BOZEMAN — During his 20 years as an officer in the U.S. Army, Bill Brown saw leadership in many places – some of them surprising.
“A big part of what Army officers have to do is lead, sometimes under difficult circumstances,” said Brown, who is now a professor of management in the Montana State University Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship. “I faced those challenges myself and saw both outstanding leadership and sometimes leadership failures.”
The study of what makes a great leader has long fascinated people, Brown noted.
He will deliver a lecture on the topic as part of this year's Provost's Distinguished Lecturer Series, which recognizes outstanding MSU faculty for their scholarship and leadership. As part of his lecture, Brown will discuss the inspiration for his lifelong interest in leadership, as well as how this fascination developed in the Army and as a consultant and a professor. The lecture, “Transformations and Revelations: A Journey Through the Evolution of Our Understanding of Leadership and an Emerging Awareness of Emotional Intelligence,” is set for Tuesday, April 18, at 7 p.m. in the Museum of the Rockies’ Hager Auditorium. It will be followed by a reception at 8 p.m.
“Most of us want lives with meaning and purpose that give us a feeling of satisfaction and competence,” said Brown, whose research on transformational leadership is based on assessments and interviews he has conducted with thousands of leaders and their followers. “Transformational leaders tap into that… (They) can cause others to transcend personal interest for the good of the group, cause them to spend extra effort voluntarily or enthusiastically.”
Many of the traits of transformational leadership are learned skills, he said. They include treating each person as an individual, pushing others to think more deeply and bringing meaning to the job at hand.
“I’ve seen it in shift leaders at McDonald’s, and in national political and military leaders,” Brown said. “They make things make sense for what they are, and they help us to see what’s possible for us in a situation for our desire to do something meaningful.”
But these skills alone won’t do it, Brown noted; Indeed, an essential component of powerful and positive leadership is emotional intelligence. A highly emotionally intelligent person is aware of their own emotional state, understands the impact of their emotions on others and can regulate their emotions.
To illustrate emotional intelligence, Brown summons Aristotle: “Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.”
In other words, good leaders are smart, but not all are experts in terms of cognitive skills like memory and problem solving.
Brown has consulted with business, community and government leaders, and his work is relevant to anyone who has worked in an organizational setting, said Kregg Aytes, dean of the Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship.
“I think people will find ways to apply what they learn from Bill’s provost’s lecture in their own personal and professional lives,” Aytes said.
A former student, Matt Asaro, said the open class discussions were his favorite part of Brown’s classes.
“Whether discussing the news or one of our business problems, he wanted to hear contrary opinions and would challenge us to substantiate wherever we stood,” said Asaro, who graduated in fall 2015. “Digging that much deeper helped me grow in those upper-level management classes.”
In class, Brown – who calls teaching the most satisfying professional thing he’s done – emphasizes practical aspects of management. Students love him for it: He has been honored with a litany of teaching awards, many of them bestowed by students.
Brown’s colleagues also see him as a leader.
“A lot of the faculty look to Bill as someone who can help them become better teachers,” Aytes said.
Brown’s most recent interest is pedagogy and studying which teaching methods are most effective. For a publication on “transformational teaching,” he worked with business professors Nancy Dodd and Susan Dana measuring transformational leadership among their peers: Which professor knew students as individuals? Which encouraged students to think deeply? Which noted opportunities for satisfaction in excelling in a course, or reading a book?
He also led a project assessing student achievement and its correlation to demographics, publishing the results in the Journal of Business Education. The research found MSU business students are consistently at or near the top 10 percent nationally in terms of general business knowledge and problem solving. It also informed professors how to better teach specific student populations, Aytes said.
Prior to coming to MSU in 1999, Brown was a member of the faculty at the University of Nebraska. He earned a Ph.D. in business from George Washington University, as well as an M.B.A. in general management and an M.P.A. in manpower management, both from Golden Gate University. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Louisiana State University.
Contact: Bill Brown, (406) 994-4682 or email@example.com