Management and Liberal Arts

February 22, 2013

While Yale School of Management is undoubtedly a top business school, throughout the world Yale is probably best known for its liberal arts tradition. The hallmark of any Yale education is to approach problems from different perspectives, to cross disciplinary boundaries in order to obtain penetrating insights, and the new Master of Advanced Management at Yale SOM is no exception.

The "CEO Agenda 2020" course that forms part of the MAM's core curriculum harnesses the expertise of Yale thought leaders from outside SOM to focus attention on big global challenges that will shape the agenda of companies and CEOs in the future - water scarcity, climate change, income inequality, exploding health care costs, corruption, epidemics...etc.

In the course's first session, Professor Charles Hill, a diplomat-in-residence and expert in international affairs, used a famous Rembrandt painting to discuss the "connectedness" of knowledge and the need for leaders to be intellectually versatile across knowledge domains.

The Dutch master's Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer captures just this. Homer stands for literature and poetry, for the beauty of the written and spoken word. Aristotle of course was not only a philosopher and leading thinker on such practical matters as how to organize government and participatory democracy, but also a prolific natural scientists. In Rembrandt's illustration, Aristotle wears a medallion depicting Alexander the Great. Of course Alexander is one of history's greatest conquerors and his inclusion highlights the link to statecraft and leadership. And of course Aristotle was Alexander's personal tutor when the latter was a young boy, so the backdrop to all of this is education. Last but not least, Aristotle is depicted in the dress of a Dutch nobleman at the time of the Dutch Empire's greatest reach, a time when the Dutch East India Company, the world's first multinational company, epitomized the confluence of politics and commerce.

The world has changed a great deal since Rembrandt created this masterpiece. The challenges are very different. But tackling them requires leaders that can integrate and connect knowledge domains - from literature and philosophy to politics, business, and science - that Rembrandt so ably captured in this painting. And exactly this is at the heart of our Masters of Advanced Management program and makes it a unique experience.


About the author

David Bach

Deputy Dean & Professor in the Practice of Management