Each element of the School’s mission—to educate leaders who make a difference in the world—is infused with meaning.
When we talk about leaders, we mean people who embody a certain type of competence and character—both the competence that comes from the general manager’s perspective the School cultivates and the character to understand the difference between being self-interested and self-centered. It goes far beyond knowing that it’s not right to lie, cheat, or steal. It involves recognizing that you are a true leader only when you have earned the trust of others, and when others, whether in your organizations or your communities, recognize you as such.
“Make a Difference”
Making a difference means people who create real value for society, and who create value before claiming value. I’ve not found anyone who begrudges a leader for claiming value after creating value. Rather, the recent economic crisis showed us too many examples of leaders who claimed value without creating any. It is worth noting here that there are many ways of making a positive difference: as an investor, as a general manager, as an entrepreneur, as an active citizen of your community. Indeed, what distinguishes Harvard Business School is that our graduates provide leadership in all walks of life.
“In the World”
In the world reflects our understanding of a rapidly changing, dynamic environment, and the fact that many of the world’s most challenging issues will require a global perspective. Moreover, it involves embracing the view that the world desperately needs more leaders to address its most urgent and challenging problems, and that virtually none of these problems can be addressed without business leaders playing a vital role.
And, of course, the first component of the mission is educating, which we do in many ways—through our educational programs, through the ideas our faculty produce and disseminate, and through the influence we achieve by being close to leaders of all types, and of organizations all across the world. Here, I would encourage us to recognize that the impact of what we do extends far beyond the people who come to our campus. Although we can touch only a few thousand directly each year, we can indirectly influence many more by remaining the most trusted and admired leader in business education.