International Institute for Strategic Leadership

IISL Ethics Case Study:

Duke Corporate Education

Duke CE’s Decline in the Global Rankings

After 12 consecutive years ranked #1

in the Financial Times Global Executive Education rankings,

Duke CE began its decline under Mr Chavez’s ‘leadership’

(as predicted by Duke CE’s concerned ‘senior officials’)

and in June 2020 it dropped to its lowest ranking ever.

Duke CE’s ‘thought leadership’ is the worst in the executive education industry.

Embarrassingly is has effectively no viewership.

In 2015, ‘senior officials’ from Duke Corporate Education approached a Senior IISL Fellow,

a highly-successful award-winning internationally renowned professor

who had taught in Executive Education at MIT, Oxford and the LSE,

who had delivered major global clients to Duke CE,

who had received the highest praise from Duke CE’s clients for his exceptional teaching,

and who had also served on the Duke CE-LSE Board with

Duke CE Chairman Blair Sheppard and European Managing Director Tim Last,

to see if he would be interested in serving as the Duke CE’s next CEO

to replace the beleaguered outgoing CEO Mike Canning.

The IISL Fellow politely declined Duke CE’s persistent approaches,

much to the disappointment of Duke CE’s ‘senior officials’,

who lamented that Duke CE had ‘serious concerns

about the internal candidate, Michael Chavez, to become CEO

as “he is a poor leader” and “he does not have what it takes”.

As Duke CE’s ‘senior officials’ feared,

Mr Chavez received a paltry 17% CEO approval rating in GlassDoor.com

which means that five of six people disapprove of Mr Chavez’s ‘leadership’.

To put this into perspective, this abysmal approval rating

is approximately three times worse than Donald Trump’s.

Duke CE’s Decline in Employee Satisfaction

Under the ‘toxic leadership‘ of CEO Mr Chavez,

CFO Paul Mathews, Director of Regulatory Compliance Barbara Frick,

Sharmla Chetty, Vishal Patel and Asma Ali,

Duke CE surprised many in the industry by refusing to pay

its award-winning educators for their excellent hard work impressing their clients

and it has been plummeting down the employee satisfaction rankings.

Duke CE leaders Cheryl Stokes, Sara Nilsson DeHanas,

Monica Hill, Joey Uppal-Mustafa and Mimi Armstrong

all insisted on paying their award-winning educators for their excellent hard work.

They no longer work for Duke CE.

Deborah Zwilling-Ikpoh

insisted on paying Duke CE’s award-winning educators for their excellent hard work.

She remains on leave and it is not clear if she will continue working at Duke CE.

As a result, many talented Duke CE employees have left

and many in Duke CE’s global educator network refuse to teach for Duke CE.

“In all of my thirty plus years of working with the most senior business leaders

in some of the largest companies in more than 20 countries around the world,

I can say that Mr Chavez is among the least ethical

and most incompetent I have ever experienced.”

Senior Executive

“I have had the privilege to teach executive education for the past two decades

at some of the world’s leading business schools.

I have never seen such a shambolic programe as the one run by Duke CE.

I can not recommend that any company use Duke CE.”

Award-winning Professor

Scathing employee reviews in GlassDoor.com reveal the extent

of Mr Chavez’s unethical and incompetent ‘leadership’ at the declining Duke CE:



“Death spiral”

“Peddling lies”

“Toxic culture”

“Insular thinking”

“Poor leadership”

“Rudderless ship”

“Toxic workplace”

“Negative outlook”

“Indecisive leaders”

“Lack of innovation”

“Long term concern”

“Low compensation”

“Disapproves of CEO”

“Very political place”

“Doesn’t recommend”

“Structure is not good”

“Leadership is very poor”

“Compensation is a joke”

“High employee turnover”

“Absolutely no leadership”

“Stunning lack of diversity”

“Very political environment”

“CEO destroyed the culture”

“Incestuous leadership team”

“Struggling to regain profitability”

“Struggling to make any profitability”

“Not what it appears from the outside”

“CEO literally destroyed the company”

“Not as good as it looks from the outside”

“Leadership company without leadership”

“Management do not know how to manage”

“Morale is very low throughout the organization”

“Leadership doesn’t know how to run a business”

“There needs to be more teamwork... there was none”

“Layoffs almost every year due to poor management”

“Inability to practice what they preach about how to run a business”

“The company that has no idea how to lead that teaches leadership”

Duke CE’s Leadership Vacuum

“Arrogant”, “untrustworthy”, “incompetent”, “unethical” and “highly manipulative”

Duke CE CEO Michael Chavez is presiding over Duke CE’s dramatic downfall.

