Stanford’s Inaugural Business, Government, and Society Forum Explores the Changing Role of Leadership

Stanford GSB hosts a wide-ranging forum on responsible leadership in a polarized world.

June 10, 2024

| by Kelsey Doyle

On April 3, 2024, Stanford Graduate School of Business hosted the first forum from the Business, Government, and Society Initiative. Themed “Responsible Leadership in a Polarized World,” the event brought together leaders from business, government, nonprofits, and academia to engage in discussions about critical issues such as free markets, technology, economic equality, and sustainability.

The forum’s participants highlighted the interconnectedness of business and societal impacts and the challenges this presents to leaders in a range of areas. “The role of a leader is changing,” said Neil Malhotra, a professor of political economy at Stanford GSB and one of the day’s speakers. “A lot of business leaders think that they only have to worry about their market or their industry, but if the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that businesses affect society, and society affects them.”

Full Transcript

Neil Malhotra: The role of a leader is changing. A lot of business leaders think that they only have to worry about their market or their industry, but if the last few years have taught us anything is that businesses affect society, and society affects them.

Maria Frantz: For many of us who came to the GSB many years ago, maximizing shareholder value was the dominant theory, but there are stakeholders like the planet that don’t have anybody watching out for them.

Jateen Kooverjee: If you look forward 10, 15 years time with my classmates, they’re going to be in charge of billions and trillions of dollars of the economy, and when you’re in those positions, you have tremendous impacts in society.

Julia Collins: So it really is our duty to equip the next generation of leaders with the tools that they need to navigate these complex challenges in a way that contributes positively to society.

Jonathan Levin: Education at Stanford GSB is premised on the belief that by preparing students as leaders, we can make a significant contribution to the world.

Ken Shotts: What I hope we’re out of this is getting more engagement by our students, by our faculty, by our alumni, with business leaders, politicians and regulators, and civil society leaders who are grappling with really tough questions about the role of business and society.

Pablo Gonzalez: If anyone can really put it all together with the students, the teachers, the alumni, the network, scale and reach to really figure out how to move forward and have a positive impact, it is the GSB.

Valerie Shen: A lot of the change and decisions that need to be made are really all about getting the right people in a room together to have real dialogue.

Jerome Powell: Find your own way to lead. There’s no one model, and that’s really important.

Neil Malhotra: I hope the BGS Forum not only has a lot of insights today, but importantly provides a model for other organizations to discuss these kinds of important topics.

Brooke Casmere Istvan: It has inspired me to lead in a genuine way with integrity, with humility, and committed to the causes that I care about.

Jateen Kooverjee: I think as leaders, we are custodians. People come before us, people come after us, and for me, it’s about leaving whatever you’ve led in a better place where you’ve found it.

Jim Coulter: There’s conversations we all have with our colleagues and shareholders, but at some time there’ll be conversations you have with your children and grandchildren, and you want to be as comfortable in those conversations as you are in the first set. Responsible leadership is getting the balance right.

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