Business cohorts get servant leadership ‘pep talk’
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
Not long ago, Dr. Randy Gibb met a student who said he’s in the master’s program at Grand Canyon University because he wants to get his degree “from a place that stands for something.”
The dean of the Colangelo College of Business (CCOB) has spent a considerable amount of time this summer reminding those students exactly what his college stands for.
That means Conscious Capitalism, and Gibb has spoken to every CCOB cohort this summer to remind the students of the practical applications in the business world.
“This is a pep talk,” he told them. “As dean of the college, I’m here to tell you what we’re all about.”
Later, he explained it this way: “The whole purpose was to remind them why they’re here. It’s all about what business can do for society, how it can impact people’s lives. When you do it right, it can give people jobs.”
Gibb filled his talk with statistics, important quotations and examples of what Conscious Capitalism looks like when companies put their servant leadership ideals into practice.
Particularly illuminating was this video plotting the world’s progress over the last 200 years, from virtually all countries being in the “sick and poor” quadrant in the early 1800s – the average life expectancy was below 40 years — to most of them moving into the “healthy and rich” section today, with an average life expectancy approaching 75 years.
Gibb called it “200 years of remarkable progress” thanks largely to capitalism.
“Capitalism has lifted more people out of poverty than any other system because of voluntary exchange,” he said.
After the “pep talk,” the students went to their individual cohorts and discussed it further. Those conversations proved, well, peppy.
“They got a lot out of it. They really did,” said Rob Wengrzyn, an adjunct faculty member teaching the servant leadership course. “They saw the parallel between servant leadership and Conscious Capitalism. You can’t be an organization that believes in Conscious Capitalism if you don’t believe in servant leadership.”
Two students in Wengrzyn’s cohort, both working toward a master’s in servant leadership, said they saw the value in what Gibb shared.
“I was really intrigued by the statistical information,” said Kathy DeGrandchamp. “I thought it was impressive.”
“It’s like when you go to buy something from Home Depot. If you’re going to buy windows, you go to someone who knows a lot about windows,” said Kevin Gruber.
Wengrzyn, like Gibb, goes out of his way to let his belief in Conscious Capitalism shine through. For that reason, he’s disgusted with companies that espouse servant leadership ideals but aren’t truly invested in them – the ones that look at the bottom line first and community involvement second.
“There are companies that put the image out that they’re practicing Conscious Capitalism because they want to market themselves that way,” he said. “But the companies that Randy spoke about do it because they truly want to make the world a better place.”
In other words, he said, they do it because it’s part of their DNA and extends throughout the company, “not because you’re going to put it on a billboard somewhere and people are going to talk about you.”
But Wengrzyn believes corporate thinking is moving in the right direction because millennials appear to be so focused on higher ideals and a greater sense of community. He told his students that he sees the evolution progressing.
“We talked how down the road in 10 years, servant leadership may be the de facto leadership just because of the way the market is going – employee engagement, job satisfaction, turnover. It’s not having ping-pong tables and stuff like that – let’s be real. It’s all about helping those individuals get where they want to be from a personal perspective.”
Wengrzyn, who is Branch Datacom Sales Manager for Wesco Distribution and previously was Director of Marketing Development for Mobile Mini, knows a lot about leadership. He has read more than 300 papers on the subject while working on his doctorate in organizational leadership, and he is passionate about bringing in speakers to share their leadership ideals.
“Just because you’re a manager, you’re not a leader,” he said. “I tell the students, ‘If you look at an iceberg, 80 percent is below the surface. True leaders can get below the surface with their employees. Bad leaders stay on top with the 20 percent and then they wonder, ‘Why are we talking about this problem over and over again?’ It’s because your people aren’t talking to you about what the problem is; they’re talking about what you want to hear so they can get out of your office.”
Gibb reinforced that when he said, “We should be talking about how you love and care for your employees, because what happens at work does impact people’s lives. If you have a cruddy day at work and your boss is terrible and the culture you’re in is terrible, you’re going to go home and probably be a bad spouse or parent.”
He ended his talk with this quote from “Redefining Capitalism,” by Eric Beinhocker and Nick Hanauer:
“The genius of capitalism is that it both creates incentives for solving human problems and makes those solutions widely available. And it is solutions to human problems that define prosperity, not money.”
That’s what CCOB is aiming to instill in all of its students, both graduate and undergrad. The hope is that, someday soon, that’s the kind of thinking we’ll see on billboards.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.