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Global Strategy and Leadership Lessons from Blair Sheppard

Massey College of Business recently hosted global strategist and leadership expert Dr. Blair Sheppard for a conversation with Dr. Greg Jones. The best-selling author, professor emeritus and dean emeritus of the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University shared insights on international business and leading global organizations through complex challenges. His latest book, Ten Years to Midnight, details four urgent global crises and their strategic solutions.

Sheppard pioneered the world’s first hybrid education system in 1996 with the creation of Duke University’s Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) program. Through the experience, he learned his team could utilize place and space to improve education. “We created something everyone else replicated,” said Sheppard.

While reflecting on the importance of global education, he shared tangible advice for both students and business leaders: “Don’t waste the venue. Use the city you’re in as a place to learn.” Through anecdotes of his time abroad, Sheppard encouraged travelers to explore the texture, smells and sounds of a city. “Business practice is the consequence of culture,” Sheppard stated. “If you don’t understand the civilization, you can’t understand what it’s like to do business in that place.”

Navigating strong leadership through global business has become increasingly difficult in the age of technology. “Global leaders must have contradicting strengths to be successful,” he said. “We need people who are both technologically savvy and who deeply understand human beings; people who are massively humble, but incredibly heroic; people who are good at navigating politics, with a deep sense of integrity.”

Strong leaders, Sheppard said, are people who can bring conflicting personalities and beliefs together, uniting people who otherwise wouldn’t know each other. Citizens of the world today need to profoundly understand what’s happening in the world and how they can improve the place they’re in.

“Wherever you plant your feet, the place should be better because you’re there. Find a place you love and make it better.”

Dr. Blair Sheppard at Belmont University

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