Hard Work

To Aspiring Leaders: Get Your Shit Together

I’ve been posting recently about work ethic and professionalism for leaders and aspiring leaders. Here is why:

Professor Scott Galloway (Stern School of Business, NYU) received this email:

Sent: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 7:15:11 PM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
Subject: Brand Strategy Feedback

Prof. Galloway,

I would like to discuss a matter with you that bothered me. Yesterday evening I entered your 6pm Brand Strategy class approximately 1 hour late. As I entered the room, you quickly dismissed me, saying that I would need to leave and come back to the next class. After speaking with several students who are taking your class, they explained that you have a policy stating that students who arrive more than 15 minutes late will not be admitted to class.

As of yesterday evening, I was interested in three different Monday night classes that all occurred simultaneously. In order to decide which class to select, my plan for the evening was to sample all three and see which one I like most. Since I had never taken your class, I was unaware of your class policy. I was disappointed that you dismissed me from class considering (1) there is no way I could have been aware of your policy and (2) considering that it was the first day of evening classes and I arrived 1 hour late (not a few minutes), it was more probable that my tardiness was due to my desire to sample different classes rather than sheer complacency.

I have already registered for another class but I just wanted to be open and provide my opinion on the matter.


MBA 2010 Candidate
NYU Stern School of Business

It seems obvious to me that it is not acceptable to show up one hour late to class, because you wanted to sample the alternatives.  Here is Professor Galloway’s  Reply:

—— Forwarded Message ——-
From: scott@stern.nyu.edu
To: “xxxx”
Sent: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 9:34:02 PM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
Subject: Re: Brand Strategy Feedback


Thanks for the feedback. I, too, would like to offer some feedback.

Just so I’ve got this straight…you started in one class, left 15-20 minutes into it (stood up, walked out mid-lecture), went to another class (walked in 20 minutes late), left that class (again, presumably, in the middle of the lecture), and then came to my class. At that point (walking in an hour late) I asked you to come to the next class which “bothered” you.


You state that, having not taken my class, it would be impossible to know our policy of not allowing people to walk in an hour late. Most risk analysis offers that in the face of substantial uncertainty, you opt for the more conservative path or hedge your bet (e.g., do not show up an hour late until you know the professor has an explicit policy for tolerating disrespectful behavior, check with the TA before class, etc.). I hope the lottery winner that is your recently crowned Monday evening Professor is teaching Judgement and Decision Making or Critical Thinking.

In addition, your logic effectively means you cannot be held accountable for any code of conduct before taking a class. For the record, we also have no stated policy against bursting into show tunes in the middle of class, urinating on desks or taking that revolutionary hair removal system for a spin. However, xxxx, there is a baseline level of decorum (i.e., manners) that we expect of grown men and women who the admissions department have deemed tomorrow’s business leaders.

xxxx, let me be more serious for a moment. I do not know you, will not know you and have no real affinity or animosity for you. You are an anonymous student who is now regretting the send button on his laptop. It’s with this context I hope you register pause…REAL pause xxxx and take to heart what I am about to tell you:

xxxx, get your shit together.

Getting a good job, working long hours, keeping your skills relevant, navigating the politics of an organization, finding a live/work balance…these are all really hard, xxxx. In contrast, respecting institutions, having manners, demonstrating a level of humility…these are all (relatively) easy. Get the easy stuff right xxxx. In and of themselves they will not make you successful. However, not possessing them will hold you back and you will not achieve your potential which, by virtue of you being admitted to Stern, you must have in spades. It’s not too late xxxx…

Again, thanks for the feedback.

Professor Galloway

While I would not likely use the same tone as Professor Galloway, his message is undeniable. We learn many habits early, and once learned, they are hard to break. This student is so self-absorbed that he has forgotten that his behaviours impact others. If Professor Galloway didn’t flame him, I’m sure his first boss will skewer his arrogance. Better to learn it in B-School.

Categories: Hard Work, Leadership

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7 replies »

  1. I agree with you and Professor Galloway completely.

    I am curious about something however. What would you consider the best way for a student to sample classes in the situation which the above student found him or herself in? Should they just accept that they do not have the option to do any sampling and must choose only one class in the hopes that the other two would return in future semesters? I suspect it wouldn’t be too big a deal to do that, and to be accepting of the possibility that you would never get all the classes you want or even like.

    • I guess this is about the philosophy you hold with respect to education. The idea of “sampling” and selecting the course you like best, while very consumer driven, often leads to some big complications. Some students sample because they want the easiest course, or because they want to see if they like the prof.

      However, just because you “like” something, doesn’t mean that you are going to learn anything. What we know about learning is that often students don’t like profs who make them work hard, or think hard. Or they don’t like classes that demand a lot. Or they are looking for relevance.

      It turns out that we aren’t very good at evaluating quality of anything if we don’t know much about the topic. So if you don’t know much about teaching, you aren’t very good at evaluating it. (This is true of just about everything that researchers have tested, from critical thinking to humour). When we are new to a topic or skill, we tend to over-estimate our own skills and under-estimate those of others.

      Sampling a class really won’t help you make a better choice. You just have to jump in and choose and live with the consequences. In the end, it probably won’t matter five years from now whether you took brand management or not….


  2. Never heard of “sampling” before. Wonder if that is possible in the job market too? Must be that I am old, I guess. When I was in school (yes, a long time ago), you did your research ahead of time, picked your classes, put your money down and “took your chances”. Funny how much life is like that too!

    • Amen Rob. I guess we’re not comfortable any more with taking our chances. I never believed in the generation gap, but now I’m starting to. Makes me feel old and grumpy/

  3. Clash of the Mighty Egos!
    Both have a valid point and neither acted out of concern for the other. Their egos dictated what spewed forth from their unedited verbal diarrhea. Lets take it to a level that most people might understand. How many entrees would a chef set before you to “Sample” before you chose a meal to eat – and no it is not different -. I believe the chef would do as the professor did and turf your butt out. Having been turfed out, you are arrogant enough to write a letter of complaint and actually post it. The chef, in his own fit of arrogance, writes back lecturing you on societal norms and the consequences of your future eating habits. What, pray tell, would be the next step in this clash of the titan egos?
    Why don’t we just suggest that they both “Get a Life”. Currently, both believe the world should revolve around themselves and where it doesn’t it needs to be changed. They are both willing to tell the other that they should change to accommodate the real world. They are both dumb and egotistical enough to think the other gives a sh*& about what they have to say. Waste of time on both their parts. Whether you believe it or not they both believe they have their shit together and they may even think the other doesn’t. Which side do you favour?

  4. This post represents a study in poor judgement from both sides. In my opinion, the student showed poor judgement on several fronts. Yes, the experience of higher education should leave him with more self sufficiency to get information to make decisions. If he doesn’t know how to select classes now, it’s up to him to find out.

    But the professor’s response is the real clunker. This type of response should never be acceptable to a peer or subordinate in an organization, never the less a consumer providing revenue to the instiution. It is a terrible teaching example from someone paid to know better. Professor, get your xxxx together.

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