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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Carolynn Cameron, PhD Candidate 2017: Are Leaders Made or Born?

It seems an everlasting question about the origins of leadership; can anyone be made into a leader?  Is someone a leader or not, a condition anointed at birth?  I’ve spent my career working with leaders of all levels and capability levels seeking to understand the answer to these very questions.

To be clear, we’re talking about true leaders, big “L” leaders; those of whom most of us are in awe for their vision, ability to inspire others, do new and unprecedented things.  Those who succeed in making an indelible mark on their part of the world.  The world is mostly comprised of little “L” leaders who can lead departments and groups through variations of the status quo.  There is also a sizable number of little “L” leaders masquerading as big “L” leaders, sometimes causing harm but usually their self-delusion is benign to everyone except themselves.

What I’ve observed about big “L” leaders may sound trite or mitigated, but I think accurate.  Leaders are both made and born.  In other words, one cannot turn anyone into a leader, and a naturally born leader must have the benefit of certain experiences to allow their innate leadership attributes to flourish into something the rest of us can appreciate.  So what are these innate characteristics, and what are these critical experiences?

Again, my responses lead me to conclusions which are more ambiguous than I would like.  And the characteristics and experiences are inextricably linked. 

Leaders must have an internal desire to serve a purpose; they must desire to serve something larger than themselves.  They must also be exposed to a situation that inspires them to discover and articulate that purpose and then the drive to pursue it in the face of countless setbacks.  Leaders must also have a desire to learn, be curious and perpetually improve.   They must consequently have the benefit of education, coaches and mentors, and those who provide clear, honest and constructive feedback.  Leaders must be humble and invest themselves in the service of others.  True humility comes from love and so leaders must have had the opportunity to experience real, self-sacrificing love in any of their relationships.  So long as the person also has the ticket-to-entry level of intelligence, he or she will make their mark.

I’ve spent years of my life and tens of millions of dollars trying to turn people into leaders.  The sad discovery has been that in any group I’m privileged to work with, there are only 1 or 2 with all the natural prerequisites.  My job became simply providing the experiences to help their capabilities emerge, and by consequence help improve the little “L” leadership of all the others.  And how can you tell who’s who?  The little “L” leaders became easily identified as they sooner or later migrate to the sidelines, discouraged and worn out by the prevailing headwinds but comforted by the legions of little “L” sideline cohabitants.    The big “L” leaders by contrast forge on, oblivious to naysayers and frustrated by the legions of comfort-seeking little ”L” leaders, racing only against themselves, for themselves.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Jodi Berg, PhD Candidate, 2017: Don’t Lose Sight of Your Personal Purpose

If you are considering joining the DM program, or already fully entrenched - and questioning your sanity - don’t lose sight of the personal purpose that brought you here in the first place. This personal purpose may very give you the focus and energy you need to see it through to the end.

I joined the DM program because I had a very specific purpose – a practical problem that I wanted to solve. I, like many other leaders around the world, was seeking ways to focus, energize, and retain good employees. We were told to increase the levels of engagement and commitment because employees experiencing greater levels of engagement perform better than companies whose employees are not as engaged (Macey & Schneider, 2008), and commitment has been tied to retention (Boyatzis et al., 2012; Cardador et al., 2011; Mowday, 1979;). Clearly engagement and commitment are important; yet according to the 2015 Gallup Poll (Adkins, 2015), less than 33% of the US workforce feel engaged with their work and even more distressing is that the percentage has not moved very much in 12 years (Beck & Harter, 2014). Recognizing that engagement and commitment positively impact performance and retention apparently is not enough. This part I knew. What I did not know was what to do about it. (Some people would seek the answer by reading a book. Not us. We want to not only find the answer, but understand how to find it so we can tackle other equally challenging questions down the road.)

It was clear to me that cracking the code to positively influencing engagement and commitment would require identifying tangible things that we, as leaders, could wrap our arms around. Two and a half years later, my research led me to three tools that I can say with confidence will move the dial on engagement, commitment and even better - life satisfaction:  1) helping employees develop a personal purpose, 2) tapping into a higher purpose for the organization and 3) building a culture in which relationships that support sharing these visions are encouraged and supported.

I (yeah me – how cool is that) was able to empirically demonstrate that having and sharing a company higher purpose positively impacts the level of an employee’s workplace engagement and organizational commitment. What is even more exciting is that when an employee has a personal purpose - their level of engagement and commitment to the organization are even higher AND they experience a sense of life satisfaction that does not come from a company higher purpose.

