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Mandolen Mull, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Leadership, Chair of the Puri School of Business, Director of Business Degree Completion Program

06/25/2020 8:31 am

Rockford University Professor Mandolen Mull, Ph.D.
Mandolen Mull, Ph.D. Chair, Department of Economics, Business & Accounting; Assistant Professor, Puri School of Business; Director, Adult Degree Completion Programs.

​As a former corporate leader at a property preservation company during the housing crisis, I thought I knew a thing or two about how to guide a team through uncertain times. As a scholar with a doctorate in organizational change, and teaching numerous courses on the subject matter, I thought I knew how to launch change initiatives and navigate obstacles successfully. As an organizational behavioralist and leadership consultant, I thought I knew how to lead, having trained leaders across the globe on how to be flexible with their leadership styles to adhere to the myriad contexts in which we may find ourselves.

Then COVID-19 arrived at our doorstep, and I had to put all of my experience, knowledge, and leadership self-efficacy to use as my students and colleagues in the Puri School of Business looked to me as department chair to assist in shifting our instructional delivery to a fully online format.

Now, I had some luck (as a good Irish lass almost always does!), in that I had started teaching online courses in our combined Bachelor’s/Master’s program in January of 2019, in the MBA program in May of 2019, and  other members of our department began teaching online undergraduate courses this past spring. Therefore, our department was fairly well-equipped to quickly shift our teaching modality mid-semester, but perhaps my biggest asset was the willingness of the Puri School of Business team to make it all work. Every single member of the Puri School of Business readily set out to find innovative ways to transform their courses to ensure students continued to receive quality instruction. Not only did they inspire me in their ability to fearlessly wade into uncertain territory, but their constant refrain of, “we must do everything we can to support our students as we may be their only outlet of normalcy right now,” made me beam with pride. It is indeed an honor to work alongside these thoughtful, talented, and committed department members.

But that wasn’t my only luck. Oh, how my students gave such support and grace to the faculty and each other! Each week, students showed up en masse to voluntarily tune in to online Zoom lectures,  lectures I was writing merely days before to ensure that I was responding to the context of our COVID-19 world and to their feedback in their course reflection papers.

As I continued to also consult clients, I was able to show our MBA Consulting Class members the “behind the scenes” changes I had made to guarantee I offered clients relevant value in the preparation of a post COVID-19 world. The barrier (if there ever was one) between professor and student certainly came down in our classes, as we truly embraced the “altogether, as one” mentality.

Class discussions hinged on topics such as furloughs, feelings of guilt for still having a job when others do not and burnout. We also discussed confidence in the investment that students made in themselves to pursue their degree, feelings of hope as students networked and learned from each other, and consistently focused on leadership.

Now, more than ever, is the time for great leadership. My research has shown that as much as 75 percent of all change initiatives fail. In addition, only 45 percent of initiatives that succeed produce positive results. There are countless variables that cause this alarming failure rate, but two overarching components are at the crux: leadership and transformation. Indeed, the only way organizations typically change is through massive, revolutionary, transformational change, and great leadership is what makes the difference.

Now, more than ever, is the time for great leadership. As we embark upon our journey of a post COVID-19 world, I am confident that Rockford University, the faculty within the Puri School of Business, and all of our students are primed and ready to deliver the great leadership needed to usher in positive change. Oh, what great opportunity lies ahead!