Daniel Student, M.B.A. ’20, had the reputation of volunteering for every activity in his first couple of weeks at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management. When Cleveland “Cleve” Justis, M.B.A. ’05, Ph.D. ’19, director of the Executive Leadership Program, asked for a volunteer at orientation, he was the first to step up.
“[Cleve] looked for a class volunteer to do this exercise with him. I went down, and he was playing a professor who was a little mean. I had to push him to talk about my grade, and he was purposefully trying to push me off. We had a good time.”
This was the beginning of a partnership that eventually led to the co-authoring of the book Don’t Lead Alone: Think Like a System, Act Like a Network, Lead Like a Movement (Fast Company Press, 2023) about partnership and leadership, working with people from different backgrounds and all walks of life to get things done.
“This book is really a gift to us, as trite as that sounds,” said Student, referring to Justis and himself. “It’s an invitation to keep learning.”
How did you meet your co-author, Cleveland “Cleve” Justis?
After our little skit we did during orientation, I reached out to Cleve. I did a little pitch on his company Potrero Group and got an interview there which I actually didn’t expect.
Cleve, I learned later, had already started getting perspectives from people who were different from him. So I came on to his team as an M.B.A. intern. When I graduated it was into the pandemic. That made it easy to say to him, “We’re already working together, and there’s no work anywhere. Let’s just keep doing it.”
How did you and Justis start writing a book together?
Cleve has always worked with nonprofits that partner with the government, and he even did a Ph.D. dissertation on how partnerships work.
After that, he [wanted to write a book]. He did a lot of the early work and was really skill-based. But he needed a touch of narrative structure and realized that this would be the perfect opportunity for our partnership to take the next step professionally. He brought me in from there.
How did the title of the book come about?
Cleve polled a social entrepreneurship class at Berkeley I believe, and asked them, “What do you think this book should be titled?” We had a couple of ideas put out, but someone else said, “It sounds like you’re talking about not leading alone.”
It was an ironic way to get the title. We talk about learning from other individuals to build off of ideas in our book, and that’s exactly what happened at Berkeley.
Where did the book’s concepts come from?
Every aspect of the book had ideas from others in it. There really isn’t an idea in there that is wholly our own, and that was very purposeful. We didn’t write the book alone, either.
We learned a little bit from a lot of people, whether that was frameworks we use with our clients or the Berkely students mentioned earlier.
Student’s blog: “What co-writing a book on leadership taught me about leadership”