The Ripple Effect of Culture

It's been five years since Berkeley Haas launched its Defining Leadership Principles and codified our long-standing culture. Here, a look at how this initiative has spread, both within the Berkeley Haas community and beyond.

By Rich Lyons, Dean of Berkeley Haas

Leaders set culture. That’s what a Haas board member said at my first board meeting as dean in 2008. We took his advice to heart, and in 2010, after an extensive process involving input from alumni, students, faculty, and staff, we codified the culture of Berkeley Haas—which had been latent in the school for generations—by launching our Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself.

Now, five years in, it’s important to reflect on this initiative. How has it affected our community and reputation? What’s next? Deep commitment to culture is a long-cycle project. We focused initially on awareness and admissions—for example, screening for MBA students, and now even undergrads, who fit our culture. We promoted the Defining Leadership Principles to alumni with the goal of 70 percent awareness among graduates of the past 10 years by 2014. We reached 73 percent a year early, in 2013, and are aiming at awareness above 80 percent for all our alumni in time.

We’ve also provided staff with concrete examples for infusing the Defining Leadership Principles into their work. For example, how can they respectfully Question the Status Quo by saying, “Is there a better way to do this?” Staff are now asking the kinds of questions that we encourage from students.

In five years, our Defining Leadership Principles have become a source of competitive advantage as well as pride and engagement. They differentiate Berkeley Haas from other prestigious business schools, allowing us to attract more top students who appreciate our culture. That’s a bold step—we understand Berkeley Haas is not the right fit for every student—but we don’t disappoint those who come here.

Our culture also serves as a networking strategy: you can vouch professionally for a fellow alum you’ve never met because you know what he or she stands for. The school and society are stronger for our Defining Leadership Principles.

Perhaps some of the most rewarding moments come from third-party validation. Venture capitalists tell me our Defining Leadership Principles describe the kinds of people they like to fund. Recruiters tell me that when they hire for senior positions, it comes down to culture fit over skills nearly every time. Clients of our short executive programs tell me they chose us for culture fit, which they didn’t see among peer schools. Our culture makes these outside audiences think differently about Berkeley Haas’ talent, sending ripples beyond what we initially intended.

But culture in and of itself isn’t enough. It needs to serve a greater goal. For us, that aspiration is using our Defining Leadership Principles to influence leaders addressing society’s big opportunities and challenges. All top business schools produce leaders. But what kind of leader? That’s the differentiator.

Board Member John Riccitiello, BS 81, chairman and CEO of Unity Technologies, has said to me, “The Defining Leadership Principles are the distillation of what a great leader is.” And he’s right. We’re about 70 percent there to linking culture to a sharp leadership brand—a profile that together we can stand behind as a school.

When I started as dean of Berkeley Haas, board member Margo Alexander, BS 68, the retired chair and CEO of UBS Global Asset Management, told me my role includes serving as “chief purpose officer,” to remind people of the magic that happens here. Every day I hear of another ripple created by our culture, and you’ll read about many of them on the following pages. That’s part of the Berkeley Haas magic. We create that together. I can’t wait to see the impact our culture will have over the next five years.

Rich Lyons, BS 82
Dean, Berkeley Haas

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Berkeley Haas Culture Runs Deep

beyond yourself

The Defining Leadership Principles resonate throughout our school. They build community, enrich learning, inspire groundbreaking initiatives, and produce the kinds of leaders our recruiters want.

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Ripple Effect

The ripple effect of culture is subtle, but it can have a big impact. Here, some examples of alumni and friends of Haas whose appreciation of the Defining Leadership Principles created new opportunities for others—from Berkeley to Perth.

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