How do you see the Center for Leadership changing now that you’re at the helm?

I think the center is in a position to partner with different groups within Tuck. This year, we’re going to focus on four areas: women in the C-suite, students with military backgrounds, leadership in K-12 education, and entrepreneurship. We don’t yet know all the details for these ventures, in part because we want to remain adaptable, which is a key trait of effective leadership. So we want to practice what we preach. You can think of the center as iOS or Android: it’s a platform and you can create programs for it that are only limited by your creativity and imagination.

What can students expect to see from the center this year?

They’ll see more student-centered activities like the second-year Advanced Leadership Presence Program. We’ll have more speakers coming through. We have a trip to West Point this spring, and more opportunities for students to participate in leadership research.

Also, this spring we’re going to do a “Career Pathways” series, where the center partners with the Career Development Office to do sessions for people going into consulting. Along the same lines, Professor Ella Bell Smith will do a seminar specifically for women to help them hit the ground running after Tuck in their first 90 days on the job.

How is the center partnering with Dartmouth?

We are partnering with Dartmouth's John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding and the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy, and Tuck’s Women in Business club is coordinating with the Women in Business club at Dartmouth. There will be more connections. Our MBA students have the opportunity to be mentors to undergraduates, which would be a great leadership experience for them. Many Dartmouth students would love to have someone who’s 10 years older help them think through careers and what it takes to excel at work. The Dartmouth connection is really big; we’ve done nothing like that before.

How can alumni get involved with the center?

Our alumni are leaders, so they represent a huge resource of knowledge, expertise, and experience that students can benefit from. We hope to have a much stronger connection with alumni to extend the impact of the center, and we really need their support to help leadership education grow at Tuck.