B-Schools Find Creative Ways to Build Leadership

Bolstering leadership skills is a critical component of almost any MBA program. A recent article in U.S. News offers a glimpse at some unique courses that build such skills—with a twist.

“Leadership and Theatre: Ethics, Innovations and Creativity”

This course at Darden School of Business forces students, many of whom have never participated in theater before, to unleash their inner thespian. Actors, like business leaders, need to be true to themselves before they can persuade an audience, course instructor Ed Freeman says.

The class teaches its two dozen participants that, as in business, effective leadership is crucial for actors. The notion is put to the test in the finale to the course, when students put on a community performance.

“There is probably not any class that I look back on, in all my education, which has taught me more about leadership,” Darden graduate Akanksha Manik Talya tells U.S. News. “I am much more conscious of the things that you should be thinking while you’re working with people.”

“Getting Along and Getting It Right: Consequential Leadership in Action”

This mandatory program for full-time MBA students at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business is an intense week-long conference that kicks off the students’ second year of school.

According to the article, class activities include improvisational leadership sessions, interactive theater performances on business issues, and an elaborate, scripted court hearing complete with costumed students playing the prosecutors, defendants, judges and jury.

Second year students are put on trial for “failure to use their graduate experience for developmental purposes” and must develop plans to enhance their education. One plan may ultimately be funded and implemented by the school, the article reveals.

Strengthening one’s leadership ability is key to driving employees to deliver. “You can have the best spreadsheet in the world, but unless you can get others to work with it as a leader, that plan isn’t going to go anywhere,” says Darden instructor Lynn Isabella. “Those financials aren’t going to leap off the page and bring themselves to life.”

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