At UM Ross, Leadership Lessons Scale New Heights

UM Ross trek to Mt KilamanjaroFrom time to time, I like to take a look at what innovative courses or teaching methods business schools are rolling out to stay on the cutting edge of management education. This new executive education course offered at the UM Ross School of Business immediately caught my eye, as it takes leadership lessons to new heights—straight up the tallest mountain in Africa.

In a profile of professor Scott DeRue’s Advanced Leadership in Action: Kilimanjaro course, DeRue  explains how this unique on-the-ground experience will challenge students with high-impact leadership development exercises, and provides insight on how these lessons translate back at the office.

One of the key takeaways from the interview, which I heartily agree with, is that you can’t learn leadership from a book. DeRue points to abundant research supporting the theory that transformational experiences forge one’s leadership skills. So what, you may ask, is a transformational experience? The professor describes its five core features like this:

  • The experience must present a person with novel situations that break habits and routines.
  • The experience asks the person to facilitate change within a group or community.
  • The experience puts the person in high-stakes, high-visibility situations where success and failure are consequential.
  • The experience requires the person to work across boundaries and influence people without relying on formal authority.
  • The experience challenges the person to work with diverse groups of people that have different cultural norms.

The climb up Mt. Kilamanjaro fits the bill and then some, DeRue explains, as it forces the team to confront physical and emotional challenges, as well as challenging group dynamics.  While professional guides will support the team, the students must transform themselves into a cohesive unit and establish trust among participants.

Each day of the climb, DeRue will devise specific team-building and leadership challenges, and as a group work together to connect and apply the lessons of those experiences to their professional lives.

“You are part of a diverse group of high-achieving individuals,” De Rue says, “But to succeed you have to become a team. You have to work together to make tough decisions. You really learn how to work together and leverage others to overcome adversity. It is the perfect laboratory for learning leadership.”

What do you think about the leadership lessons provided by a trek up Mt. Kilamanjaro? I’d love to hear reactions from my readers, so please leave a comment below.

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