Students Explore Quantum Leadership with Donahue Center Distinguished Speaker Chris Laszlo

Chris Laszlo walks among tables of students Image by Ed Brennen
Donahue Center Distinguished Speaker Chris Laszlo talks to students during his talk on Quantum Leadership at Moloney Hall.

By Ed Brennen

“I want to give you a quick 10-minute introduction to quantum physics.”

Chris Laszlo, a professor of organizational behavior at Case Western Reserve University, admits that quickly summarizing such a complex theory to a roomful of mostly non-science majors sounds “ridiculous.”

But to properly introduce the idea of “quantum leadership” to the 100-plus UML students who attended his recent guest lecture at Moloney Hall, Laszlo had to briefly explain how, according to quantum theory, we live in an “observer-driven universe” that is an “interconnected whole composed of vibrational fields of energy and information.”

Laszlo, who was invited to campus by the Donahue Center for Business Ethics and Social Responsibility for its Distinguished Speaker Series, connected quantum physics to the changing role of business in society – arguing that sustainability, mindfulness and well-being are just as important as quarterly earnings, operational efficiency and shareholder returns.

Chris Laszlo shakes hands with a student after signing his book Image by Ed Brennen
Chris Laszlo shakes hands with a student after signing a copy of his book "Quantum Leadership" following his talk at Moloney Hall.

“Quantum leadership introduces an entirely different paradigm of business where the purpose becomes flourishing, meaning that businesses are actually contributing to creating a better world,” says Laszlo, whose latest book, “Quantum Leadership: New Consciousness in Business,” looks at how companies such as Tesla, Starbucks and Nike are embracing these principles.

Donahue Center Co-director Elissa Magnant met Laszlo last year in Cleveland at a conference for the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), a U.N.-supported initiative that promotes the balance of economic and sustainability goals in business schools. With the Manning School in the process of becoming a UN PRME signatory, Magnant thought Laszlo would be a “great fit” for the Distinguished Speaker Series.

“We cover a lot of the principles of prosperity and flourishing in my business ethics class,” says Magnant, a visiting instructor of management. “But it’s reaffirming for students to know that there are other academics in the world explaining and encouraging these flourishing businesses.”

One of those students is Alexander MacLeod, a junior chemical engineering major from Lowell with minors in mathematics and management. MacLeod, who is in Magnant’s Honors business ethics course, says he looks forward to reading his signed copy of “Quantum Leadership,” which Laszlo co-authored with Frederick Chavalit Tsao.

Donahue Center co-directors Elissa Magnant and Erica Steckler with Chris Laszlo Image by Ed Brennen
Donahue Center Co-directors Elissa Magnant, left, and Erica Steckler, right, welcomed Distinguished Speaker Chris Laszlo for a two-day visits to campus.

“I have a lot of books on leadership and management, but none of them bridge this gap of how science can inform us to make better leadership decisions,” MacLeod says.

For businesses to flourish, Laszlo says what’s needed is a new breed of leaders who have a “greater purpose” and a “consciousness of connectedness.”

“That sounds very conceptual, very intellectual, but it’s actually very experiential, very practice-driven,” says Laszlo, who told students there are many “practices of connectedness” – such as exercise, meditation, journaling, gardening and music – that can help reconnect them to themselves, to high-quality personal relationships with others, to nature and to the transcendent.

That struck a chord with Paola Pevzner, a senior psychology major from Brookline with a minor in business.

“I’m hoping to go into business, and as a devout Christian, it makes sense to bring aspects of this mindset into my career,” Pevzner says. “It was affirming to hear that this is something to think about and pursue for personal and career gains from a voice in business.”

Chris Laszlo speaks with faculty during a professional development workshop Image by Ed Brennen
Chris Laszlo talks about quantum leadership with faculty during a professional development workshop at Saab ETIC's Perry Atrium.

Because of the internet, social media and 24-7 economy, Laszlo says it’s harder than ever to find moments of stillness and connectedness – which is where leaders can find the creativity to solve complex problems.

“We have to go from this crazy, fragmented, multitasking life that we live to one where we pay more attention to our connectedness, to our wholeness,” says Laszlo, who also led a professional development workshop for a dozen faculty members at Saab ETIC’s Perry Atrium during his visit.

Sara McNeill, a senior business administration major from Chelmsford, agrees.

“I feel like the day and age that we live in, if you’re not hustling, you’re not doing enough,” says McNeill, who has a concentration in management and a minor in legal studies. “It’s nice to be reminded that it’s OK to take time for yourself.”