Academic and Industry Perspectives on Creating Value and Leading Effectively

Drexel Trustee Mike Lawrie and Francis Professor of Finance George Tsetsekos

What defines good business strategy or decision-making? Experts have offered their answers over the years, and now two LeBow leaders have put forward their take on the subject, balancing theoretical and practical insights in putting forward a framework for creating value.

Drexel Trustee and former CEO of DXC J. Michael Lawrie, MBA ’77, and LeBow Dean Emeritus and George B. Francis Professor of Finance George Tsetsekos, PhD, co-authored “Business Leadership in Turbulent Times: Decision-Making for Value Creation.” This high-level collaboration, published in September by Archway Publishing, blends academic research with insights from executive leadership in industry. The two authors intend for the book to help leaders navigate the differences, polarities and contradictions between the theory of how things are done and the practicality of what must be done.

“Most books by CEO’s are renditions of what they did in their company or life and their lessons learned — that’s not this book,” Lawrie says. “This is more of a framework, one that’s relevant to the general business reader as well as to students.”

Lawrie and Tsetsekos share contrasting but complementary perspectives on five drivers of value creation: strategy, asset deployment, a financial model, leadership team and culture. Using this approach, the book addresses current worldwide business and economic conditions, including the impact of and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as future challenges posed by climate change, globalization, technological disruption and other factors.

“The idea is that the reader can understand each viewpoint and do some of their own integration,” Lawrie says.

Tsetsekos highlights academic research on these topics across business disciplines and combines those findings with real-world business cases, whereas Lawrie’s contributions draw on his decades of executive leadership, starting at IBM and through his time leading DXC, an international IT services company.

Tsetsekos observes that the academic insights in the book don’t come exclusively from finance or management, but from all business disciplines, and that synthesis has its roots in the ten years he spent as LeBow’s Dean and what he learned from the experts he hired to join LeBow’s faculty.

“At the time, I thought I was just doing my due diligence, but the hiring process really allowed me to learn their contributions,” he says. “In writing this book, I realized how much knowledge I had accumulated almost by accident.”

Real executive leadership, Lawrie argues, requires working on and executing all five of the elements cohesively.

“Almost everything I’ve done in my career used this framework to one extent or another,” he says. “I didn’t necessarily understand it at the time, but by the time I got to DXC, I thought through everything I did using this perspective.”

These elements form the basis of The Lawrie Group, a private-equity fund and special purpose acquisition company that he founded after retiring from DXC in 2019, as well as the curriculum taught to LeBow MBA students in the Lawrie Advanced Global Leadership Program.

“I always wanted to create a company based on this model and where these ideas could be applied,” Lawrie says. “Almost everything I do, with the Lawrie program, the book and the company, are related, because it really is an integrated approach.”

Though this book was spurred in part by the pandemic, the two co-authors had discussed collaborating on a project for several years, and while it addresses the pandemic and other recent global events, it aims to be timeless and applicable across business cycles.

“In academia, we typically address questions such as ‘what is strategy?’ or ‘what is culture,’ while executives focus on how to do strategy or change culture,” Tsetsekos says. “I wanted to do something which is practical and integrated, and Mike, with his tremendous experience in decision-making and leading multinational companies, gave me the platform to do just that.”

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