Len Greenhalgh is Professor of Management at the Tuck School. He comes from a practitioner background that includes managing purchasing in a multinational corporation, entrepreneurship, and management consulting. Born and raised in Great Britain, and educated in the United States, he received a Ph.D. from Cornell University, building on an undergraduate background in engineering and science, and an MBA. He has done Post-Doctoral training in clinical psychology at Dartmouth Medical School.
He has been at the Tuck School since 1978, and has also taught at Stanford University, MIT, Oxford University, and Cornell University. He has done executive education in conjunction with Dartmouth College, Stanford University, Oxford University, Cornell University, London Business School, University of North Carolina, and Duke University.
In addition to MBA teaching, he has done a considerable amount of executive education, research, and consulting, involving a wide range of governmental and private sector organizations including ABB; Accenture; AGT; Alaska Investnet; Anthem; Baxter Healthcare; Billion Dollar Roundtable; BlueCross-BlueShield; Boeing; The Cherokee Nation; Chiron Vaccines; Chrysler; Chubb; Clark Construction; Coca-Cola; Constellation Brands; The Conservation Fund; Daimler-Benz; DEC; Deutsche Bank; Dynavax; Edison Electric Institute; Ericsson; Ernst & Young; Airbus; Ford; The Gap; General Electric; General Motors; Goldman Sachs; Google; GTE; Harnischfeger; Harris Corporation; Harvey Hubbel; Hasbro; Henry Crown Industries; Hoechst; IBM; ITT; Jaguar; Koç Holdings; Johnson & Johnson; Lafarge; LG Electronics; MBNA; MeadWestvaco; Merrill-Lynch; Miles Pharmaceuticals; NASA; The Nature Conservancy; NEC; Nestlé; Nissho Iwai; Pitney-Bowes; Rand Corporation; Raytheon; Rolls-Royce; Siemens; Simon Pearce Glass; Smith-Barney; Sterling Pharmaceuticals; Syntex; Timken Aerospace; Toyota; Travelers; UNICEF; United Technologies; US Air Force; US Dept. of Agriculture; Minority Business Development Agency, US Dept. of Commerce; Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development, US Dept. of the Interior; US Postal Service; Varian; Wachovia Bank; Warner-Lambert; The White House; and Williams Holdings UK. He has traveled in more than 40 countries. International assignments include the UK, Australia, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Spain, Switzerland, and Canada.
His areas of expertise include (1) managing high-performing systems; (2) strategy and strategy implementation; (3) negotiation and strategic alliance formation; (4) cross-functional collaboration; and (5) diversity in work forces and supply chains. He is the author of Managing Strategic Relationships, an advanced negotiation book published by the Free Press, and Minority Business Success (Stanford University Press, 2011, with James H. Lowry). He has also written more than 140 articles, book chapters, monographs, cases, and professional papers.
What do you do best?
I make a difference in people’s lives, especially people who have grown up with the odds stacked against their success. My specialty is helping diverse business owners learn to run successful businesses: I work with African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, women, veterans, the handicapped, and members of the LGBT community. I organize learning experiences designed specifically for this rapidly-growing subset of the business population. I also try to change the system in which they are operating: I work to reshape public policy and corporate practices—to create a more-favorable environment for people to rise out of poverty.
What makes you the best?
I get very high teaching ratings because it’s not just a job for me: it’s my mission in life. I want my diverse program participants to be successful, so I do the very best I can to teach them what they need to know. It helps that I have plenty of experience, as a purchasing manager, an entrepreneur, and a consultant. I also have training as a clinical psychologist, so I have a lot of empathy, and this helps me relate to most people’s experiences, their challenges, and their very human mistakes. In my work to influence public policy and corporate practices, I’m effective because people will listen to me. I have credentials: I’m a senior Ivy League professor, with an Ivy League PhD. I’m a white guy, so people can’t dismiss what I have to say by thinking, “he’s just looking out for his own people.” And I’m obsessively ethical. People respect that.
How will you stay the best?
