2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Lenton K. Davies, Northwestern University (Kellogg)

Lenton K. Davies

Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management

Age: 40

“Naturally see how to turn ideas and dreams into reality and my positive energy is contagious.”

Hometown: Born and raised in Freetown, Sierra Leone and immigrated to Woodbridge, VA.

Family Members: My wife, Salima, and two sons, Lenton S. (16) and Joshua (13)

Fun fact about yourself: I love to travel, explore cultures, and food! In the past 10 years, I’ve lived and worked in five out of the seven continents and visited over 100 international cities!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Strayer University

Where are you currently working? Capital One, Senior Director, Horizontal Operations Leader and Head of Supply Chain Solutions.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: I regularly volunteered with my sons to feed the less fortunate in some of the cities (Addis Ababa, Montreal, and Port of Spain) we have lived in. I am a member of two business resource groups (BRG) at Capital One: Salute and Voices. Salutes enables military, military spouse and veteran associates to thrive through associate engagement, active-duty transition, recruiting, community engagement and reserve support at Capital One.

Voices helps build an environment where Black associates and allies are empowered to drive change, break barriers, and make an impact across Capital One. In March 2022, I did a Mission Call with both BRGs, with hundreds of associates in attendance.  I spoke about my journey to leadership, reflected on where I’ve experienced joy, challenges, and my military and African American experience to become who I am today.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As an immigrant who has been in situations where I didn’t feel that I belonged – and where I struggled to be part of the culture – I fully understand that difficult conversations with colleagues about diversity, inclusion, and belonging (DIB) are worth having.  However, creating the space for those conversations is key.  Last year at the height of the George Floyd trials, I empowered my cohort (executives and leaders from various organization) to have candid conversations about race as a team. However, our conversations did not stop at only race. Together, we created a space where we discussed other DIB challenges that affect other groups, such LGBTQ+, women in leadership, and veterans. We learned a lot from each other as we shared our stories. As a result, we have forged stronger bonds that are based on trust and have deeper understating of our differences which makes us all unique.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In 2020 and 2021, I was asked multiple times to serve as the Acting Deputy Chief of Mission (Acting Deputy Ambassador) at the U.S. Embassy in Trinidad and Tobago. During those periods, I reflected on my struggles, the mission I set for myself, and how I have navigated life to bring my vision and dream to reality.  I was born and raised in Freetown, Sierra Leone, where I would walk by the U.S. embassy on my way to school and church. When I would tell my friends I wanted to be a U.S. diplomat, they would laugh. At 16 years old, during the civil war in Sierra Leone, I fled to Conakry, Guinea, without my parents and stayed there as a refugee for over a year. While in Conakry, I took countless trips to the U.S. Embassy in hopes of securing a visa to the U.S. I finally made it to the U.S. in July 2000, joined the military within my first year. Ten years later, I turned my dreams into reality when I took the oath to become a Foreign Service General Services Officer with the Department of State in September 2010, and then proceeded to serve overseas as a U.S. Diplomat!  Another 10 years after becoming a Diplomat, not only was I living my lifelong dream, but I was also part of the leadership team at our embassy in Port of Spain, similar to the one I walked by in Freetown and frequently visited as a refuge in Conakry.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Michelle Buck, Professor of Leadership, is my favorite professor.  At the beginning of our MBA journey at Kellogg, Professor Buck led a session titled “What’s Your Story.” That leadership session empowered me to embrace, craft, and tell my professional, personal, and leadership story. Through my other encounters with her, Professor Buck has helped me developed my EQ (Emotional Quotient), which have made me a better leader.      

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I was ready pivot from federal/government service to the private sector.  Although my experiences as a Solider, business consultant with Deloitte, and a diplomat provided a solid foundation for my transition to the private sector, I needed a school that offered a strong business education and a far-reaching network.  Kellogg has provided me a first-class business education and its far-reaching network has allowed me to successfully transition to the private sector.

Within six months in the EMBA program, I benefited from Kellogg’s far-reaching network and landed a job with Capital One. A peer in my cohort, Mike Friedman, invited a senior level executive from Capital One to do a fireside chat with our cohort, and though those connections, I was able to secure an interview, utilized Kellogg’s career coaching services to prepare for the interview, and successfully landed the job.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Networking and collaboration are key ingredients to success. Kellogg offers an unparalleled opportunity to network and the EMBA cohort structure embodies collaboration.  A culture of low ego and high impact provides a healthy atmosphere where we all learn from each other. I have used those skills to not only secure a job, but to also get things done at the new job!

