Jim Guyette, the president and CEO of Rolls-Royce North America, and his wife Kay stood in front of seven undergraduates in the Studio Gallery of Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art, asking them repeatedly what it was they wanted to do. The students—juniors and seniors—made up the inaugural class of Guyette Leadership Fellows, and the first meeting between the executive and the scholars that had been selected to represent him centered almost entirely on the question of what exactly they were going to do next.
The brand new Leadership Fellows program is ambitious in scope. Fellows will have meetings with the Guyettes, participate in Enactus, serve on the SEBA Undergraduate Student Advisory Board, and attend Executive Speaker Series events. Despite this curriculum, the lingering question that held fast through the day was how will this program create leaders? In the eyes of Jim Guyette, opportunities abound.
“What do we want to do? What do we want to be? How high do we want to go?” asked the CEO in his address to the seven fellows. “Should we bring in leaders to have conversations with? Medal of Honor winners? Business leaders? You tell me. I can tell you one thing though, if this is just a nice debating society you’re not going to grow.”
Central to Jim Guyette’s address to the fellows was the promise that this opportunity should push them beyond their normal comfort levels into a place where real transformation can take place.
“My hope is that you can develop a guidebook to knowing yourself,” he said. “There is no perfect leader. You have to know yourself well enough to surround yourself with other complimentary professionals. I’ve been thrown into the deep end all my life, and I’ve needed to surround myself with people who knew the things I didn’t in order to thrive.
That’s what being a good leader called for.”
The seven fellows—Nicholas Ahn, Julian Allen, Kimberlea Buczeke, Daniela del Pinal, Andrew Nguyen, Leslie Anne Salvador, and Colleen Tanaka—were selected from across disciplines and had the opportunity to meet individually with the Guyettes following their address. These conversations, though only 15 minutes long, were often revelatory. Getting past the nerves, the fellows and the Guyettes discussed their family lives, the need for role models, moments of pride and the value of failure. Students who were children of immigrants discussed the American dream, while those with internships explained what they had gained from the experience. Nearly every student spoke about a desire to find their path in the world.
Rather than steering the conversations with what they knew, the Guyettes primarily played the role of facilitator, asking leading questions to inspire the students to start thinking bigger. There also was a point in every discussion where the Guyettes would ask if there was anything the fellows wanted to know about them.
On hand for the launch of the innovative program was Saint Mary’s President James Donahue and the Dean of the School of Economics and Business Administration Zhan Li, both of whom had words of encouragement for the fellows.
“This is a great honor to get to represent Saint Mary’s and the Guyette name,” said Li. “This is a high-touch program, one that will build leaders who have impact in the state of California, in United States, maybe even the world.”
“I’m happy and a pleased for each of you,” echoed Donahue. “This opportunity will change you—as it should. It will challenge you—as it should. It will affirm you. It will give you the opportunity to grow.”
“We are in the business, so to speak, of creating leaders,” the Saint Mary’s President added. “And leadership doesn’t stand still.”
Following the individual meetings with the Guyettes, fellows were filled in on program details by the Jim and Kay Guyette Professor in Responsible Leadership Nancy Lam, as well as details concerning SEBA Undergraduate Student Advisory Board and Enactus. The evening concluded for the fellows with a dinner with the Guyettes.