Ross Walker's Path to Power

By Jeffrey Pfeffer
2011 | Case No. OB79
Ross Walker had come a long way. A child of modest upbringing in Marin County just north of San Francisco, Walker had earned both undergraduate and MBA degrees from Stanford. He had been chosen to serve a five-year term as the youngest alumni representative on the Stanford University Board of Trustees and had a great job at Wolff Urban Development in the industries he loved, hospitality and real estate. Most importantly, Walker was well-known and well-liked by a very large number of people, with an extensive network that went far beyond hospitality and real estate and a great reputation among administrators at Stanford and with his GSB classmates. But like all successful people, Ross Walker faced a potential challenge. As his career unfolded, he would inevitably face more intense competition as he moved on to even bigger platforms and more responsibility. Walker had been able to build numerous relationships by the qualities that had thus far served him so well—incredible generosity with his time and advice, modesty, hard work, self-awareness, and by not being flashy and thus, on occasion, being underestimated by others, including rivals. Some observers wondered, however, if those qualities would continue to serve him just as well in the future as they had in the past.
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