Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management continues to build on its reputation as one of the premier schools for leadership development. In a statement released on July 11, Kellogg announced that ‘76 alumnus and former Campbell Soup Company CEO Doug Conant would partner with the school to launch the Kellogg Executive Leadership Institute (KELI).
KELI will supplement the existing executive education programs at Kellogg by offering specialized training for CEOs and senior leaders in the corporate, non-profit and government sectors. Additionally, KELI will serve as a research center for top leadership issues.
The vision for KELI began when Kellogg Dean Sally Blount recognized a need for Kellogg to expand their C-suite training. After several lengthy discussions with alumni and faculty, Blount says the idea for an adjunct program where current CEOs were trained to overcome the new challenges they faced in the 21st-century marketplace began to take shape.
“I think that the 21st-century marketplace is a big challenge for all of us,” Blount says. “I think conceiving in this marketplace organizationally as a leader is a huge challenge because I think we’ve almost created leadership roles that are not humanly doable. Whether it’s the presidency of the United states, whether it’s the head of a religious organization, or whether it’s being the head of one of the world’s largest multinationals, these are all very taxing jobs in this constantly changing economic, political and social environment. That to us is the challenge, is keeping leadership roles humanly doable. And preparing people to do them.”
Blount had several ideas for how Kellogg could create a place that tackled these challenges. However, she still needed someone to come on board as the leading visionary before her dream could become a reality – enter Doug Conant.
After reading his book on leadership (Touch Points: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments), Blount zeroed in on Conant as the man for the job. She says Conant was a true thought-leader in senior-level leadership. Plus, he had experience developing top leaders at the CEO Institute he created at Campbell’s.
So Blount reached out to Conant and soon found herself sharing her vision with him over a bowl of Campbell’s soup — hoping she could convince him to spend his retirement back at his alma mater. After 35 years in corporate leadership, Conant saw the challenges facing today’s senior leaders and agreed to come on board as the founder and chairman of KELI.
The development of KELI took off full steam ahead as the pair began setting goals for the institute. Based on their leadership experiences, Conant and Blount agreed that KELI needed to offer meaningful conversations, not classroom-style lectures.
“I think it’s important to realize that when you’re at the top of an organization, you don’t just go to executive education classes,” Dean Blount says. “ … What you need is time for self reflection, you need time to be engaged in interesting conversation with people who are worried about the same economic, social, and political challenges that you are. You need time with people that challenge you in conversation. So it’s much more about convening meaningful and powerful conversations, and it’s not about what classes or exercises you can create.”
KELI will bring in world-class facilitators to lead these conversations such as Robert Eckert, former CEO of Matell, Rick Lenny, former CEO of Hershey, and Harry Kraemer, former CEO of Baxter. Conant hopes these facilitators will give today’s senior leaders a glimpse into a variety of unique leadership styles.
“Leaders have to create that unique leadership model that works for them,” Conant says. “No two leaders are alike. And there’s not a playbook for it. There are thousands of books on leadership models, but ultimately leaders have to find a model that works authentically for them, and I think KELI can be helpful in that way.”