The International Institute for Strategic Leadership

is an internationally-renowned award-winning think-tank founded in 2001,

which has been based out of the world’s leading universities including:

MIT, the University of Oxford and the London School of Economics,

providing world-class academic research and teaching through its case studies.

High-Profile Landmark Lawsuit against Duke CE

The IISL is monitoring a high-profile landmark lawsuit against Duke CE

for their unethical and unlawful harassment, discrimination and breach of contract.

The IISL will continue to publish all aspects of this evolving ethics case study

which will be used in executive education around the world.

When the Claimant wins damages awarded by the UK Courts,

he will donate them to charity.

The Claimant is an internationally-renowned professor,

whose lectures commanded $10,000 per hour,

who served on Duke CE’s board,

who was approached by Duke CE to be its CEO,

and who was beloved by Duke CE and its global Clients.

Duke CE made the following statements about this extraordinary leader,

before shocking many in the executive education community

by withholding payment for his services

(in spite of the fact that he always gave Duke CE a 95% discount):

IISL Website Statistics

Brown University

California Institute of Technology

Columbia University

Cornell University

Duke University

Harvard University

King’s College London

London Business School

London School of Economics

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

New York University

Northwestern University

Stanford University

University College London

University of California at Berkeley

University of Cambridge

University of Michigan

University of Oxford

University of Tokyo

Yale University

The IISL website has been viewed by senior executives, academics and journalists

in more than 3,000 cities in 153 countries on 6 continents,

including over 300 leading universities around the world

> 3,000 cities

153 countries

6 continents

> 300 universities, including:

Past clients and colleagues described Mr Chavez as:

“arrogant”, “untrustworthy”, “incompetent”, “unethical”and “highly manipulative”.

The IISL has repeatedly advised that no corporate clients use Duke CE

while the beleaguered Mr Chavez remains CEO,

and the IISL can confirm that based on this advice,

numerous corporate clients have abandoned Duke CE,

resulting in Duke CE’s rankings to plummet.

Hundreds of executives around the world

have already viewed this Duke CE ethics webpage from the following countries:








South Africa

United Kingdom

United States

from the following growing list of cities around the world:



















Heathfield and Waldron



Hong Kong


Laguna Niguel


Los Angeles




New York



San Diego






Spring Hope




Washington D.C.

‘Terrible’, ‘Toxic’ Duke CE’s Partners

“The partnership made no sense from a financial standpoint.”

Michael Chavez, Duke CE CEO

  1. “Thanks so much for coming in today.  I loved what I saw. Your research and delivery is impressive, contextual and relevant.    I think it would be good to get you on a project where we have strategy/innovation/strategic leadership as a key outcome.  I think your approach is not common at all and would bring a welcome challenge to our delegates.” (Michael Chavez, Duke Corporate Education CEO)

  1. “A huge thank you for all your help and support with business development this year.  Best wishes from everyone at Duke CE.” (Michael Chavez, Duke Corporate Education CEO)

  1. “It was not only intellectually stimulating and productive to work with you, but also an awful lot of fun.  Thanks, as ever, for your partnership!” (Michael Chavez, Duke Corporate Education CEO)

  1. “Thanks again for your collaboration and energy!” (Michael Chavez, Duke Corporate Education CEO)

  1. ”Thank you so much for your assistance in securing [major global Client].  Please stay in close communication with Cheryl.  I know we can find some wonderful opportunities for you engage with us and our clients.  Many thanks.” (Pat Longshore, Vice President, Duke Corporate Education Global Educator Network)

