Business schools should refine old leadership paradigms and develop new strategies to address the new realities of managing multinational corporations, said Time Warner Chief Executive Officer Richard Parsons during his visit to Baruch on Wednesday, March 21.
Parsons was on campus to deliver the third annual Burton Kossoff Business Leadership Lecture, named after Baruch benefactor and business mogul Burton Kossoff (’46). The series is sponsored by a generous gift from Mrs. Phyllis Kossoff in memory of her late husband.
“Mergers and acquisitions have outgrown traditional management styles,” said Parsons, mentioning recent deals between automakers DaimlerChrysler, communications giants Alcotel and Lucent Technologies, and the merger that gave birth to Time Warner as examples of new globe-spanning conglomerates that do not fit into the standard business school mold.
He characterized American corporate cultures as being more “hierarchical” than leadership styles in other countries where multinationals like Time Warner are active. “I think a much more collaborative management model must evolve.”
Interviewed by Dean David Birdsell of Baruch’s School of Public Affairs, Parsons spoke at length about the evolution of his management philosophy and his desire to leave a respectable legacy in both the corporate and civic spheres. He also addressed speculations that he may be in line for a mayoral run following his departure from Time Warner.
“It’s not smart to let people push you [into a decision],” said Parsons, who was noncommittal about the possibility of running for elected office. “It’s much better to go off somewhere and clear your mind and figure out what to do next.”
The wide-ranging interview touched on Parsons’ childhood in Brooklyn, early experience with then-New York State Governor Nelson Rockerfeller’s administration, and tenure as a senior White House aide under President Gerald Ford. He credited his diplomatic management style and ongoing commitment to public service to his work with Rockerfeller, who he described as “a principled man and a leader.”
“Corporate leaders do have an obligation to be good citizens—to do more than pay taxes and obey laws,” he said, alluding to his recent work with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Commission on Economic Opportunity. “You can’t just bury yourself in your work and forget about the community.”
Impressed by his commitment to the Mayor’s commission on alleviating poverty in New York City, alumnus Norman Brust (’55) spoke to Parsons about Baruch’s role in launching generations of New Yorkers into the white-collar workforce. “This place had lifted more people out of poverty than all the commissions you’ll ever serve on,” said Brust.
“I know,” replied Parsons. “That’s why I’m here.”
Office of Communications and Marketing