Four Questions for Leadership Expert Werner Zorman

Werner Zorman, the inaugural holder of the Annenberg Leadership Chair and new faculty member in the Department of Engineering, was most recently the associate director of the Engineering Leadership Program at Cornell University. For two decades before that, he worked at Nokia, first in Austria and then in the United States. Between 2009 and 2012, he led the Nokia Leadership and Organization Development Program for North America. Zorman is an expert in leadership development and coaching and has a special interest in meditation and the character virtue of resilience.

Werner Zorman
Werner Zorman

1. What attracted you to Harvey Mudd?

I think it’s a good match here because it’s smaller [than Cornell]. One of my strengths is to have very supportive and coaching-like relationships with students. So here there are 200 new students a year. At Cornell, it’s 800 a year, so there’s no way you get anywhere close to meeting all your students. At Harvey Mudd, there are many opportunities to get to know most students. It’s better for me, for how I teach and establish relationships. Also, from the very first time I stepped on campus here, I loved the Mudd culture. Part of leadership development and helping people to develop leadership skills is that the good leader creates a culture, an intended culture. You always have a culture. If you don’t do anything, you might have a culture you don’t want. Here it seems very collaborative.

2.What do you consider your strengths?

One of my strengths is I’m going to see your potential really, really clearly, often before you see it. Just by interacting with the student, I see a strength. Often you don’t see your strengths because it’s so natural and you just do it, right? So for instance, if you are a very empathetic person, you wouldn’t see it as a strength because it’s just natural for you. I can highlight what someone’s strengths are, their talents, and help them fine-tune and develop them.

3. One of your tasks is helping to develop leaders at Harvey Mudd. How will you do that?

Part of leadership is determining what’s important in life. What do I stand behind? What’s important to me? First, you need to lead yourself. I will help students develop themselves and their skills and also share how to interact with others so to have the intended impact. As a leader, it’s all about knowing what you want to be different in the world. A leader, by definition, wants to change or introduce or do something new which is so big that you can’t do it on your own. If you want to change something big in the world, you need a team. So you need to be able to enroll and motivate them, make them want to be part of your cause and then reward them and then also help them to see when they do things wrong. Every leader has to know how to follow, and every leader has to know how to work in a team.

4. I understand this is your sixth state and 16th home with your wife, son and daughter (now teenagers). What do you like so far about Claremont?

I love the mountains here. The weather: I think mainly it’s going to be great, although I’m not a fan of hundred-plus temperatures … It’s a very family-like community. I love that. I’m really looking forward to finding nice running trails and climbing again. I’m planning to hike Mount Baldy. And, I look forward to finding and trying authentic Mexican food.