I hope I won’t stay the best. I have younger colleagues who I sincerely hope will become much better than me. Earlier in my career, I wasn’t comfortable with the prospect of being replaced by younger and better people, but with age comes a different perspective.
I have a good deal of modesty and humility, so this is a hard question to address. I never actually feel like I’m better than anybody else. I may be good in a different way than other people, but that doesn’t make me a superior human being. Many people want to put me on a pedestal, but I don’t let them: they want to address me as Doctor or Professor, but I make everyone call me Len. So I really don’t aspire to staying the best, but I am committed to being my best. A wise person once said, “Good enough never is.”
My biggest success is in having a great impact on the lives of a large number of diverse business owners. They usually are pretty good at manufacturing a product or delivering a service, but they’re not as good at running the business. That’s why so many entrepreneurial businesses fail. I can help them succeed, and I have hundreds of success stories.
What are your aspirations?
Personal: I want to be a good husband. I’ve been divorced twice, as a result of bad choices and a series of mistakes. Like most people, I look back at past situations in my life and think, “I wish I could turn back the clock and handle that situation differently.” But we can’t do that. The best we can do is to be honest with ourselves and not make the same mistakes that didn’t serve us well last time we made them. I’m making new mistakes, not repeat mistakes.
Business: I need a solid succession plan. I’ve built the minority business program at the Tuck School from a small summer executive program to a year-round operation with significant impact. I created a program for women entrepreneurs, and have worked with Native Americans all over the country. I don’t want the impact of what I have built to diminish after I retire, so I have to build a team that will take the initiative forward into the future. The inclusion of minorities and women will be more important, not less important, in the future. Minorities are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population, and will outnumber whites by 2040. Women are outperforming men in educational achievement, and in today’s knowledge economy, they will become the backbone of the workforce. So my aspiration for continuity is not about keeping “my baby” alive and well—it’s about building strength in the future U.S. economy.
Most Challenging moment?
Two years ago I fell over a cliff. I crushed my spine and broke my ribs, pushing one of them through a lung. For a while, I didn’t know whether I was going to ever be able to return to work. That sank me into a depression. I had developed an identity crisis. If I wasn’t to be a civil rights champion, then what was my purpose in life? Fortunately, I recovered and I’m now back doing my job and making a difference. But if the injuries had been permanently debilitating, I’d have to focus on another mission.
What fascinates you?
I’m fascinated by communication across animal species. Years ago, I was a biology student at a time when animals were viewed as little robots that had no feelings and learned from either being rewarded or punished. Of course, anyone who has spent time with a dog or a cat knows better than that. I never bought into that perspective, which made me a difficult biology student. Currently, I’m teaching my four cats to “speak” in terms I and my wife can understand, and we’re learning their language too.
But here’s where the nutty professor image really comes alive. It’s not just domesticated species that communicate; wild species do it, too. I live at the edge of an 86-acre wildlife sanctuary I created, and I go out and talk to the animals. It took me years of study and patience to figure out what works for them—a combination of voice and body language. But now I can call foxes and deer out of the woods, and get wild geese and ducks to come out of the water, and they’ll all walk up and eat out of my hand, sometimes all together. Even fish come to the surface when I call them. Really. So my life at home is like being in a Disney movie.
I’ve learned that these animals have a family life very much like we do. That’s why I consider “sport” hunting to be cruelty to animals. If a hunter kills a deer or a goose, the family will mourn for days. The hunter has killed somebody’s mother or child, and other animals respond very much as we humans do. It’s particularly barbaric when a hunter decapitates a family member he’s killed, stuffs the head, and mounts it on a wall. If these people only realized what they were doing to animal families, they probably wouldn’t do it.
My favorite motto, and my call to duty, is a quote by Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for enough good [people] to do nothing.” He said it in the 18th century, but it still holds true today. I can’t stand by when I encounter racism, or the abuse of women, children, or animals. And I hold people to high ethical standards, but always try to teach rather than preach: if I make people defensive, they pay less attention to the message, and my influence is curtailed.