  1. “It was a real delight to meet you yesterday and you seem such a natural fit with our office!  I’m sure we share similar values.  I really hope we have the opportunity to work together.  We very much look forward to seeing you.  I just wanted to say a very quick thank you and I know the feedback has been very positive.  I really hope we’ll be able to work more closely one way or another.  It’s always good to have you around.”  (Dr Monica Hill, Director, Duke Corporate Education Global Educator Network)

  1. “We know you’re a star and so grateful for your support!” (Dr Monica Hill, Director, Duke Corporate Education Global Educator Network)

  1. “I know we really put everything into this pitch with our A team there to wow them. I really appreciate the fact that we have such collaborative and supportive educators as you who changed your busy schedule at short notice to join our team. This willingness to pull out all the stops to make Duke CE great is what really differentiates our Global Educator Network.” (Dr Monica Hill, Director, Duke Corporate Education Global Educator Network)

  1. “It was a pleasure speaking with you today.  I truly enjoyed getting to know more about you and the fascinating work that you’ve been doing for the last 15 years.  I’m sure we’ll be reaching out to you when the opportunity presents itself in the future.” (Cheryl Stokes, Executive Director, Duke Corporate Education)

  1. “Thanks very much for the time with me the other day - it was truly insightful and helpful! And many, many thanks for the kind recommendation to [major global Client] for Duke CE.  This is great news!  Of course we would love for you to visit with us.  Thanks again for your collaboration and endorsement!” (Cheryl Stokes, Executive Director, Duke Corporate Education)

“Thanks again for the kind note to [the CEO of a major global Client] last week.” (Cheryl Stokes, Executive Director, Duke Corporate Education)

  1. “Thanks again for all of your help – I think it’s looking very positive for us and your support has made a difference.” (Cheryl Stokes, Executive Director, Duke Corporate Education)

  1. “I hope this note finds you well.  We have great news in that we are moving forward in contracting for work to start in the near future.  After we mentioned our association with you, [the CEO of the global Client] was very complimentary about the work that you had done with the senior team and the broader leadership.  We greatly appreciate your recommendation of us to [the global Client’s] leadership; many, many thanks for your help in securing this work!” (Cheryl Stokes, Executive Director, Duke Corporate Education)

  1. “I’m hoping we’ll have the chance to work together at some point, so I’ll be looking for opportunities. I really appreciate your openness to connecting Duke CE to your contacts, and I’m sure we’ll figure out a way to make the relationship mutually beneficial.  Finally, I also appreciate the personal connection with you, so we’ll have to find ways to stay connected outside of Duke CE.” (Cheryl Stokes, Executive Director, Duke Corporate Education)

  1. “Of course, [the CEO, COO and CFO] were all pleased that you will be part of the programme - they appreciate and enjoy the work they've done with you.” (Cheryl Stokes, Executive Director, Duke Corporate Education)

“We had a great session with [the major global Client]; many thanks for your contribution – it was exactly what [they] needed to hear!” (Cheryl Stokes, Executive Director, Duke Corporate Education)

“It was a great week with [the major global Client] and Senior Leadership Experience is off to a terrific start.  Many thanks for all that you did to engage everyone in such a thought-provoking and enlightening session!  We continued to hear about your session over the course of the week, and many participants mentioned their appreciation for that strategic ‘grounding’ in their closing reflections.  I just wanted to be sure that you know how much we appreciate you.” (Cheryl Stokes, Executive Director, Duke Corporate Education)

  1. Highest % ‘Excellent’ of all speakers/educators on the programme.” (Cheryl Stokes, Executive Director, Duke Corporate Education)

“Thanks for the meeting earlier this week.  I loved learning something new and co-creating with you!  Many thanks!” (Sara Nilsson DeHanas, Managing Director, Duke Corporate Education)

  1. “I love it. it’s great! (Sara Nilsson DeHanas, Managing Director, Duke Corporate Education)

“Thank you so much for the heroic efforts that you went through to help us on the [major global Client] pitch.  From the Friday ‘jam session’ through to late flights and complicated train returns, you were truly committed and cheerful.  You offered instant credibility and the right level of certainty to the otherwise overwhelming topic of digital.  Thanks for being a part of our team and representing the best of what we are as a company.” (Sara Nilsson DeHanas, Managing Director, Duke Corporate Education)

