Darden develops leaders. And we keep upping the ante. My new role at Darden is to steward this effort, and like the first part of all new assignments, I’m taking inventory.
At Darden we talk about how we develop the T shaped manager (deep functional knowledge—the vertical part of the T, and broad enterprise perspective—the horizontal part). Our dean has said we are a deeply technical program with a leadership development program bolted on top (another T if you will). What is it that makes Darden a leadership development program? Well, the case method, of course (see Dean Robert Bruner’s blog, specifically this one). Case method teaches technical skills AND business judgment, communication, decision making…the list goes on. But then Darden’s leadership development is much more than just the case method:
Core Functional Classes are at the heart of Darden leadership development. In the case method classroom, a student learns to be prepared and on their A game at all times. The student learns to engage with others constructively, to argue and convince, to defend and justify, to speak clearly and succinctly. The student must exercise business judgment, discernment, flexibility and adaptability. A good case method professor forces deep analytical thinking with a tactical action plan.
Leadership Courses—both core and elective—focus deeply on particular leadership competencies, both case method and experiential learning. Electives include Leading Strategic Change, Leading Teams, Tactical Leadership and Global Leadership among others. Additionally, because of its critical nature, management communications is built into both the core and includes electives like Strategic Communications and Interpersonal Communications.
First-Year Individual Development Plan (IDP): in the first year, all students are required to write a leadership development plan for themselves based on a number of self-assessment exercises that they take in the first couple of months of the program. This IDP is then used as a guide for the students engagement with leadership opportunities during the two-year program.
First Year Learning Team is a core component of the first-year experience. Learning teams are groups of five to six students from across the different first-year sections that provide the necessary support to help students work through and understand each case. In your learning team, you develop skills of working with others, working in a team, taking a leadership point of view, team dynamics, and working with global teammates.
First-year Career Coach assignment—every first-year student is assigned a second-year career coach to assist in the student’s career preparation. The coach is part of a second-year experiential elective, in which the second year learns the critical competencies of coaching and mentoring.
Executive-in-Residence Elective Courses and Leadership Speaker Series-_Darden offers four second-year electives that primarily consists of corporate executives leading student discussions on hot topics in their respective industries. In addition, Darden attracts 8-10 CEO’s to speak on leadership annually.
Experiential Courses—several Darden courses are designed with a significant leadership component embedded in the course design. Global Business Experiences are one- to two-week courses outside the United States that focus on business issues. Global Field Experiences (GFEs) are MBA electives that give small teams of students the opportunity to provide consulting services to an international company or organization while working closely with a Darden faculty member. The second-year elective, Innovation and Design Experience, allows teams of students to interface with several international companies on consulting projects. As mentioned above, the second-year coaching elective allows students to practice their coaching skills with their assigned first-year students.
Co-curricular Leadership Positions allow Darden students to experience first hand real leadership issues and opportunities. The Darden School’s numerous student organizations provide personal, social, professional and academic support to students as well as service to the local community. All of the student organizations have a primary mission of enhancing the quality of student life at Darden and a not so subtle secondary mission of providing a leadership development opportunity.
Leadership Learning Lab is a second-year elective that gives students (usually club presidents) a forum in which to discuss practical issues and exchange ideas and concerns regarding the dimensions of psychological leadership and examine their personal leadership style by providing a cognitive experience to complement existing leadership activities.
Over the coming year, Darden intends to continue to expand its leadership development offerings. Building on the first-year required leadership course, and the individual development plan, we will offer a leadership development series of modules designed to provide hands-on experience with key leadership competencies. These might include workshops in customer focus, developing others, risk taking, or time management, among others. We will also offer formal opportunities for students to revisit their IDP, revise and reshape it, as they grow their own leadership-styles over their two year experience.
Stay tuned for more…