Building Better Business Leaders at Management Conference 2017

The roomful of executives and business leaders listening to Linda E. Ginzel at 2017’s Management Conference may have thought they understood the nuances of leadership. Likely, though, they left with a markedly different conception of the term, or at least a new appreciation of its subtleties, if Ginzel’s status quo–shattering presentation “Building Your Leadership Capital” had its desired effect. Launching into her interactive session, Ginzel laid out her vision of leadership development. “Leadership capital is the wisdom to decide when to manage and when to lead,” Ginzel said, “together with the courage and capacity to act on your own choices.”

2017 Ginzel Article

Ginzel, clinical professor of managerial psychology, soon had the packed room huddling in collaborative confabs about definitions of leadership. It’s the core tenet of the 60-plus-year-old Chicago Booth conference: getting Booth faculty, alumni, and student thought leaders together with business leaders to help shape and debate management education and methods. 

Held at the downtown Chicago Gleacher Center, Management Conference 2017 hosted a day of packed presentations and panels focused on the top management questions and trends of the day. The more than 1,000 attendees marshaled their collective brainpower to dissect topics from the possible renegotiation of NAFTA to how to design a good life to opportunities within the Chinese economy.

In Tony N. Pritzker, ’87, and J.B. Pritzker’s keynote conversation, the co–managing partners of the private capital, technology venture capital, and asset management firm The Pritzker Group delved into the benefits of thinking on their feet, their wide network of connections, and their focus on investing for the long haul. When it comes to evaluating opportunities, Tony Pritzker said, “We want to evaluate the current management team and see whether they can adapt quickly, as well as admit when they don’t know what they’re doing.” 

Ronald S. Burt, Hobart W. Williams Professor of Sociology and Strategy, moderated a discussion featuring a panel of CEOs with combined decades of experience running influential global companies. John Edwardson, ’72, former chairman and CEO of CDW Corporation; Francisco Pérez Mackenna, ’82, CEO of Quiñenco S.A.; and Pedro De Andrade Faria, ’02, global CEO, BRF S.A., touched on how to encourage innovation within large companies by setting guardrails and by striving to turn mistakes into teaching moments.

Throughout the conference, Booth professors shared provocative insights to challenge their audience to think differently. In a session called “Credit Supply, Household Debt, and Business Cycles,” Amir Sufi, the Bruce Lindsay Professor of Economics and Public Policy, said: “There’s an entire industry promoting homeownership as the best thing ever, but I tend to think that those benefits are overstated.” 

In his talk, “Designing a Good Life,” Nicholas Epley, the John Templeton Keller Professor of Behavioral Science and Neubauer Family Faculty Fellow, revealed that while happiness levels out after $75,000, money definitely does matter toward happiness for those with lower incomes. “Whoever said money can’t buy happiness never stood in a breadline,” Epley said.

And throughout her presentation, Ginzel encouraged the audience to write down the data of their experience while experimenting with new behaviors, practicing across time and place, and reflecting on causes and outcomes—turning the scientific method into a vehicle for personal and professional growth. 

“We should value the data of our own experience,” said Ginzel. “How do we learn the right lessons from experience? We collect data, and then we can become our own coach.” Based on the data presented throughout the day at Management Conference, this year’s attendees walked away with valuable experiences to hone their management skill set.

Management Conference 2018 will be held on Friday, April 27.