Prospect Magazine: Cool Classes

Learning Leadership

An advanced business course examines the skills and subtleties of leadership.

The class:
Business 454: Leadership, with Professor Lawrence B. Carroll. It’s more than an examination of how managers command, control and cajole, Carroll says. It also aims to help students “understand and apply their own leadership skills in the various roles they’ll play in their lives.” The executive director of the Center for Professional Excellence, Carroll also teaches a graduate-level version of the course in the MBA program.

The students:
A mix of students from business and other fields of study. Each will likely take on a leadership role someday, says Carroll; some already see themselves as leaders. “One might be a supervisor at a part-time job. Another is the captain of the football team. Another is the head of his fraternity. What they may lack is a conceptual frame-work for leadership.”

Required reading:
Great Leadership: What It Is and What It Takes in a Complex World, by Antony Bell. (Former Congressman Jack Kemp says the book “fills a void in the literature of leadership.”)

In the classroom:
The emphasis is on team-based experiential management exercises that require students to collaborate to consider and resolve leadership dilemmas. What the syllabus says: “You will study a variety of situations that will require reasoned responses to which you are willing to commit yourself in the face of incomplete information and, in some instances, limited technical competence on your part.”

The challenge:
“It’s about skill development,” says Carroll. “Even if you know the concepts of leadership in your head, can you apply them? Can you build relationships? Do you have a vision? Can you develop people?”

Exploding leadership myths:
“Most undergraduates come in not understanding the difference between leadership and management. The myth is that leadership only comes from the person in charge, the manager, and that leaders are leaders by virtue of their position. It’s just the opposite. We want the students to understand that leadership comes from inside you, not from your position. We want them to walk out with an understanding of the distinction between leadership and management.”

Larry Carroll challenges his students to build relationships, have a vision, and master the subtleties of leadership.
Photo by: Mark Segal

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