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Army Colonel moves to the front of the class

Bob Hughes brings leadership perspectives to Kellogg

Bob Hughes in a Kellogg classroom
Bob Hughes became the first Kellogg Army Senior Fellow in 2012. Photo by Doug Haight

After 28 years in the U.S. Army, Colonel Bob Hughes might have wanted to enjoy his retirement in peace. Or, after rising from the rank of 2nd lieutenant to colonel, Hughes could have secured a federal job in D.C. or worked as a government contractor. Instead, after retiring from the Army in 2015, Hughes came to Northwestern, where he now serves as a clinical assistant professor and senior program director at the Kellogg School of Management.

“We took a view of what leaders need,” Hughes said of developing coursework for Kellogg Executive Education. “We tried to create a program to fill some needs for leaders out there.”

At Northwestern, Hughes has been able to bring his perspective on leadership — shaped by his years in the military — to an audience that may not have been exposed to that way of thinking. At the same time, he’s learned invaluable lessons at the university from leaders outside of the military.

I think as a leader it’s important to have time to take pauses and think about your own leadership journey.”

Bob Hughes,
Clinical assistant professor, Kellogg School of Management

This isn’t Hughes’ first time on the Evanston campus. In 2012, Hughes became the first Kellogg Army Senior Fellow under a partnership between the Army and Northwestern. The Army had been looking to form a mutually beneficial relationship with a top business school, whereby the Army could offer its organizational expertise while deepening its business acumen.

“Many of the challenges the Army faces are present in private-sector organizations,” said Bernie Banks, Associate Dean for Leadership Development at Kellogg. “A place like Kellogg allows the Army to expand its perspectives regarding how others are examining similar issues.”

As an Army fellow, Hughes was able to bring to Northwestern his unique experience in organizational development and change management.

“From the minute I was asked to do it, it was certainly not in my normal career path, but I saw it as an opportunity,” Hughes said. While at Northwestern, Hughes served as the “explorer,” as he calls it, figuring out exactly how the Army and Kellogg could help each other for years to come.

“I came here and it would have been very easy to say ‘Hey, I’ve been through all the schools. I’m an Army leader. I’m a colonel. Why would I take a leadership course?’” he said. “Well I took one here, it was called Reinventing Leadership. It was one of the Executive Education courses that I took, and it was very philosophical. And it was a different approach to what I had done. But it gave you a great sense of self awareness.”

Through the class, Hughes learned more about his own leadership style, and without his time at Northwestern, away from his duties in the Army, he’s not sure he would have gained such an understanding. At Kellogg, Hughes was able to reflect on his years of service and consider how he wanted to lead after leaving Northwestern.

“I think as a leader it’s important to have time to take pauses and think about your own leadership journey,” Hughes said.

Since Hughes’ 10 months as a fellow in 2012, Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management has continued the program. As the only U.S. business school with a Chief of Staff of the Army Senior Fellow. Kellogg has forged a strong alliance with the Army. Hughes can attest to this firsthand, because he’s now back on campus.

In November, Hughes will co-teach a course he helped create called The Sphere of Leadership.  The course, Hughes said, aims to give senior leaders a condensed version of the “pause” he received as a Senior Fellow. Hughes and his colleagues reached out to different faculty as they created the course, which is built on the framework of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. Ultimately, the course aims to help mid-to-senior-level executives become better leaders through introspection. 

“At Northwestern we create brave leaders who help grow people, organizations, and markets,” Banks said. “We want to create highly competent leaders who influence all three of those things, and we also want to create highly principled leaders. The Army and Kellogg share this belief that competence and character are what leaders must display.”

Hughes credits his experience at Northwestern to the University community, which he said takes deep pride in making organizations the best they can be and helping people grow.

“It was a good match,” Hughes said of his return to Northwestern. “I am now a part of another organization that puts a premium on developing leaders of the future, and value-based leaders.”

Hughes, Banks and the rest of the Northwestern community recently welcomed the fifth Kellogg Army Senior Fellow to the university. U.S. Army Colonel Robert Carr will spend the next year in Evanston, joined by his wife, Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Temaki Carr, and their youngest daughter. As with the fellows before him, Carr’s time on campus will surely enrich the relationship between Northwestern and the U.S. Army, cultivating great leadership in the military, business, and beyond.

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