2008…Back to the US to UC Berkeley, Haas School of Business
The process of planning the 2008 GBC began with eight people in a room trying to decide on a theme. We knew that it needed to involve the concept of global leadership and we agreed that it should speak to the personal search that each leader takes en route to finding his/her own leadership style. After a long debate we settled on “The Global Leader and the Leader Within,” we congratulated each other on a job well done and then adjourned. It was November, the conference was in less than 5 months and we had a theme – but nothing more.
At the time, we did not have the courage to entertain the notion that this would evolve into a cohesive program including 100 students from 40+ top MBA programs and over 10 countries, and featuring inspirational speakers, engaging breakout sessions and life-changing experiential workshops. As I look back on the experience, however, that is exactly what it was.
We were lucky enough to bring in successful businessmen/women who understood the necessity of self-understanding in the development of great leaders. Chip Conley spoke about his journey as a hotelier,; Tom Miller taught us about accountability; Olivia Fox Cabane offered her perspectives on charisma; Rich Lyons showed us the engine that fuels personal development within Goldman Sachs; Marshall Goldsmith reminded us of the human elements of leadership; Jeff Hoffman taught us about what it takes to sell one’s ideas; our expert panelists offered a perspective on what it takes to do business in China. Throughout the best-practice breakout session process, talented student Presidents and Vice Presidents shared their thoughts on student-related topics like diversity, alumni relations, community service, etc. This is the core of the conference and the principle value proposition thereof, as we aggregate best practices around all the topic areas and update them yearly. When the dust settled so many students left with valuable information and innovative ideas to bring back to their student bodies.
In writing this, I polled the conference team to ask them for words of advice they wished to share with future planning committees:
- “‘Open Space’ is an amazing format for exchanging ideas. Put intelligent people in the same room and apply some structure, but be sure to let the conversations evolve organically.”
- “Planning is important but flexibility is even more important.”
- “Choose speakers you or your trusted contacts have SEEN speak, don’t bring in some ringer whose message doesn’t align with the conference theme.”
- “Sponsorship is very challenging unless you leverage ALL your resources across a range of mediums.”
Above all, a clear theme that the entire leadership team buys into is principally important in ensuring a cohesive effort toward a shared goal. And, of course, let the delegates SOCIALIZE. At the end of the day, the most important thing the GBC offers is an opportunity to create lasting relationships.