Wharton MBA Program Innovates Leadership Learning

When high-profile companies like Toyota or BP exhibit questionable leadership in the face of crisis, many people are left scratching their heads as they wonder where our business leaders come from and how they are trained.

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania has decided to tackle this question head-on by requiring all first-year students to enroll in the largest experiential learning exercise in the school’s history, which will transform their understanding of what it means to be an effective leader.

Incoming students will be put on the “hot seat” to teach them both theoretical and practical aspects of leadership and teamwork through a business simulation titled “Foundations of Teamwork and Leadership”.

All 817 Wharton first-years will be grouped into teams, which will take on the role of senior management of a hypothetical company. They will guide the company through a series of real-time scenarios designed to teach them how to negotiate both internally and externally; make team-based decisions; face challenges; and deal with group dynamics and organizational change.

All aspects of this progressive teaching practice, developed over three years by Wharton management professors Nancy Rothbard and Sigal Barsade, will reflect real or potentially real scenarios that future MBAs will deal with in leadership and teamwork roles they are being groomed to fill.

Next week, as students select their roles, begin to work as a team and embark on the obstacle-ridden path set before them, Wharton is banking on this unique leadership learning program to educate the next generation of business leaders. May they better handle the curve balls that come their way.

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