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Adam GoodmanDirector

Professional Experience

Adam Goodman directs Northwestern University's Center for Leadership and is a Clinical Professor in the McCormick School of Engineering & Applied Science. He works with senior leaders in industry as well as with faculty and students on leadership and teamwork, focusing on learning in real world contexts.

Teaching and Research Interests

Goodman advises and works with faculty and students to help build a culture of leadership across Northwestern through coaching, advising, and program design and delivery. Current projects include individual and cohort coaching through the Provost’s Faculty Mentoring Program and building leadership and teamwork awareness to improve physician wellness at the Feinberg School of Medicine. His teaching includes "Field Study in Leadership" in the McCormick School of Engineering & Applied Science and “Developing and Coaching Leadership” in the School of Education and Social Policy. With The Graduate School, Goodman also conducts an interdisciplinary Fellowship program for PhD students, medical and law students, and post-docs.

Current research work focuses on assessing learning gains for leadership, teamwork and coaching using an enterprise-wide web-based Leadership Portal. Past work includes a national survey of public sector leaders, the design of a national model leadership program, work with over 30 leadership programs from across the USA, and 6 Leadership Questions® (an assessment and learning tool).

In addition, Goodman has held numerous roles in leadership studies, including founding co-chair of the scholars’ section of the International Leadership Association and distinguished visiting professor at Johnson & Wales University. His work has been recognized and supported by organizations that include the Adolph Coors Foundation, the Boettcher Foundation, El Pomar Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Gates Family Foundation, and IBM Corp.

Private and Public Sector Interests

An active consultant today and for over 25 years, he has advised over 150 CEOs, senior officers, executive teams and boards of directors and given hundreds of invited speeches and workshops around the world. Currently, he chairs the board of directors for the Drupal Association, an open-source global software community. Consulting clients include the American Library Association-Public Library Association, Ball Corp., the Government of Canada, Kaiser Permanente, the National Association of State Budget Officers, Navigant, New Belgium Brewing, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, and TIAA-CREF. He was co-founder or partner of three management consulting firms, a software company, and a board member of Solbourne Computer Inc. until its acquisition by Deloitte.

Civic Interests

Goodman is an active and long-time community volunteer, including work with the Evanston Public Library, the Youth Job Center, Room to Read (founded by Northwestern alum John Wood), the University of Colorado, and Johnson & Wales University. He was also a home building volunteer in Juarez, Mexico. Throughout his career, Goodman has mentored emerging leaders and connected them with experienced leaders in the private, public and non-profit communities. He sponsored countless internships and established other programs to introduce college and high school students to many of the most challenging issues of the day including health care, building healthy communities, economic and international development, and criminal justice.

As a Presidential Fellow at the University of Colorado he earned a master's degree in management and, later, a PhD in leadership from the Graduate School of Public Affairs.

On Learning About Leadership

"People work every day to improve their leadership (and the leadership of those around them). There's a lot of material to draw from: articles, books, assessments and on-line content. Much of this material describes desired leadership abilities such as 'put first things first,' 'encourage the heart,' and 'take risks.' The goal is to get people to adopt the author's abilities for effective leadership."

"However, as leaders learn about and work to apply these abilities, they discover at least two hurdles that make true mastery largely unattainable. First, adopting someone else's universal list of abilities is more often than not a poor fit. Like designer clothes, they look great on the model but are lumpy in all the wrong places when others put them on. The result is new leadership behaviors that are impossible to sustain because they're just not comfortable. Second, there are far too many examples of great leaders and leadership that are contradictory. For every leader whose charisma and conviction created unqualified success I can find a leader whose humility and adaptability or whose work ethic and focus on quality led to success. What researchers like me have long suspected really is true: there's no leadership grail, set of universal abilities, essential laws or similar nonsense. So, stop looking at others and develop your own abilities."

Favorite Leadership Reading

"Not Enough Generals Were Killed by Peter Drucker…Everything you need to know about leadership in six pages by one of the best management thinkers of any background, age or experience."

Three Personal Passions

"Playing with our dog, Jack; reading biographies; undermining conventional wisdom."

Three Things That Need Work

"Learning how to sail, biking accident free, and reading fiction."

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