Having a personal purpose is powerful! You are considering, or have embarked on, this journey because you have a personal purpose. Don’t lose sight of this purpose, in fact, hang on to it. It will give you the wind beneath your wings necessary to persevere through this program and to ultimately explore, discover and demonstrate a truth that will lay a foundation for others to build upon.


Adkins, A. 2015. Majority of U.S. employees not engaged despite gains in 2014. Gallup, January 28. Retrieved from

Beck, R., & Harter, J. 2014. Why good managers are so rare. Harvard Business Review, (March). Retrieved from

Boyatzis, R. E., Smith, M. L., & Beveridge,  A. J. 2012. Coaching with compassion: Inspiring health, well-being, and development in organizations. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 49(2): 153–178.

Cardador, M. T., Dane, E., & Pratt, M. G. 2011. Linking calling orientations to organizational attachment via organizational instrumentality. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 79: 367–378.

Mowday, R. T., Steers, R. M., & Porter, L. W. 1979. The measurement of organizational commitment. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 14(2): 224–247.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

David Widdifield: Stretched Beyond Imagination

Well it’s March and as I head into my last semester of the DM program, I find myself having thoughts similar to those I encountered at the end of my basic training days in the US Army Infantry branch. As my platoon and I cleaned our barracks and gathered our belongings to spend the last 2 days of our training on the concrete drill pad outside the barracks, we asked each other would we do it all over again. The answers ranged from “how much money would I get paid” ($500k to $1 million USD was the common range) to “HELL NO! After enduring 15 weeks of some of the most mentally and physically demanding training, incessant marching and running with 70lb ruck sacks on our backs (I got to make the 100 and 150 miler clubs as an added bonus) and living like animals for 20-30 days at time in the woods all on roughly 4 hours of sleep, I had to answer the latter. There was no way I was going to repeat the training no matter what amount I made, I was ready to get out and move on to my new unit. However, as I stood on the parade field ready to receive my crossed rifles (insignia of the Infantry) and my blue cord (color of the Infantry) to put on my dress uniform, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and pride. Suddenly, the training I had endured didn’t feel so hard and I knew I had accomplished something that only few others could have done in 15 weeks.
Well I can truthfully say that after 3 years in the DM program I am having the same feelings and thoughts as I did at the end of basic training. When looking back at all the nights and weekends as well as numerous vacations of endless reading assignments, statistics homeworks, written summaries, and of course developing our qualitative and quantitative papers, if asked to do this all over again I would answer “HELL NO!” But as I write this I am also filled with a sense of accomplishment and pride when reflecting on what I have been able to achieve beyond just getting the DM degree. Through my faith in God and the huge support from my kids and wife, I have been able to use the content and coursework of the DM program to stretch and strengthen my intellectual abilities in ways I couldn’t imagine back in 2011. Very similar to what the Infantry did for me physically. Today, I find myself looking intently at the world using a perspective which is part academician and part practitioner. Also I find my speech has changed, new phrases are coming out of my mouth such as “what’s the current body of knowledge say about...”, “there appears to be a high degree of correlation between...”, and my favorite “what is the level of rigor are we demonstrating with.”
So in looking back at the DM program, there were times when it seemed nearly impossible to complete. Would I do it all over again, no but I having gone through this experience and the program I feel a great sense of accomplishment and pride in what I have accomplished and looking forward to standing on the stage and receiving my diploma. I also realize that through God and my family I have accomplished something that only a few achieve in their life time.
David Widdifield, DM Class of 2014
The Ohio State University
Senior Lecturer
Director, Masters in Business Logistics Engineering Program
Marketing and Logistics

Mariana Amatullo: Growth in Knowledge: New Learning in the Doctor of Management Program