“You have been so client-oriented in this, and I’ve mentioned that to Monica as ‘above and beyond’.”  (Sara Nilsson DeHanas, Managing Director, Duke Corporate Education)

  1. “I really appreciated the time that we spent designing the session, and feel that you sparked some deep thinking for the [major global Client’s] participants.  I personally learned a lot as well.” (Sara Nilsson DeHanas, Managing Director, Duke Corporate Education)

“Thanks for such a productive and interesting meeting this afternoon.” (Mimi Armstrong, Director of Business Development, Duke Corporate Education)

“I wanted to let you know that I had a very interesting meeting today with one of our educators.  He has a long association with Duke CE, having been on the board of our Duke CE/LSE joint venture.  He has been working closely with the [major global Client’s] Management Committee over the past year and has played an integral role in facilitating the development of the new Strategy.  You may yourself have seen him in action as he delivered one of the key note addresses on your Management Retreat.” (Mimi Armstrong, Director of Business Development, Duke Corporate Education)

“Many thanks for this very thoughtful note and for the documentation.   I did hear back from the [major global Client] today. He does reference an endorsement [the Client CEO] has given for your key note, so that is very positive indeed and hopefully will contribute to our cause!” (Mimi Armstrong, Director of Business Development, Duke Corporate Education)

  1. “So glad to have you joining the pitch team and you certainly bring exactly the kinds of credentials we are looking for in the room.” (Mimi Armstrong, Director of Business Development, Duke Corporate Education)

  1. “Great to meet you and look forward to seeing you in future.” (Dr Ian Turner, Executive Director, Duke Corporate Education)

  1. “It was great to meet you, and I look forward to seeing you.”  (Mick Holbrook, Managing Director, Duke Corporate Education)

  1. “I can honestly say I found this one of the most stimulating of the Show and Tells I have been to.  I very much enjoyed it.”  (Dr Alan Webber, Project Director, Duke Corporate Education).

“We look forward to working more closely with you!” (Joey Uppal-Mustafa, Manager, Duke Corporate Education Global Educator Network)

“I’ve enjoyed reading more about you and your work and can see why you were top of mind for our team when we reached out to them for this request.” (Laurie Beyl, Project Director, Duke Corporate Education)

“I so enjoyed working (and schlepping round Europe) with you!!  Fingers crossed we win so we can do it all again soon! :)”  (Elsbeth Johnson, Orchestrator, Duke Corporate Education).

“I hear great things about you from Cheryl and co.” (Tracey Smith, Project Director, Duke Corporate Education)

“It seems [the major global Client] are very happy with the programme and would like to run another cohort.” (Marie Louise Pardanaud, Programme Manager, Duke Corporate Education)

Mr Chavez continues to devalue the once-great brand of Duke CE

with his amateurish videos which are so embarrassing

that they have attracted only 33 views since being published on 30 May 2019.

This is in spite of the fact that Duke CE once had a global network

of hundreds of educators, serving countless corporate clients,

having taught tens of thousands of managers

who refuse to view such low quality content.

The International Institute for Strategic Leadership’s

ongoing research into the Duke CE ethics case study predicts that Duke CE

will continue to fall through the rankings, lose Clients and struggle to be profitable,

as long as Mr Chavez remains CEO, and as long as

Duke CE refuses to pay its top professors for their world-class teaching.

Ironically, Mr Chavez appears to literally be a follower and not a leader.

Despite being on Twitter for more than a decade,

he has only managed to secure 144 Followers (13 per year)

and he follows more than follow him.

The Chairman of the Board of Directors of Duke CE, Bill Boulding,

is the Dean of Duke’s Fuqua Business School and an academic

who researches, writes and speaks about ethics and ‘decency’.

Duke CE refusing to pay its leading professors for their award-winning work

appears not only to be contractually unlawful and morally unethical,

it is also lacking in ‘decency’.

It appears therefore that Duke CE is embarrassing and disparaging

Professor Boulding and Duke Fuqua’s good names.

Michael Chavez


Paul Mathews


Barbara Frick

Director of Regulatory Compliance