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? In the middle of fall semester in 2021, I moved my family from Trinidad and Tobago to the U.S. to take an opportunity with Capital One in McLean, Virginia.  It was not an easy feat. It was in the middle of the school year for the kids and my entire family had to readjust to living in the U.S. after more than 10 years overseas.  I was only able to make that move and keep up with my coursework because of the atmosphere of support and teamwork Kellogg’s EMBA structure fosters.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Kellogg offers a rigorous but very rewarding EMBA experience.  Have the conversation with your family, work, and support system and be prepared to spend a considerable amount of time studying and collaborating with teammates.  It is not easy; however, it is extremely rewarding!  I have formed lifetime friends during my time at Kellogg.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? It is commonly believed that as adults, with family and work, we will not have time to devote to school. Yes, we are all busy, but Kellogg does an outstanding job in curating a culture of collaboration and forming teams in which the members complement each other’s strengths.  Therefore, although it’s time consuming, working in teams and in a collaborative environment makes a world of difference.  

What was your biggest regret in business school? I am not sure I have any regrets. I have truly embraced most that Kellogg has to offer.  I will encourage anyone seeking a Kellogg EMBA to also take full advantage of the Global Network – it’s unparalleled. Kellogg EMBA students have the opportunity to take at least one international elective. I did mine in Vallendar, Germany, with a partner university, WHU. I had the opportunity to network with over 110 peers who are executives and leaders from around the world. Few EMBA programs offers such rich experiential learning opportunities, and this was a huge draw for me to attend Kellogg.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? So many amazing classmates!  However, as an immigrant, I’ve always admired other immigrants who are living the American dream. Osama Sabbah is a classmate and a member of my study group.  Osama is a Palestinian Muslim immigrant who was born during the first Intifada conflict. His early years were spent against a backdrop of violence and curfews. He faced challenges at every turn.  But with hard work and determination, Osama earned a scholarship to attend university in the U.S. That was the first step in his journey to become an entrepreneur and philanthropist. In 2021 the company he founded and is the CEO of, XPROfintech, was recognized by Inc 5000 as one of the fastest growing companies in America and one of the best places to work.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I wanted to learn from other leaders and the executive MBA offers an opportunity to study alongside senior executives and business owners with an average of 15+ years of experience. This provides for thoughtful discussions and a diverse pool of experience in and outside of the classroom.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My ultimate professional goal is to create and grow my own business as an entrepreneur. Kellogg fosters entrepreneurship. Just within my study group, a colleague, Jamie Tabachnik, used the Kellogg entrepreneur platform to start and grow his own ventures. Many other alumni have come back to benefit from those platforms. I intend to do the same.

What made Lenton such an invaluable addition to the class of 2022?

“Lenton Davies is a leader who draws on diverse life experiences to maximize his impact in many domains.  He embodies the values of leading with purpose, empathy and tenacity to promote community success.

He brings an agility and open-mindedness to the Kellogg community that is based upon his personal and professional journey of rich and often challenging experiences. As an immigrant, as a soldier in the US Army, including deployment to Afghanistan, as a diplomat in the US State Department in multiple global locations, and with business experience at Deloitte and now as a leader at Capital One, Lenton values diverse perspectives and is committed to contributing to the communities in which he finds himself.  He has lived and worked in five continents, which has fostered a commitment to inclusion and belonging that involves a genuine desire and curiosity to listen to and learn from people.

I’ve personally experienced these qualities in Lenton in conversations both inside and outside the classroom.  I have been inspired by his thoughtful comments in our leadership modules, and especially by his initiative in proposing and launching a lunch series about Difficult Conversations for students on our Miami campus.  These highly-attended sessions are designed to create space for EMBA students to come together and share deeply meaningful stories, and to create opportunities for connection and learning from each other. This is really important work.  He cares deeply about inclusion and belonging, drawing from his own experiences as well as his belief in the importance of people as the foundation of organizational effectiveness.

Lenton is thoughtful and reflective, committed to learning from experience, including challenges and adversity. At the same time, he is action-oriented, motivated and determined to not just talk about issues but to create opportunities and impact.

Lenton Davies is a student with whom I hope to keep in touch for ongoing conversations about creative ways to build community and create space for meaningful dialogue.  By bringing people together and listening to each other’s stories and ideas, we set a foundation for transforming challenges into opportunities. Our world needs this more than ever, and I look forward to following Lenton’s continued impact and contributions.”

Professor Michelle L. Buck
Clinical Professor of Leadership

DON’T MISS: THE BEST & BRIGHTEST EXECUTIVE MBAS OF 2022

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