Mines alumnus returns for Leadership Summit


Graduates from the Colorado School of Mines are well trained in the science of moving mountains. But on October 2, Mines alumnus and celebrated author Mr. Robert Waterman will lead one of many plenary sessions that will help Mines students learn how to mobilize people and teams to move those mountains. They will be learning how to apply engineering principles to the art of leadership.

Along with co-author Tom Peters, Waterman penned the leadership tome “In Search of Excellence”, which has been heralded as the “greatest business book of all time” by Bloomsbury UK.

Students, faculty and alumni will have the opportunity to hear from Waterman at the 2010 Mines Leadership Summit. “The Leadership Summit provides an opportunity for us to work toward being more than engineers, to work toward being both leaders and engineers,” said Alec Westerman, Student Body President for the 2010-2011 academic year.

“It was early in my career when [Waterman] and Tom Peters published ‘In Search of Excellence’ to wide acclaim,” said Mines President M.W. “Bill” Scoggins. “The book, which became one of the most widely read business books ever, helped define the characteristics that make for successful organizations and successful leaders.”

As a Mines student, Waterman worked hard to develop his analytical and intuitive problem solving abilities. “Much of the job of being a leader has to do with one kind of problem solving or another,” he explained. “Mines is a great teacher of problem solving.”

When analyzing leadership through a scientific lens, the challenge remains one of an under-constrained system. “In my courses in math and physics, I was used to looking for the right answer,” said Waterman. “In business and organizational settings, there are lots of right answers, lots of ways you can get things done. But what I didn’t appreciate was the multiplicity of seemingly right answers. So the best approach turns out to be … the answer that is both technically right and most appealing to those who work for you [and] to those who buy from you.”

Waterman noted that global thinking is the most important learning objective for today’s engineering student. “Minerals and oil, for example, are sold at prices that are determined by production and transportation costs from every corner of the globe,” he said. “Other cultures in the world have different values than our own; other people see things differently than Americans.”

The notion of connecting leadership through perse perspectives is also a significant goal for Mines. “Developing leadership qualities in our students is clearly part of our mission to develop ‘global engineers’ who are prepared to hit the ground running,” said Scoggins. “At Mines, we try to inculcate these skills throughout the curriculum and through special opportunities such as this Leadership Summit.”

“I am looking forward to hearing what [Waterman] thinks are good management practices,” said Westerman. “I am also looking forward to hearing how, as a Mines student, he made the transition into management. I’m sure that I’m not alone in hoping to follow a similar path.”

The Peters-Waterman book, “In Search of Excellence”, is available today at the Mines Bookstore. For more information, visit the Leadership Summit website at leadership.mines.edu.


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