How might we capture the unique value designers bring to the emergent field of social innovation? 
This is the central research question that has guided my inquiry through the Doctor of Management Program at Weatherhead.  Given the interconnected nature and fast-evolving pace of the complex social and economic challenges we face as a 21st century society, understanding better “the return on design” (ROD) in the public and private sectors is a critical problem of practice with consequential implications for organizations of all kinds.  This is a context that informs my practice on a daily basis: I am a design educator and the co-founder of Designmatters --an established design program that focuses on undergraduate and graduate level curricula in design for social innovation at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.   For more than a decade I have experienced design for social innovation projects upfront through the work of the design teams I collaborate with here in the US and throughout the world.   Design for social innovation remains an emergent domain—one defined by new ideas, artifacts, services, and models that simultaneously meet social needs and create new collaborations that are both good for society and enhance its capacity to act (The Young Foundation, 2012).  Whether we are imagining new products, systems and services for water and sanitation solutions for dwellers of informal settlements in Chile, Colombia or Peru (the Safe Agua initiative), or helping teachers in Los Angeles' public schools engage teens in a conversation about gun violence through the Where’s Daryl? Campaign, the collaborative processes with partners and stakeholders that I advocate for in my program require a systems view and an empathic approach to negotiation that can make a big difference in the ultimate results of the projects we undertake.
My doctoral research has allowed me to delve deeper into the various human and organizational dynamics at play in the social innovation projects that I help conceive and manage. It has triggered the development of an expanded consciousness of sorts about the wicked problems that I am confronted with as a leading practitioner in my field.   In this sense, my research and practice are closely intertwined, and in many ways epitomize a central tenet and strength of the DM program: creating a space to cultivate practitioner-scholars who represent “engaged scholarship” and are equally adept at studying complex problems, creating new knowledge and stepping back from their own investigation to build bridges between theory and practice—with the capability of translating research outcomes into actionable knowledge (Van de Ven, Engaged Scholarship, 2007).
I cannot underestimate how much this newly found confidence for reflective awareness has informed my work already.  In subtle but significant ways, I find myself approaching problem formulation, experimentation, and learning with an entire new set of lenses.
At this writing, I am concluding the DM three-year lockstep program and about to embark in my final PhD year.  Pausing to reflect on the journey behind me brings about a sense of profound personal accomplishment: it has been a privilege to study within the inspiring built environment of Frank Gehry’s Peter B. Lewis building, under the mentorship of management and design scholars who have long championed the power of design practices to create alternative futures, and in the company of a diverse cohort of accomplished individuals, several of whom will remain life-long friends.
John Dewey reminds us that it was an axiom of Aristotle that “only that which is already known can be learned, that growth in knowledge consists simply in bringing together a universal truth of reason and a particular truth of sense which had been previously noted separately.” (Dewey, Reconstruction in Philosophy,1920).
I believe that the Doctor of Management Program has catalyzed for me that kind of deep practice of knowledge—one filled with the boundless possibilities and actionable promise that only true learning affords us.
Mariana Amatullo is the Co-Founder and Vice President of Designmatters at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. She is a Doctor of Management Design Fellow as well as a Doctor of Management Non Profit Fellow in the Designing Sustainable Systems PhD track.

Timothy C. Summers: The DM Experience as a Journey of Existentialism

I could talk all day about how this process has been tough.  I could tell you that it makes it harder to maintain relationships.  Or that it can completely erode your social life.  Sure.  I could tell you these things.  But they would distract you from the real reasons that any of us put ourselves through the DM experience.  On a superficial level, the DM experience is all about getting a terminal degree, becoming a scholar-practitioner, and maybe becoming an expert in some field.  In my opinion, the DM experience is about existentialism.  What does that mean?  I believe that the DM experience causes a person to consider their very existence and embark on a free and responsible journey to determine their own development and contribution to the world.  At its core, the journey is about identifying a piece of our chaotic world and spending exorbitant amounts of time making meaning of it.  Three years for the DM and four for the Ph.D.  Throughout my experience, I have recognized that this journey means something different for each of us.  For some, it symbolizes reaching the end of a road.  For others, it is just the beginning.  But one thing is certain, when we complete the journey; we find that we have changed our thinking, built new relationships and are a part of new communities.  These modifications to our lives are direct results of the DM experience.
As professionals, we like to believe that we have seen most of what there is to see.  We believe that ourreal-world experiences have prepared us for the DM journey.  I contend that the DM journey makes us more self-aware and causes us to intellectually question what we have learned in our professional careers.  In essence, the DM experience provides us with a polished, yet sophisticated way of thinking that is tangential to the empirical thinking gained through our professional lives.  We learn to view the world through various lenses.
In our professional lives, we have learned to view the world through fixed lenses. Prior to the DM experience, we view the world through the lenses of our profession.  This brings with it many biases, values, and principles of behavior.  The DM experience causes us to question those fixed lenses from a philosophical perspective.  I am sure that there are many who believe that they had it all figured out before they began the DM process.  But if that is true and you had it figured out, why embark on the DM journey at all?
The DM experience is humbling.  It is rigorous.  It is time consuming and requires much effort.  It is a challenge.  But then you must ask yourself – is there anything worth having that isn’t?
Timothy C. Summers is a Senior Security Architect at Booz Allen Hamilton (, one of the world’s oldest management consulting firms.  Mr. Summers advises clients on the design and development of large scale systems.  He is also a Ph.D. student at Case Western Reserve University in the Weatherhead School of Management and can be reached  You can also read his personal blog at

