Thoughts From Shanghai and the Global Leadership Forum (Part 2)

Reporting from the Global Leadership Forum in Shanghai, Peter Rodriguez sent his thoughts on the concluding days of the event, continuing from yesterday’s report on his arrival in Shanghai and reconnecting with Darden alumni from around the globe:

The long, impressive boardroom table is set with Darden brochures and we are set for our first Global Advisory Council meeting outside the US. Had I thought more quickly I would have found a way to display the ad for Darden I was thrilled to see just outside the security lines in Dulles. I settle for passing around my iPhone with the photo of the ad.

Dean Bruner eloquently sets the tone and marks the start of the day with some historical context. Les Grayson, professor emeritus, walks us through the long history the School’s international efforts that first brought many of these alums to the table where we sit this morning. It’s a free flowing meeting with lots of brainstorming and strategic discussions. Even after two hours the momentum is such that we arrange an ad hoc continuing session for the afternoon. When does that happen? When do people who spend so much of their time in meetings have one on a weekend for two hours and decide to ask for more? This is a good sign and evidence of the energy and commitment you just can’t manufacture or mandate.

In between meetings we join local alumni and GEMBA students to listen to Scott Price ‘90, CEO of Wal-Mart Asia, who gives context to the case study written for the occasion and based on some of the most current challenges facing Wal-Mart. The GEMBA students sit on the front rows and loft some tough questions his way. The second row crowd of alums offers a set of their own questions and I’m in deep focus. This is the outcome we had hoped for and its paying off. A great, contemporary case taught by our world’s best faculty focusing on a critical growth region, based on a CEO alum facing tough, tough challenges. And now, the CEO is in the room engaging the group and sticking around for a day and half.

And there’s more of the same to come. Later that afternoon, another great case and another key alum, Jerry Peng ’03 of Goldman Sachs, talks through his experiences in the heart of the financial community and the deals shaping the Chinese economy. Jerry is sticking around too and leading the way for us in China. This is when you think how wonderful it is to be an academic at a school deep in talent and global ambitions.

The stream of conversations is in the hallway, elevators and corners of nice sitting spots here and there. There’s a great conversation by a few over cigars outside between sessions and another walking through People’s Park on an overcast day. We end with cocktails 64 floors high overlooking the amazing lights of Shanghai at dusk. The Dean thanks Henry Skelsey ’84, Jerry Peng ’03 and Scott Price ’90 for their amazing support as the co-chairs of the Forum and even as the reception ends and the great local alumni base begins to disperse, we take conversations onward to dinners and walks in the evening. I’m gassed until I start to walk outside and the awesome electricity of Shanghai on a Saturday night takes me over. You have to see this city at night.

The smiles over the breakfast buffet are plentiful and the planning for the next steps has begun in earnest. We debrief, take notes and it is hugs all around. The GEMBA team had an early morning to catch a bullet train to Beijing and, hopefully, some well-earned rest. Like all the best moments in life I savor the fresh memory and start planning for next time. Nothing is as invigorating as the idea of doing more and doing it even better than before, especially when the successes bring you together with good friends from all corners of the globe.

– Peter Rodriguez

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