President Franklin Roosevelt pioneered the notion of a leader’s first 100 days—the idea that new executives use the strength and goodwill of their position to push through a flurry of bold strategic plans.
Yet, it’s just as important —if not more—for leaders to be guided by what they want the last 100 days in office to look like. Jack Welch at GE and Meg Whitman at eBay offer two examples of extraordinary leadership exits, passing on an organization that was both stronger than when they found it, and primed for a new period of growth. Compare that to someone like Kenneth Lay, whose Enron career ended in scandal and disgrace.
That’s not to say one should attempt to cram all the work of a meaningful and enduring legacy into little more than three months. Rather, thinking about your last 100 days is a state of mind that should pervade the everyday actions, as well as the major decisions, of anyone heading an organization. Leaders need to ask themselves how their actions today will help build upon a solid foundation that any successor could add to starting in the next 100 days, if not the next week.
As I consider the Owen Graduate School of Management, I’m pleased to see that many of the initiatives we started with a community effort are now thriving. We have expanded our suite of programs to meet the needs of a wide range of backgrounds and experience. Along with Vanderbilt University as a whole, Owen continues to attract some of the brightest minds in the world, both among faculty and incoming students. We have also worked closely with industry and employers to ensure that our graduates are fully equipped to compete in a complex global business landscape.
Owen’s next dean, Eric Johnson, will have his own priorities, of course, but I feel fully confident that together we have set the stage for a new era of growth in several different areas, which I reflect upon elsewhere in this issue.
While this will be my last letter in Vanderbilt Business as dean, it is not goodbye. I plan on taking a yearlong sabbatical to spend time with my family, ride my bike, shoot pictures, teach at Escade in Barcelona, and continue to work with the Graduate Management Admissions Council before returning to Owen in 2014.
I’ve often said that this has been the hardest—yet most rewarding—job I’ve ever had. Please know that I will forever be indebted to the entire Owen community for all your hard work, support and wise counsel to help make my tenure as dean a success. I hope you feel confident, as I do, that this very special institution stands well positioned not only to endure, but also to embark on an exciting new phase of its journey.
Please join me in supporting this great school and Dean Eric Johnson in the coming years.
James W. Bradford
Dean, Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management
Ralph Owen Professor of Management