Guest article by Kay Lemon
When I was asked to write about my “academic role model,” I realized that I have had so many exemplary academic role models that it was nearly impossible to choose just one. Where to start? My dissertation chair Russ Winer? My collaborators and co-authors (too many to name)? I considered writing an article that had one sentence about each of my role models, but the folks at SERVSIG told me that I should just pick one. What could I do? I came up with a (relatively arbitrary) decision rule: which of the individuals I might consider have I never co-authored a paper with? This narrowed the list significantly (J) and of my remaining consideration set Don Lehmann (Columbia) emerged at the top.
I’ve tried to recall when I first met Don. I can’t remember – I believe he has always been part of my academic career (although he and I agreed we probably first met at the AMA Sheth Doctoral Consortium at University of Illinois in 1993). Don has always exemplified, for me, the best of our field; and, although he will surely disagree with me on this, I believe he exemplifies the true marketing scholar. I thought that I’d share seven things I’ve learned from – and about – Don (though suffice it to say that I am still learning from him)
- Work on important problems. One of the things that I learned from Don is the importance of combining relevance and rigor in your field. Whether it is through MSI, or the Theory+Practice conferences, as a journal editor, a researcher, or through his comments at a conference, Don is a champion for research that makes a strong contribution to both theory and practice. This is something that I also seek to do in my own work – often drawing inspiration from problems of practice for my research ideas.
- Find balance. Don is also an expert at life balance. Finding time to coach football, mentor others, teach well, and do great research – as well as carrying an amazing load of service to the academy and the field, while staying up to date on what’s going on in marketing. Perhaps he doesn’t sleep? I haven’t quite figured out the balance bit – but I am working on that as well. As I have become more senior, I am working to commit myself to issues and causes outside of work that are important to me. Finding time to invest in family and friend relationships is a key part of this balance.
- Take good care of yourself. Another thing I have learned from Don is the importance of taking care of all aspects of oneself. At any conference, I’ll see Don just back from a run, a walk or a workout – keeping his body in as good a shape as his mind. This is something I’m l working on (will probably do so for the rest of my life), but I am learning the importance of allocating time (and effort) to taking care of myself too.
- Recognize your own strengths and share them with others. Don has keen insight and sees to the heart of the matter. I’ve learned that if Don asks a question about your research, or hands you a small piece of paper with an idea or question on it – pay attention to it! It will strengthen and stretch your thinking and lead to further insights. I’ve realized that I’ll never be Don, but I’ve gotten to know my own strengths. I have learned over the years that I often see connections where others do not and, that I am sometimes a bit more enthusiastic than others as well. I feel “freer” about being myself and sharing these insights because of Don’s example.
- Reach out to the next generation of scholars. Don always takes time to get to know doctoral students and young scholars. He even has an award named after him for dissertation research (the best article based upon a dissertation in JM or JMR). But what really strikes me about Don is that he is always willing to invest his own efforts into the next generation of scholars. I recall a time I was struggling with an article in advanced review and was trying to determine how best to respond to the review team and editor – Don took the time to sit down with me – in the middle of a conference – to help me work through the issue. I thoroughly enjoy opportunities to connect with young scholars and I hope to ‘pay it forward.’
- Invest your efforts in what you believe in. Don invests his time, his talents (and himself) in things he believes in. Whether it’s with MSI, ACR, AMA, INFORMS, or IJRM, new initiatives he’s founded such as Theory+Practice or Marketing Letters, or innovations in teaching and scholarship – his dedication seems boundless. We are blessed in our academic profession that we can choose where to focus our efforts. I’m learning that it is also important to listen to your heart and focus on those things that you really believe in.
- Don’t take yourself (or our field) too seriously. Don has fun – he doesn’t take himself too seriously, and he also encourages others not to take themselves (or our field) too seriously. He’s also very approachable. At any conference or event, he is always eager to talk with you and to hear what’s going on with you, and he always has time for people. I suppose that my version of these is my optimistic approach to our field – I love marketing and all of the exciting things going on in the field – and it’s my hope that others will also find joy in it as well.
For those of you who know Don, I clearly haven’t even scratched the surface of what makes him such an awesome role model and scholar. And Don, if you happen to read this – I apologize for any errors or omissions, or anything you might disagree with. I am honored to have had so many amazing academic role models – you all know who you are – and I look forward to learning more from each of you.
Finally, I would like to nominate Clay Voorhees as next guest author of this series.