Turning Today’s Students into Tomorrow’s Values-Driven Business Leaders

Viewpoint – Jerry Colangelo

[Editor’s note: Jerry Colangelo shares his views, written from the standpoint of his association with Grand Canyon University, on a philosophy that successful leadership transcends the traditional “bottom line,” as part of the cover story “Tomorrow’s Leaders.” Read »]

Last month, I was blessed to have my name attached to a new 150,000-square-foot College of Business building at Grand Canyon University. As I watched students file in and out of the state-of-the-art facility, with its classrooms and laboratories that are molding bright minds into workplace-ready graduates and budding entrepreneurs, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own 50-plus-year career. Mostly, I thought about what it took to get there.

When GCU asked me to serve on its board of directors in 2009 and as an adviser to the university’s athletics program and business college a few years later, I eagerly accepted the invitation because I shared its philosophy of doing business the right way. Now, my most fervent hope is to instill these values in the next generation of business leaders.

What students learn in a textbook is important as they develop the skills and knowledge to address the demands of a contemporary business environment. But being a brilliant entrepreneur, skilled accountant or savvy marketer is only part of the recipe for being successful in business. The other part is serving a higher purpose and giving back to something bigger than yourself.

Values-driven business leaders inspire positive change in their organizations and impact society in unimaginable ways. Their approach is contagious, because they encourage and motivate others along the way. For them, business transcends how they contribute to their companies to ways they can make their communities better places to live and work.

These are leaders with strong character and integrity. They know the importance of building and nurturing relationships, making their word their bond and operating with the highest ethical standards. Most of all, they have an insatiable desire to use their skills in business as a force for good.

Grand Canyon University not only teaches those principles, it serves as Exhibit A in applying them in the real world. GCU’s growth in the past 10 years has been remarkable, but it has used that growth to make huge investments in its West Phoenix community. Through a $1.6 million safety initiative with the Phoenix Police Department, a free tutoring program that is impacting underserved students at 130 inner-city K-12 schools, a scholarship program that has provided 300 scholarships in the last three years to kids whose families couldn’t afford college, a partnership with Habitat for Humanity to renovate 700 homes in the Canyon Corridor, and the creation of new businesses that employ residents in our neighborhood, GCU is using its position as a major employer in Phoenix to transform the surrounding community.

It’s a concept called conscious capitalism, which involves using free enterprise to not only create jobs and spur the economy, but also better the community in philanthropic ways and serve others. Our students in the Colangelo College of Business are proud to be part of an institution where conscious capitalism is in our DNA.

Make no mistake: Servant leadership doesn’t mean taking your eye off the ball or apologizing for energetically delivering on a company’s bottom line. There’s a sense of accomplishment that comes from setting goals, formulating a plan and then bringing that plan to life.

But there’s something to be said for taking a values-driven approach to business that also serves the community around you. As I visit classrooms and impart my knowledge to GCU students, I emphasize that those principles are also a big part of their education.

Jerry Colangelo is an international sports and business icon and the namesake of Grand Canyon University’s Colangelo College of Business.

[Editor’s note: Jerry Colangelo shares his views, written from the standpoint of his association with Grand Canyon University, on a philosophy that successful leadership transcends the traditional “bottom line,” as part of the cover story “Tomorrow’s Leaders.” Read »]

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