Stephen P. Miller: Bridging the Gap

The DM experience has been a journey of personal and professional discovery.  After a 35-year career as the senior non-family executive in a large privately-owned family business and six years as an adjunct professor of family business at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I became keenly aware of the need to bridge the gap between the practitioner and academic worlds in which I lived.  Much of the decision making I observed in the practitioner world was based on anecdotal information and narrow personal experience, often characterized by making a decision and then seeking facts which would support the decision already made.  On the other hand, much of the academic research in my field was very narrowly focused and often seemed only remotely related to the issues faced by practitioners.  I also stumbled across research that was highly relevant and useful, but it was often published in academic journals practitioners know nothing about and never read.  Weatherhead’s innovative DM Program was designed to fill that gap, and it delivers on the promise of teaching DM students to do rigorous relevant research.
My research on leadership development in family-owned enterprises is allowing me to establish my own voice in a field for which I have great passion.  I can speak and write with greater authority and confidence because I have gained a greater understanding of the theory which informed my own studies and because the results of my research have helped me to develop new insights into the complex process of leadership development in a family business context.
From a technical point of view, learning to design and execute qualitative and quantitative studies has helped me gain an appreciation for the strengths and weaknesses of both approaches, and the value of integrating the two methodologies.   The training we have received on statistical analysis has made it possible for me to more adequately evaluate the quality of research papers and articles to determine if I should pay attention to or ignore the results.
From a more holistic point of view, our coursework on leadership, ethics, complexity theory, designing sustainable systems, the history of business, and cooperation and conflict in the global arena have broadened my perspective on a wide variety of social science issues.  My mind is more open to different ways of perceiving the world and I have learned to ask, “Why do you think that?” much more often before making up my own mind on an issue.
Finally, the value of relationships formed with the faculty, staff, and members of my own and the other DM cohorts cannot be overstated.  Faculty and staff, who are incredibly busy people, have been remarkably attentive to any request for help or information.  They have been patient with helping an old dog learn new tricks to follow his passion in a second career.  And the other DM students are simply remarkable.  They come from many different backgrounds and have an incredible variety of interests and expertise.  The collegial culture of my cohort has been characterized by cooperation and support, with each member always eager to help the others.  We have bonded through a truly unique growth experience and have formed friendships that will last for a lifetime.
Stephen P. Miller is President of GenSpan, Inc. and works with business-owning families to help them develop world-class sustainable family enterprises.  He served as the senior non-family executive for The Biltmore Company, a Vanderbilt/Cecil family business in Asheville, NC, for 35 years and now teaches two courses on family business at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.  He is currently pursuing his PhD in Management:  Designing Sustainable Systems at Case Western Reserve University in the Weatherhead School of Management.  Steve can be reached

Philip A. Cola: Top Ten Helpful Tips for Navigating the DM\PhD Program at Weatherhead

