Broad Perspectives for Tackling Complexity

Amber Johnson Care for people, Doctoral Program, Leadership

Norcross fave web

As the VP of Finance & Strategy for the global software firm Ontario Systems, Melissa Norcross is a master at interpreting data and developing a plan. “I’m working on the things that are most relevant to the business,” says Norcross.

While her daily work involves developing strategies, identifying new markets, and meeting urgent business needs, Norcross says her real job description is much more fundamental. “My job is to help others become better executives,” says Norcross.

“If you’re only looking at the challenges through the lenses of data, strategy, and finance, then you’re missing the big gaps,” she says. “When you see your job as making people better executives, that changes your perspective, that helps you see the holes to fill.”

Developing these broad perspectives isn’t easy for top executives, says Norcross. “The further you get in your career, the stronger you are in your industry, the less broad you are.” Traditional business courses, like M.B.A. programs, help you develop business skills, but rarely provide the theoretical understanding or the people-skills needed to help tackle the complex problems faced by c-suite leaders.

Through her courses in the doctoral program, along with interactions with faculty, visiting scholars, and fellow cohort members, Norcross is strengthening her ability to lead in an ever-changing industry. “The program gives me a deeper well to draw from for the more complex problems –those with six or eight different factions. That can be really critical.”

Not long ago, Norcross was coaching a colleague through a project. “Before, I would have been uncomfortable with what she was doing, but I wouldn’t have exactly known why that was leading her down the wrong path. Now I have a new context for understanding why it looks good on paper but something doesn’t seem right – it has to do with the social ramifications of her plans. Now I have a broader perspective and can be more creative in finding opportunities for improvement. My response can be much richer and more creative.”


Learn more about the Ph.D./D.B.A. program in values-driven leadership, for senior executives. Visit

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