Alumni spotlight: Frank Kudo, EDM '05

Alumni spotlight: Frank Kudo, EDM '05

Posted 1.20.06

A successful career and a home on a beautiful, tropical island. Most people would consider that a life complete. But for those like Frank Kudo, a successful entrepreneur and native Hawaiian, the first 50-plus years of his life are merely a chapter of his life -- rather than the whole story.

“Shortly after I turned 50, my mother died, and that event made me realize that we don't always have as much time as we would like. It made me think that I had to do what I wanted to do now,” he says. What he wanted to do was to continue his education and completely change careers.

So, as luck would have it, one day Kudo happened to pick up a copy of The Economist and noticed an ad for Weatherhead's EDM program. He found the description so intriguing that he contacted Sue Narker, managing director of the EDM program, right away. “From there I found myself embarking on a second career. I positioned my company to sell, made a succession plan and bought some land to redevelop for cash flow,” he adds.

For Kudo, the EDM commitment meant leaving a lucrative career and going into semi-retirement, as well as leaving the temperate island of Hawaii at least 12 times a year to come to the unpredictable weather of Cleveland. “It's about a 10-hour plane ride,” Kudo explains. “You get used to it, but that first year, I won't lie, was a little tough to get used to.”

Although he knew he wanted to continue his education at Weatherhead, Kudo was both surprised and impressed with the direction and scope of the EDM program. “It is unlike Ph.D. programs where specialties are honed and focused on. But that is what makes the EDM program so powerful; it teaches you how the world works and prepares global leaders,” says Kudo. “It was not what I expected but I thoroughly loved it.”

The EDM experience obviously suited Kudo as well. In his work, which was recently awarded The Best Paper for 2005 from the Center for Creative Leadership, Kudo delved into the question: What makes a great leader? “After working for 30 years, I observed that with good managers and leaders, there was something about them that I didn't think was merely training. There seems to be a psychological disposition that you have to have, and my thesis is that you get that when you are a kid. You get it from your experiences as a child growing up,” he explains.

He refers to such people as 'transformative leaders' - leaders who paint a vision that can transform the followers of an organization and transform the ideals and the values of a corporation. The idea came from a childhood experience he had with his identical twin brother and the Boy Scouts. Because his brother was more aggressive and outgoing, he was offered a leadership position in the troup, but instead of accepting it, he recommended that his quieter brother, Frank, needed that experience more.

"Something profound happened to me with that experience, so I decided I was going to study the Boy Scouts. One of the main missions of Boy Scouts is leadership training. Boy Scouts provide character development and leadership opportunities. There are no other youth organizations that teach leadership at that level,” he says.

Kudo graduated from Weaterhead in 2005, but often returns to use the School's resources and to meet up with other EDM graduates. He is working on publishing his work and securing a fellowship in order to get to that second career, which he hopes will be in Washington D.C. “I hope to eventually be in public policy, to effect policy and perhaps redirect resources in leadership training to younger groups. Right now everything is directed to adults and I think we are missing the boat,” he says.

Click here to read Kudo's paper "Preferable Leadership Outcomes in Adolescent Boys: The Role of Authoritative Parenting, Teaching & Guidance Strategies, and Psychological Autonomy."

January 2005

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