Integrated Leadership Perspective
Part V - The Student Experience
No one knew quite what to expect. They were given descriptions of what the Integrated Leadership Perspective course would be like. They knew that twenty-three faculty members were to teach at least one session each and everyone would be working with a set of untested cases. But since no one had ever taken it, there was no way to predict how the three-ring circus, as Sharon Oster, who helped design the course, dubbed it, would actually play out.
Over two months, the course covered topics from nonprofit environmental management to the takeover of medical device maker Guidant by Boston Scientific, from differing leadership styles to the rise of a free, entrepreneurial press in Poland. The point was to tie together all that students learned in the first year of the new curriculum. Matt Miller ’08 said he believed the course was very successful in connecting all the dots.
“There were definitely clear allusions between the different disciplines, the different perspectives,” he said. “People weren't sure quite how it was going to work out, either on the faculty or the student side, but in many ways I could give it a 10 out of 10 and call it seamless.”
Many students cited the use of such a diverse group of faculty as a major strength. “We had a lot of days where our core accounting professor and our marketing professor, or the professor that we learned the State and Society perspective from and the operations professor were teaching side by side,” said Lisa Schilling ’08. “They each brought something different to each case and I really think that, together, they accomplished something they couldn’t have if they were just teaching alone.”
Lisa Howie ’08 added that the wide range of senior faculty involved in the course and the expertise of the guest speakers really impressed her. “The best aspect of ILP was the all-star list of professors,” she said. “I’m in finance and I felt like I got to take a course from Jeff Sonnenfeld, who focuses on leadership, for a semester. And I never thought I’d take a real estate course, but Will Goetzmann was awesome and now I want to take his real estate class.
“All the guest speakers really took the class to a higher level. After a course on securitizing artwork, Bob Shiller (Stanley B. Resor Professor of Economics and author of “Irrational Exuberance”) held a lunch talk where he explained his housing index. He was just fantastic.... All the guests made the cases feel much more realistic. It’s great to pitch ideas to your classmates, but it’s something different when you’re pitching ideas to the people who are really making the decisions.”
Some students were able to interact with SOM alumni through the course in ways they hadn’t expected. After the case on securitizing artwork, students were asked to come up with other cultural or educational works that could be securitized. Tiffany Hunold ’08 was on a team that developed a model to create a securities market from the work of dead celebrities, such as rock stars. Their classmates picked the group as one of six teams to present to alumni at an event at the Yale Club in New York.
Hunold said the experience was the highlight of the semester. “We worked really hard putting the presentation together for the event,” she said. “And the feedback we got from the alumni was really helpful. They asked tough questions and provided excellent advice. They helped take what could have been a static case and pushed it much further.”
Of all the cases taught during the semester, the one that received the most attention was the one about the $36 billion deal between the Blackstone Group and Equity Office Properties Trust, then the biggest private equity buyout in U.S. history. The case took a novel approach to the deal, utilizing web and multimedia technology to create a deeper experience. Josh Nelson ’08 said the case felt like cutting edge learning, but also fit seamlessly into a novel and rewarding year.
“What I liked best was how ILP really built on what we’d been learning all year,” he said. “By the time we got to ILP, I was thinking in terms of all the perspectives courses we’d taken. Every problem must be approached from these different angles. Two sessions really did that for me. One was the leadership class taught by Victor Vroom, where he concentrated on how people function as leaders, how there are different styles, be they delegating or authoritarian. Then there was the class that focused on what they call Big L leadership. There we looked at the importance of having a fit between the leader and the organization and the leader and the situation. It’s amazing what can happen when they come together. You could say that’s how I feel about ILP and the first year as a whole. Everything came together. Everything fit.”