The best global managers are well-rounded, well-traveled, and well-read.
Students new to campus sometimes question the relevance of Concordia University Irvine’s Core liberal arts and sciences courses to their career preparation. Business faculty smile at this. We all note the connection between an informed and liberal world view and management success.
The best managers have the skills that the Core seeks to imbue. Managers need to think critically and creatively about problems, to communicate effectively in both writing and speech, and to understand the profound connections between academic disciplines, faith, and life. Concordia’s Core is rooted in the liberal arts and sciences and, thankfully, does not focus narrowly on a particular specialty or profession. The Core establishes the intellectual foundation that prepares students to succeed at Concordia and later in life and career.
To be effective, global managers first need to understand their own cultural foundations—in our case, a grounding in the Western, secular and Judeo-Christian traditions. Only with such a foundation can students and managers know who they are and have a solid context to explore and understand the wider world.
Business instructors at Concordia are both academics and practitioners—we teach a trade, a profession—yet we all value the Core. As an example of such preparation, my own education (ongoing) is a cross-disciplinary blend of history, geography and international management that led to the role of Marketing Manager-Asia with a Fortune 100 company. I think it’s also useful to follow the example of one of my mentors, George Vojta, an architect of the global banking system. His liberal education at Yale led to significant on-the-ground success in Asia. He later served as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Vice Chair of Bankers Trust, and Director of the Private Export Funding Corporation (PEFCO). While he had a tough edge and “didn’t suffer fools,” he also cared deeply about people and that the benefits of globalization should be more equitably distributed. He understood the necessity of a liberal education. A comment that he made stays with me: “Kit, I value what you’re doing in teaching international management, but remember, don’t send me technicians.” Naturally I was pleased when he hired one of my liberally educated students.
The take away here is that good professional preparation can be built upon skills learnt in core liberal arts and science courses. It is useful to reflect on how George Vojta viewed his own journey. “My success came from a generalist background in what I’ll call political economy. There is a need for a global perspective and knowledge of other cultures. There is now a move away from ‘intense specialization’ to a broader concept of leadership and the larger perspective of service to clients and service to society.” So yes . . . global managers value what Concordia provides in the Core Curriculum.
Christopher “Kit” Nagel is Associate Professor of Business at Concordia University Irvine