How To Become Wiser, Younger

Linda Ginzel in Class

Guest Post by Professor Linda Ginzel

Leadership is a choice—not a state of being, but a set of actions. It is a skill that can be developed, and that’s what I ask my students to do. They might come into my class thinking that they are either born with it, or not, but I try to establish early on that leadership can be learned. I should know—I teach it! 

It’s a joy to teach at Chicago Booth, where the students are quantitatively oriented. They appreciate having frameworks to apply to their thinking—so I make it a point to teach the leadership framework laid out in “Rethinking Management Education,” a seminal paper by Harry L. Davis, a Booth professor and namesake of the Harry L. Davis Center for Leadership (coauthored by Robin Hogarth).  

Action and InsightsDavis and Hogarth’s leadership framework identifies four important determinants of leadership: domain knowledge, conceptual knowledge, action skills, and insight skills. They are at the heart of our activities at the Davis Center.

I also teach the management of meaning—an idea I first learned about from Stanford’s Jeff Pfeffer. For example, I hand out a green pen to each of my students. This pen is a symbol to remind students that leadership is a continuous process and requires focus on all four of these aspects of leadership. Another analogy I like to use is what I call the Ginzel Frontier (like the Pareto Frontier, but for leadership). You have to reflect, get feedback, and practice in order to max out on experience and become wiser, younger. 

I want my students to question assumptions—even the most basic, or what I call the load-bearing assumptions. If they do that, they will help me achieve my goal as a teacher: that my students continue to strengthen their own frameworks well into the future. 

One student recently published a blog about this approach and how we can extract real value from our experiences. Read it here »


Linda GinzelLinda E. Ginzel has been on the Chicago Booth faculty since 1992. She specializes in negotiation skills, managerial psychology, and executive development. Recent interest is focused on what she terms Leadership Capital: the courage, wisdom, and capacity to decide when to manage and when to lead. In 2000, President Clinton awarded her a President's Service Award, the nation's highest honor for volunteer service directed at solving critical social problems. She is also the two-time recipient of the James S. Kemper Jr. Grant in Business Ethics.