Participant Story

Jose Zavala

Jose Zavala

Redefining Your Leadership Style

  • Role

    President of the Board, CEMZA
  • Industry

    • Energy

Focus on having the right questions, not just the right answers.

Jose Zavala, president of the board of CEMZA, recognizes the exceptional value of Executive Education at Harvard Business School (HBS). After recently completing his second program, Aligning Strategy and Sales, he reflected back to his first experience on campus several years ago in the Owner/President Management (OPM) program. Impressively, he recalls the specifics of what he learned, the way he learned it, and the impact it had on him as a leader.

What insights from OPM have stayed with you over the years?

Three things in particular have stayed with me. The first is how to set priorities; before I had been doing too many things at one time. Second, I learned to focus more on execution, because otherwise it's just a theory. Third and most important, I learned about aligning the entire organization with the strategy.

What did you think of the three-unit format of the learning experience?

I liked the way the program was structured. After the first unit, for instance, I had the opportunity to return to my company and implement what I had learned. When I came back to HBS for the second unit, I then had a chance to step back and evaluate if what I had implemented was working.

Did your experience at OPM influence your leadership style?

It had a tremendous influence on me. Before I attended the program, I thought that being a leader meant having all the answers. But I now understand that it's more important to pose the right questions. So my leadership style has shifted from providing answers to asking questions.

What was the most surprising part of your experience in the program?

At first, I thought I was going to gain knowledge only from the professors. But I ended up learning a lot from my classmates—especially during the discussion groups. In addition to teaching, the professors worked as facilitators to enable us to exchange knowledge.

How would you describe the value of OPM to someone considering it?

One way I can describe its value is in terms of actual dollars. When I first came to HBS, my company's revenue was $70 million. I wanted to see if OPM could help me increase revenue, and it did. Our revenue today is $200 million.

Featured Program

Owner/President Management