Harvey Kahalas, Ph.D., Dean, Stuart School of Business,
Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL
There is nothing more important or impactful than the search for a leader who can transform a key segment of an enterprise or the entire organization. Transformation doesn’t mean just ”turn around”, rather, it implies implementation of new systems, approaches and culture—the way the enterprise segment of entire organization functions. A turn around can produce a quick fix—similar to when a seller puts a new coat of paint on their house prior to putting it on the market, without dealing with the more challenging elements of the property like drainage, HVAC, windows, plumbing—the whole shooting match. Transformational change then, is defined as a deep dive into the essential functioning of the enterprise in order to more closely align it with its mission and vision in a way that produces long-lasting improvements in operating quality and efficiency, bottom line financial performance shareholder/stakeholder and customer satisfaction. Transformational leaders are able to tackle the challenges found in an organization or institution that is simply not delivering on the promise of its mission and vision and initiate positive long-term changes.
There are many transformational leaders who quietly go about their business and after several years of effort are heralded as the” real deal” because their organizations are thriving in many easily measured ways.
We have been fortunate to work on many searches that have sought transformational leaders; this is a specialty of our firm.
This past week, I had a great conversation with our hired candidate and KULPER Advisory Board Member, Dr. Harvey Kahalas, Dean of the Stuart School of Business at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, IL. His comments should be of real interest to any business or academic leader who is faced with the challenge of bringing about true transformational change for his or her organization by attracting a new senior level leader.
Here is a summary of our conversation:
Keith, when I use the term, Transformational Leader, I am not referring to someone who successfully affects a turn around. Definitely, a turn-around for any organization is a big deal but transformational change is much harder and trickier to affect. The organization may have been floundering due to anemic revenue, lackluster client response and lack of focus on what it takes to drive a successful enterprise and a turn-around player can come in and start attacking these issues, but after the low hanging fruit is picked—then what? What I am talking about is real transformational change that goes right to the core of how the entire enterprise operates and serves its key constituencies to produce the long-lasting results desired by the trustees, president and provost.
Before you arrived as Dean of the Stuart School there was grave concern about the functioning of the school. There were a string of Deans who did not accomplish the goals set forth by the provost, president and trustees. Let’s talk about how you affected the transformation at the Stuart School.
As you will recall, Keith, when we first talked about my interest in the Dean position at the Stuart School, I wanted to learn as much as I could about what had been happening there over the past few years. Chicago is a terrific, but highly competitive market, for business education. As you know, there are large scale and world famous business education programs offered by Northwestern and the University of Chicago. Additionally there are solid programs at DePaul, Loyola, U Illinois and others. The IIT Stuart was always known for its strong quantitative programs in finance but the school was losing enrollment, many faculty were nearing retirement, the AACSB re-accreditation was looming and the financial performance was lackluster. A transformational change was desired by the provost and president or the school was in jeopardy. All of this was well stated in the detailed position description that you sent me; one of the most comprehensive I have ever seen.
Thanks for the compliment, Harvey. We know how vital it is for the position description to be a document that is not merely a dry recitation of typical job requirements that are almost the same for most business school Dean searches. We wanted to understand what the provost and president, trustees, faculty, alumni and students were concerned about and what they wanted the new Dean to achieve by when—in order to be judged a real success.
Yes, the in-depth position description communicated that the hiring decision makers were serious this time; they wanted the right new Dean to affect changes that would transform the Stuart School and leverage its promise to become one of the best business schools in the Chicago Land region and better known nationally in its key areas of strength. I was attracted to the challenge because after completing a successful run as the B School Dean at Wayne State in Detroit, I was ready to come to the IIT and help them accomplish their goals—-I knew what I had to do.
Your results have been nothing short of spectacular, Harvey, over the past 6 years! Enrollment is up, new faculty was hired, average GMATs for new MBA students are approaching 700, you are exceeding your revenue goals…..what else could the president and provost want?
We have run out of space in our downtown location—that sort of says it all. As a result, we plan to move the Stuart School into several floors of the new tower building being built on the main campus of the Institute. We will continue to maintain a presence in the Loop, but our move to the main campus helps us keep growing enrollment while better serving our key constituents—our students, faculty and alumni.
It’s taken 6 years, but we have really made big changes that will be very long-lasting. We have a great story to tell in the marketplace, now, and we should continue to grow, gain market share and make a meaningful contribution to the field of business education. Our ranking has improved and now our facilities will be as good as it gets…our students love being at the Stuart School and they are telling their colleagues and friends. We have published annual progress reports and keep our website up to date. You will see a number of video testimonials on the website from our students. All in all it took a lot of hard work and dedication from a team of great people. We intend to keep at it because we know that we have to keep improving, but we have affected the systemic changes to help assure that the improvements we have made will be long-lasting.
We think about how we can do that here at KULPER & COMPANY…..all the time.
If I may, say, not many search professionals do what you do….and because of that, I think you should style your firm as an expert in attracting transformational leaders. There are many search firms that you must compete against—some are even public companies. It is difficult for them to take the in-depth personal approach that you do…and if you style KULPER & COMPANY in this way, Keith, you will attract more clients who, like the IIT, are serious about affecting transformational change for their organization. Professional executive search consulting service like this is worth so much more ……
I appreciate your advice very much, Harvey. We know of many companies and higher educational institutions who want to affect long lasting—transformational change—but because they are not sure about how to go about implementing it they are not sure which search firm to engage other than the “name brand” varieties that are out there.
Getting the “right people on the bus” is what a search firm must deliver, consistently. Clearly, it is your job to assess the potential of the candidates you introduce, but even more important it is necessary for the clients to listen to your advice and counsel as the search progresses because you are their guide and trusted advisor. When the provost of IIT spoke about you to me he said, “We picked KULPER & COMPANY because we wanted to work with a firm who would listen and really work with us; this search is just too important to have a firm that will just go through the motions.” As you know, I said that the position specification really caught my eye—it was not at all typical. It told the story of the institution and included job requirements, experience etc., but, what really attracted me was that it helped me visualize what I could bring to the table in terms of what the IIT leadership expected of me. The provost and president were terrific to work with, too. Because they had been down a rough road before with previous hires their idea of what it would take for me to do a good job as the new Dean was crystal clear.
Attracting you to the position wasn’t hard once we talked—-I was delighted and confident that if you were hired that you would knock the cover off the ball–sort of like what George Steinbrenner did with the Yankees…but without the drama!
I like the baseball metaphor…..and you are kind to compare me with George Steinbrenner.
Now if you could take over for the Cubs…maybe you could bring them a World Series Championship…..
Harvey Kahalas :
(Laughing)…. Oh, I think that might be a tough one…..The president is now talking with me about an extension of my contract here at the IIT!
You certainly deserve that kind of recognition, Harvey. Thanks for your time today, ….and for the great job you have done in creating long term value for the Illinois Institute of Technology and the many constituencies you support at the Stuart School of Business.
KULPER & COMPANY, LLC specializes in senior level search assignments designed to attract senior level leaders who affect transformational change for institutions of higher education and corporations who derive their success from continuous improvement and innovation. We welcome inquiries from universities and businesses interested in engaging our professional executive consulting service.