The Harbus Reimagines Leadership New Book Explores the Next Generation of MBAs

When the global economy collapsed in 2008, thousands of people lost their homes, millions lost jobs, and companies went bankrupt. We were all left wondering who to blame, our trust in business at an all-time low.

Today, global capitalism stands at a crossroads looking forward into an uncertain future. As the Harvard Business School marks the passage of its 100th anniversary, a new book featuring 30 young Harvard MBAs offers critical reflections on issues central to leadership, business and globalization in the 21st century.

We invite you to be one of these 30 MBAs. You will play a truly unique and inspiring role in telling the stories about your path to leadership or those of others.

Using a rich collection of provocative and inspirational stories, “Reimagining Leadership: How a New Breed of MBAs is Rebuilding Capitalism from Within” chronicles the journeys of some of the young business leaders who are rebuilding capitalism from within and explores the generational shift in the way business is conceptualized and practiced around the world. The result is a tapestry of narratives that offers a glimpse into the future of business and leadership, providing both practical lessons and the inspiration to endure.

We sat down with Daniel Gulati (NJ), Oliver Segovia (OB) and John Coleman (OJ), HBS students who are spearheading the project. The book is also backed by former Random House Chairman and CEO Peter Olson.

HARBUS: Why did you decide to write Reimagining Leadership?
DG: The financial crisis affected so many people around the world, and as a result, there has been a lot of negative press about MBAs and their role in the crisis. Many journalists have accused Harvard Business School alumni as being arrogant and greedy. This really reinforces negative, false stereotypes. But it also hides the fact that there are a lot of young people doing some really great things in the world right now, in their own startups, in the financing space, for the environment, in huge companies and in the non-profit sector. Many of these people also hail from Harvard Business School. We wanted to give these leaders a voice and show the world that, despite the devastating impacts of the crisis, there are ‘green shoots’ everywhere, and they’re forcing a re-think of some of the fundamental tenets of leadership.

HARBUS: So this means you’ll be collecting leadership stories from the Harvard community?
OS: That’s right, and we’re focusing on HBS students and alumni. We want to choose 30 or so inspirational stories and use them to demonstrate how the practice of leadership is evolving. Although we’re working closely with various HBS administrative bodies to help reach out to students and alumni, we’re completely editorially independent and in no way an official ‘voice’ of the school. That allows us to capture what we feel is important as students. In many ways, this is a book for the HBS community and by the HBS community. We’re just helping guide the project.

HARBUS: What stage are you currently in?
JC: We’re really early into the process, which is great because it means that students really have a say in what the final product will look like. We’re currently in the ‘Call for Submissions’ phase – connecting with current students and alumni and reading their stories. In parallel, we’re beginning to shape the structure of the book and writing the first few chapters. Early next year, we’ll transition to full-time writing, working with the student and alumni contributors to help develop their submissions into short stories about their experiences.

HARBUS:When is the book scheduled for release?
DG: This is a two-year project for us, and we’re aiming to hit shelves by May 2011. That’s when the book will become available to the public, but the lead times in publishing can be pretty long and there are lots of milestones between now and then. The main one is when we send the final manuscript to the publisher. We’re aiming to do that around this time next year.

HARBUS: You all have very different pre-HBS backgrounds. How has that helped you so far in writing the book?
OS: The book is all about rethinking the core tenets of leadership, and what leadership actually means to our generation. So it wouldn’t be as credible if we had too much overlapping experience. John has actually published a book before, so it’s great to have his perspective on how that world really works. Dan has an entrepreneurial background and we’re always thinking of high-impact ways to market and create buzz around the book. Peter Olson, an HBS Senior Lecturer and ex-CEO of Random House, has been really supportive and has helped us with industry contacts. I helped launch a new business magazine in my university. So collectively, we’ve learned a lot about engaging with student communities. And that’s separate to the actual writing of the book. In terms of writing, what has been really interesting so far is the geographical diversity, and how that shapes conversations between us. John is from Atlanta, Daniel is from Sydney and I’m from the Philippines. That’s a mix of East and West, North and South, Developed and Developing. So among us, we cover a lot of ground.

HARBUS: How do HBS students get involved?
JC: If you feel like you have a story to tell, we’d love to hear from you! The current call for submissions is open to HBS students and alumni only. Just go to our website at and read the submission guidelines. Basically, all you need to do is put together a 200-400 word proposal and submit it online by January 11. We’ll then choose the best 30 proposals, which will get developed into short stories in conjunction with you. Your name will appear in print next to your story, in what will be a best-selling book read by people all around the world!

More information and online submission form at www.reimaginingonline.comFollow the authors on Twitter @rlbook.

Contributing authors can achieve recognition beyond the writing community, often being acknowledged as experts in their respective fields. Certainly a student or alumnus whose story is featured in a book that is prominently marketed and widely distributed by a leading publisher around the world will stand out in a way that can only benefit in terms of career development prospects, fund-raising efforts for new ventures, or contacts to new industries. I think that Oliver, John and Dan are providing a great opportunity for HBS students and recent alumni and would encourage everyone to submit their story.
-Peter Olson, former Chairman and CEO of Random House, Inc.

If you look at mainstream media, there’s obviously been a lot of talk about the crisis, how MBAs are partly to blame, and how we can move forward. By and large, HBS students have been absent in that conversation. That bothers us. And I think that feeds into the perception of Harvard MBAs as an arrogant, largely disinterested and non-caring bunch.
-Dan Gulati (NJ
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December 7, 2009
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