Authentic leadership is not something one is usually born with; it needs to be taught and practiced. In order to shape leaders in today’s environment, we need to help young people become more well-rounded individuals so they can tackle any kind of problem in any kind of situation.
In 2004, my alma mater, Wilkes University, honored me by renaming its business school the Jay S. Sidhu School of Business and Leadership. What’s more, they allowed me to participate in redesigning the school’s curriculum. My involvement in rebranding the school allowed me to share what I’ve learned about professional and personal growth with the next generation of aspiring business leaders. My time at Wilkes meant a great deal to me, and this was my chance to give back.
In 2001, Tim Gilmour, a real visionary leader, was named Wilkes’s fifth president, and I agreed to join the board of trustees shortly thereafter. Tim proposed to me the idea of changing the school’s Department of Commerce to the School of Business. That’s when he offered me naming rights to the school.
I insisted we make it a unique program to develop future leaders for the region and the ever-changing world. Tim invited me to participate in Wilkes’ business school curriculum development and asked for my thoughts on how business and leadership were evolving. We discussed in-depth how universities could better prepare students for their future business endeavors in light of the changing business landscape. I told Tim that universities had to do a better job of creating value. If you’re going to build a quality business school, I suggested, it must be leadership and industry-focused. There has to be a sense of what businesses need in this world of global interconnectedness. Yes, schools must teach the fundamentals, including math, economics, corporate finance, managerial accounting, and so on, but equally important are the skills that make great thinkers, leaders, and innovators.
When Tim Gilmour and I considered the curriculum for what would become the Sidhu School, I again insisted on a few things. It had to have a leadership training element with a full-scale, all-encompassing leadership training focus. It must also offer a personal development component and a post-graduate mentorship program. At the time, these were revolutionary ideas.
Our most significant job was to prepare students to succeed in the real world. That’s what the true value of an education means. In addition to offering undergraduate degrees in entrepreneurship, finance, management, marketing, and sports management, the Sidhu School created an accelerated degree completion option for adult learners and a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in accounting. Minors are offered in accounting, entrepreneurship, finance, leadership, management, and marketing. In addition, the curriculum focuses on mentoring, emotional intelligence, and honest communication.
The Sidhu School also has a unique requirement of the Personal and Professional Development Series, a developmental advising and coaching program that helps students achieve their potential. Every undergraduate in the Sidhu School, no matter their major, takes part in this series, which grounds them in the basics of emotional intelligence, including self-awareness, empathy, and integrity. These qualities are all cultivated at the school not just as ideals but as achievable goals.
Currently, under the leadership of Dean Abel Adekola, we have developed a value-based approach to authentic leadership, namely the development of the whole individual. As part of the focus on the qualities of whole, well-rounded individuals, students are exposed to several pillars of business leadership. Our list of core values is long and comprises learner focus, innovation, scholarship, diversity, market relevance, societal impact, integrity, personal development, continuing education, and community service. It’s an expansive but achievable vision.
Learner focus – an emphasis on the whole person to enhance the individual’s personal and professional development with one-on-one mentoring.
Innovation – an environment that fosters creativity and independent, outside-the-box thinking.
Scholarship – a rigorous course of study that insists on intellectual contributions that advance knowledge.
Diversity –a commitment to social awareness and responsibility, a global perspective, and a diverse student body.
Relevance – an exploration of the application of theories and concepts that are relevant to evolving trends and business practices.
Integrity – a focus on authenticity and ethical behavior as the cornerstones of healthy societies, economies, and relationships.
Continuing education – a recognition that learning continues in educational opportunities beyond the classroom.
Personal development – a concentration on the personal attributes like self-awareness, compassion, and high emotional intelligence that drive meaningful and successful lives.
Community service – a commitment to social awareness and social action. In addition to the coursework, Wilkes students complete a social action and community service project each year. Many local programs have benefitted from this participation, including the YMCA, a domestic violence center, the Humane Society, and a local food bank.
President Gilmour once told me he had experienced resistance to our priorities. He reported that many people asked him why anyone should take courses like this in a business school. Well, those people didn’t realize that it’s not just about skills anymore. Many other factors determine one’s success in business. So much has changed that business education has to change as well. The Sidhu School has always stressed leadership training along with traditional education. Classes are important, but you can take an Economics 101 course online; you cannot learn leadership online. Learning leadership skills requires face-to-face interaction and a real focus. That being said, students need to be educated on how cutting edge-technological advances are creating a new global landscape and require new ways of adapting and progressing.
The ideals that gave me the impetus to never, ever give up on my vision and mission are the core of what makes good leaders: the passion about what you do, knowing the difference between leadership and management, keeping up with current and future technological revolutions, the crucial pursuit of innovation, the need to make complex things simple, recognizing the importance of leadership, and of never giving up on your vision and mission. All those issues were at the forefront when we created Customers Bancorp. Launched as a business-only bank, it also incubated BankMobile, a bank with no branches, which now has 1.7 million customers across the United States. Customers Bank has become a fast-growing, highly profitable, digital, and technology-forward business bank with about $20 billion in deposits.short url: