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13: Erika James on Leadership Through Team Building

A peer-to-peer discussion with the Dean of the Wharton School at the the University of Pennsylvania.

Show notes: On this episode of Deans Counsel, moderators Jim Ellis and Ken Kring speak with Erika James, dean since 2020 and Reliance Professor of Management and Private Enterprise Professor of Management at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Trained as an organizational psychologist, Dean James is a leading expert on crisis leadership, workplace diversity and management strategy.

In this conversation, Jim and Ken learn from Erika about what it takes to build effective, trusting teams. Major factors in that equation include:

  • Building trust in the dean

  • Hiring effective team members

  • Dealing with the fallout of termination decisions

  • The need to monitor the pace of team progress

  • Approaches to nudging faculty into key leadership roles

  • The shifting landscape on DEI, social justice and ESG

Erika H. James Bio:

Erika H. James became the dean of the Wharton School on July 1, 2020. Trained as an organizational psychologist, Dean James is a leading expert on crisis leadership, workplace diversity, and management strategy.

Prior to her appointment at Wharton, Dean James was the John H. Harland Dean at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School from 2014 to 2020. An award-winning educator, accomplished consultant, and innovative researcher, she has paved the way for women in leadership both in education and corporate America. Dean James has been instrumental in developing groundbreaking executive education programs, including the Women’s Leadership program at the University of Virginia’s Darden School.

Dean James is a sought-after thought leader whose expertise has been quoted by The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, Bloomberg, The Washington Post, and numerous other media outlets. She has been widely recognized as one of the most powerful and influential women in business and education by Barron’s, Black Enterprise, and Ebony.

In addition to her academic responsibilities, Dean James is a board member of Morgan Stanley, The Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center, Inc., and several organizations that align with her passions for education and advancing women in business. Additionally, she serves as an advisory board member to Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management and as an executive board member to the Indian School of Business.

Her latest book is The Prepared Leader: Emerge from Any Crisis More Resilient Than Before (Wharton School Press) which she co-authored with Lynn Perry Wooten, President of Simmons University. She and Wooten are also co-authors of Leading Under Pressure: From Surviving to Thriving Before, During, and After a Crisis.

Dean James holds a Ph.D. and master’s degree in organizational psychology from the University of Michigan, as well as a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Pomona College of the Claremont Colleges in California.


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