Brett M. Decker

Doctor of Education in Organizational Change and Leadership

Education: MA, National Security & Strategic Studies, U.S. Naval War College
MA, Government, Johns Hopkins University
Graduate certificate in Genealogical Research, Boston University
BA, Political Science & American Studies, Albion College
Location: Alexandria, Va. 
Occupation: Director, White House Writers Group
Adjunct Professor of Government, Johns Hopkins University
Columnist, USA Today and other publications

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up in the suburbs of London, England, and Detroit, Michigan, and have lived for the past 20 years in Hong Kong and Washington, D.C. I love British and American literature, architecture, sports cars (I am a product of the Motor City, after all) and the Detroit Tigers, who I go to watch in Florida every year during spring training. I have worked in Congress and for the President of the United States, and I have spent time as a foreign correspondent covering everything from banking policy and conflict zones to Hello Kitty. I have written three books on Asia, a developing region that I find fascinating.

What initially attracted you to the Doctor of Education in Organizational Change and Leadership program?

What I found to be compelling about this program was the focus on organizational change. My professional field, the news business, is contracting rapidly and staring down an existential crisis because it is obstinately resistant to change. Technological innovation related to the Internet and the broader information revolution turned the media industry upside down, but the response of most outlets has been to pretend the modern reality is merely a passing fad. Too many refuse to evolve and then protest that they are facing extinction. It’s a competitive world in which an organization must adapt or die; I’m in this program to examine operational models and practices to adapt and thrive.

Why did you choose USC Rossier School of Education?

I spent a few years considering doctoral programs at other first-rate universities but pulled the trigger here because of USC’s relentless institutional pursuit of excellence and the profound seriousness I felt from everyone at Rossier. It was clear that this is a place committed to doing novel things to stay ahead of the global curve and help its students be prepared to confront the unknowns of a rapidly changing world. There aren’t many schools that could successfully develop and approve the curriculum and delivery method that Rossier has with this Organizational Change and Leadership degree, which together show how cutting-edge Rossier is. That seriousness of purpose is something I wanted to be a part of.

How do you define leadership?

A leader needs to harness new ideas and figure out how to execute the promising ones. Part of doing that is surrounding oneself with the smartest people one can find. Many executives hire mediocre “yes men” because they don’t like being challenged, but intrinsic to leadership are testing the bounds of what is doable and taking some risks in the interest of progress. I never liked the notion of “creative destruction” because it is used as an excuse for breaking up organizations when managers aren’t creative enough to figure out how to make them work better. A more appropriate concept is “creative disruption” because it emphasizes the need to shake things up rather than destroy them. In this way, disrupting business as usual is a vital role of leadership, which succeeds by finding everyone’s comfort zone and pushing them beyond it to be more competitive.

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