I write this reflection one month away from final classes for the DM program at Weatherhead.  I will continue for a fourth year in pursuit of a PhD in Management and Sustainable Systems.  I have a year of independent study, reading, proposal writing, comprehensive exams, workshops, data analyses, dissertation writing and a defense of my research.  I feel a sense of obligation to give back to the program.  I have talked with many potential students for the program over the last three years, attended many dissertation defenses, and was recently invited to provide a few tips on successfully navigating the program to current first and second year students.  Here is that list in writing.
Top Ten Helpful Tips for Navigating the DM\PhD Program at Weatherhead
  1. Organization is of critical importance and it is never too early to get started.  I started work on the program the moment we received the syllabus for the first semester (i.e., mid-July before classes began in August).   I kept an ongoing task list on blackboard each semester in order to stay current.  There is way too much to do to fall behind.  The connotation of being obsessive compulsive is a GOOD thing in this program.
  2. Read Everything that you are advised to read and more.  You are paying a good deal of money to have experienced faculty guide your reading list for 3-4 years.  Take advantage of that opportunity.  If they give you required reading – read it; if it’s optional – read it; and if someone passes along something they think you might be interested in – read it!!  This is what scholars do and if you decide to go for the PhD then your reading list entering the fourth year is done.
  3. Enjoy the Experience as not many of us are likely to do anything like this ever again.  Not too many people approaching middle age are privileged to go back to college especially at a prestigious university in the way that the DM allows.  Cherish the experience and allow your mind to be open to what the journey brings personally, professionally and intellectually.  Do your best to stay in good physical shape.  There is a freshman 15 lbs. here too if not careful.
  4. Avoid the DM vs. PhD Dilemma by staying true to number 3 above.  People entering this doctorate program are smart, successful and have a lot of confidence.  Trust your inclination at the beginning and if the practitioner route is best for you that is fine or if the academic route is preferable you will know that in your own mind.  At the end of each semester check in with yourself on this topic and don’t be unduly influenced by others.  You must follow your own path.  Students decide by the third year, but way too much anxiety goes into discussing this choice.
  5. Understand the Program gets more Difficult as you Progress.  This is done by design and should be understood.  It seems intuitive that a doctoral program at an institution like Case Western Reserve University would become increasingly difficult as you go along.  However, it seems to catch us all by surprise.  It’s best to avoid that surprise and understand that is what you should hope for to ensure the rigor and value of the program.
  6. Be prepared for STATISTICS.  It is not something doctoral students can avoid.  Trust me, I tried for 20 years and is one main reason why I did not have a PhD in my 20s.  Flowing from point 5 above there is a sequence of 3-4 classes on quantitative methodology that are of increasing difficulty.  THERE IS A QUANTITATIVE CAPSTONE THAT MUST BE PASSED AT THE END OF THE SECOND YEAR TO CONTINUE IN THE PROGRAM.  If you work hard and stay true to the curriculum you will pass.  You need quantitative skills as a baseline minimum to properly enter into practitioner scholar conversations. 
  7. Trust the Program and the Curriculum because it works!!  Once in a while you will have a book, an article, a professor or even a course that does not resonate with you.  You want to yell, scream and let everyone know, but ultimately understand that this is a successful program.  Leadership tries to make it better each semester.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not, but they will keep trying.  The flow from the qualitative sequence, to the quantitative sequence, to mixed methods and on into the dissertation proposal (as applicable) is amazing and works very well.  The rigor of the program shines through when you become a reviewer for the Academy of Management or other academic outlets.  You realize you are very well trained.
  8. Work Hard at Finding the Right Advisor.  This is not something I thought too much about coming into the program.  I was behind before I started.  Do your homework when reviewing the interests of the faculty at Weatherhead.  Talk to people, meet them, and think about working very closely with someone for 3-4 years.  Understand their personal and professional styles as well as their approach to scholarship.  Determine if that matches your style.  Too much time, energy and anxiety is spent scrambling for the right advisor.  I found a great match in my advisor, but it took until second semester of the second year.
  9. Pick an Interesting and Enduring research topic.  Assignment number 1 on my task list prior to that first semester was to choose a problem of practice that you want to research.  The more time you spend picking a solid, interesting and manageable topic the better the required research projects will flow.  As you write your papers it becomes evident that your topic must be interesting to a broad audience.  If you realize this after your qualitative paper it can be too late.  This goes hand in hand with item number 8 above and is something a terrific advisor will help you frame (NOT CHOOSE) in a manageable way that fits the program requirements.
  10. Develop and Improve your Relational Capacity.  This construct is defined as the capacity to build and grow deeper meaningful relationships with others through behaviors and values.  This construct emerged for me in my own research on physician scientists in academic medical centers, but it is very applicable to the DM\PhD journey.  You need your cohort, other cohorts, program leadership, family, friends, advisors, colleagues and many countless others to support you as you attempt to successfully navigate the program.  Don’t underestimate the need for deeper and more meaningful relationships when you embark on such a significant journey.  Let people into your experiences to help and support you as often as you can.
The DM program has been amazing, exhilarating, challenging, scary, and frustrating, but above all it has provided the opportunity for me to grow and transform in order to achieve something that I needed in my life.  The friends and relationships developed will be cherished for a lifetime.  Peer respect has come and my acceptance to an academic community of scholars is on schedule.  I am excited and prepared to excel in the PhD year.  Thanks to everyone for everything.  I wish everyone associated with this program only the best now and into the future.
Philip A. Cola is vice president for research and technology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center and an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also a doctoral candidate in the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, where he is a non-profit research fellow. He can be reached at