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Producing Outstanding Scholarship

Dr. Eli Jones, III

Dr. Eli Jones ’82, ’86, ‘97 is a Professor of Marketing and Lowry and Peggy Mays Eminent Scholar at his alma mater, Texas A&M University. He served as Dean of Mays Business School at Texas A&M University from July 1, 2015, to May 31, 2021. We spoke to Dr. Jones about his experience as a leader and the inspiration for his latest book, Run Toward Your Goliaths.

 

How Does Your Background Influence Your Leadership Style?

Life is full of obstacles, and at times, confronting challenges feels a lot like wrestling with giants. Yet with introspection, drive, and sound leadership, even the biggest difficulties can often be overcome. That’s certainly proven true for Texas A&M’s Mays business school former dean Dr. Eli Jones. In his recently released book Run Toward Your Goliaths, Dr. Jones shares his personal journey while also providing sage leadership advice, tips for success, and recommendations for coping with loss.

While Dr. Jones returned to the faculty last June as a Professor of Marketing and Lowry and Peggy Mays Eminent Scholar, the route to get there has been long, twisting, and at times, arduous. Dr. Jones started his career in marketing and sales, working for behemoth companies like Nabisco, Quaker Oats, and Frito Lay. Frequently, he found himself in the thick of the business world, cultivating relationships, coordinating teams, developing best practices, and helping his employers succeed. Ultimately, this hands-on experience helped Dr. Jones cultivate leadership skills that would pay off throughout life. “Leadership in corporate is different from leadership in academia,” Dr. Jones notes, “but leadership is leadership.”

During this time, Dr. Jones developed his leadership philosophy, which includes leading by example and acting as a servant leader.  Servant leadership focuses on empowering others and creating inclusive environments that allow everyone to leverage their strengths. For Dr. Jones, such participatory leadership styles allow him to “include people in creating the vision.”

Dr. Jones decided to go back to business school, earning an MBA and PhD at Mays. This involved shifting gears as leading and excelling in an academic environment is different from working for a large company. Still, corporate experience paid off. For example, Dr. Jones’ work experience afforded him front-line knowledge of the topics addressed in his research. Further, experience working on teams within a company instilled in him a strong collaborative approach.

As Dr. Jones rose through the ranks of both the business world and academia, he also used those opportunities to help individuals from various communities and backgrounds. As a leader, Dr. Jones strives to help others excel in their careers in both academia and practice.

What Inspired Your Book Run Toward Your Goliaths?

Dr. Jones has already published multiple business books and academic journal articles. His most recent endeavor, however, is a personal account of his own journey and the knowledge he picked up along the way. Dr. Jones' initial goal was not to publish a book, but to create a record of his heritage that would help family descendants understand their ancestry. While sharing early chapters of, Run Toward Your Goliaths, Dr. Jones was frequently urged to publish his account so those outside the family could learn as well.

The inspiration for such a personal story came from Dr. Jones’ mother-in-law, who died young and unfortunately was not there to provide in-person guidance and support later in life. However, she did leave a journal full of reflection and advice, which Dr. Jones’ family continues to read to this day. This journal allowed Dr. Jones’ children and grandchildren to understand who their grandma was as a person.

Dr. Jones began outlining his own family’s heritage as well as his personal journey, including rising out of poverty. Along the way, he found himself reflecting on the many challenges that he faced. Watching his adult children's reactions to reading their Grandma's journal, Dr. Jones realized that a book on confronting your giants might benefit future generations.

“I want my kids, my grandkids, and my great grandkids to know that they come from a history of people who walked by faith and had to run toward their goliaths.”

Dr. Jones also used the opportunity for reflection, grief, and healing. His oldest daughter passed away just a few short years ago. This personal tribulation has proven to be a goliath indeed. Writing through his experiences and about his grief has provided healing.

 

What About Your Research Most Surprised You?

When you think of taking on a goliath, you might envision yourself standing on the battlefield, slingshot in hand. It’s a go for broke moment, everything’s on the line, and there’s only one winner. In practice, however, Dr. Jones found that confronting challenges was often about taking baby steps. Yes, run toward your goliaths, but make sure you pay attention to each step and don’t worry if the journey is longer than expected. Progress may not be quick. Sometimes, progress may not even be steady. However, each step forward moves you closer to your goals and overcoming your goliaths.

What Do You Like to Do in Your Spare Time?

These days, the Jones family, particularly the grandkids take center stage. This should come as no surprise given that Dr. Jones wrote Run Toward Your Goliaths primarily for his family.

Family is still a major part of Dr. Jones' daily life and you can often find him playing with his grandkids. As of late, musical instruments have been a favorite. He keeps a lot of instruments on hand in his home, and sometimes, you’ll find the family putting on a jam session.

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Media contact:
Crystal S. Carter
Communications Specialist
c.carter@tamu.edu