This is an easy question. I greatly admire Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Rosa Parks. They knowingly put themselves in harm’s way for a cause they believed in. I wish I had had their courage in the 1960s. When white supremacists killed northern civil rights advocates in Philadelphia Mississippi, my courage failed me. It was one thing to participate in civil rights marches on a safe college campus, and another thing to put my life on the line in the face of people who were blinded by racial hatred. I particularly wish I had marched in Selma.
I have traveled in all 50 states and more than 40 foreign countries, but my two favorite places on this earth are Maine and England.
Saint George, Maine is where I now live. It’s not too crowded, because it’s far enough up the coast that it’s not an easy weekend drive from the Boston metropolitan area. And it has all the advantages of a small town: there’s very little crime, and the locals tend to know and look out for each other. The scenery in coastal Maine is beautiful, quite unlike any other American landscape; actually, it looks very much like Scandinavia.
I was brought up in Manchester, England, but I never return to my old neighborhood. I was brought up in poverty, in a tenement, and as a child who gained height late in adolescence, I endured more than my share of urban violence and sexual abuse. Later in life, I taught at Oxford, and this gave me the opportunity to explore most of the delightful parts of the United Kingdom. I go back to the U.K. every chance I get, but never to the slums of Manchester.
The Aston Martin is my favorite product. It’s not just the James Bond thing, it’s the aesthetics of the design, coupled with the performance of a thoroughbred race horse. I was doing some projects with Ford Motor Company back when Ford owned Aston-Martin, and I was given a tour the factory by the CEO. The styling of the DB7 appeals to me more than any other vehicle, but the experience is multi-sensory: the smell of the leather, the feline roar of the V-12 engine, the silky feel of the controls… It’s drivable art.
My second favorite product is the laptop computer. It has transformed how I work, how I travel, how I communicate, and how I entertain myself.
My third favorite product is a toss-up between Novocain and a Martin guitar. My early experience with British dentistry pre-dated Novocain. Dental problems—and I had plenty of them, not knowing how sugar was destroying my teeth—meant torture, no exaggeration: I would have confessed to anything in the dentist chair! Novocain changed all of that.
Moving from pain to pleasure, I play music—not very well, but well enough to keep me amused. We don’t have a TV at home, so evenings consist of visiting with the animals on the wildlife sanctuary at twilight, when they’re active, then coming in the house to play music. I had tried to learn to play the guitar for years, and had little success with cheap instruments that were hard to play and didn’t sound very good. So I broke down and bought a Martin acoustic guitar, what many people consider the Rolls Royce of guitars, and my playing improved dramatically. It sounds good, and it’s so nice to play that I spend more time practicing. My wife, Jocelyn, plays the banjo. We get invited to play publicly, at soup kitchens and senior centers. We’re not good, but the audience is quite appreciative. We play a lot of Beatles numbers, and other songs they’re likely to know from the 60s and 70s.
In addition to being passionate about civil rights, income inequality, and poverty (all of these go together), I’m dedicated to do what I can to curtail or correct environmental damage. I live next to an abandoned granite quarry that was thoughtlessly strip-mined. What couldn’t be sold was dumped onto the adjacent wetlands. When I bought the land, 29 years ago, the place looked more like a moonscape than a wetland. So I set about restoring it. The discarded granite rubble is 30 feet deep and covers acres of former wetlands. In whatever spare time I’ve had over the past 29 years, I’ve been removing the rubble, leaving behind large ponds, vernal pools, and wetlands teeming with wildlife. The place is now home to ospreys, eagles, herons, kingfishers, kestrels, mink, foxes, deer, otters, muskrats, beavers, bear, and moose. Our experience gives truth to the expression, “if you build it, they will come.” The sad converse is, “if you destroy it, they will have no place to live.”
It takes a lot of commitment to keep digging through a 30 foot deep rubble pile to get to the wetlands beneath it that have been buried for almost a century. Many visitors to the site think I’m nuts to have taken on this project. But I’m making steady progress, and the results are gratifying. Check out the progress for yourself: wheelerbaywildlifesanctuary.org