An Interview with Stephen Schwarzman

By Marina Yoshimura


TYG: How would you describe the Schwarzman Scholars experience?

SS: Schwarzman Scholars live in Beijing together for a year of study and cultural immersion, attending lectures, traveling, and developing a better understanding of China. While all very different, Schwarzman Scholars each have exemplary leadership qualities and have shown an incredible ability to bridge cultural and political differences to make the most of their experience with the program and one another.

Leadership training is an integral component of the Schwarzman Scholars curriculum. How do you define leadership?

Leadership is the ability to understand challenges and opportunities, envision solutions, take initiative to act, inspire others to join an effort, and push through resistance to achieve results. Each of our Scholars are already strong leaders, so we try to enrich these qualities.

In an interview, you said, “The most important thing about a new business is figuring out what you’re doing before you’re doing it.” Would you recommend students to apply for the Schwarzman Scholars program before or after they set clear goals?

Some scholars have very defined goals while others just a broader vision and passion for making a difference in the world. It is not necessary to have a detailed plan, and we want Scholars with a diverse set of backgrounds and experiences, but applicants should show strong determination in whatever they have chosen to pursue so far in their lives and early indications of leadership ability. My vision for the program is to empower the next generation of leaders. Years from now I hope to see CEOs, politicians, heads of NGOs, journalists etc., who all share the common bond as Schwarzman Scholars, collaborating to solve the world’s biggest problems. 

You said in an interview “I love picking people.” How do you assess people, and what advice would you give to students who plan to apply for the Schwarzman Scholars program?

We look for people who are anchored in their own values, have strong interpersonal skills, including the ability to work with people who are different from themselves. We assess them by drawing on the insights of people who themselves have these traits, and who have deep experience in leading major institutions. Our interviewers are the best at what they do and pick people daily. If you are lucky and have the opportunity to interview, be yourself.


Marina Yoshimura is a visiting student from Japan. You can contact her at