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“A very different kind of learning laboratory”

That’s how one alumnus described the MIT Sloan Fellows Program. And it is a laboratory, one devoted to the advancement of leadership, innovation, and global perspective. This one-year MBA program is designed for executives of exceptional promise who are about to take on the most challenging roles of their careers.

In this last of three introductory posts about the MIT Sloan Fellows Program, we’ll look at what sets the program apart—three powerful, interdependent pillars.

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Who needs typical?

A typical Sloan Fellows alumnus? You’d be hard-pressed to find one. MIT Sloan Fellows have launched startups that mushroomed into multinationals, forestalled unprecedented environmental crises, and brought mega-companies back from near-death experiences. They are from Paris, Singapore, Sao Paulo. They have backgrounds in medicine, mechanical engineering, international law. A typical Sloan Fellow? Meet three program alumni, and see if you find any common denominators.

Alan Mullaly, SF ’82
United States
CEO, Ford Motor Company (retired July 1, 2014)

An aeronautical engineer, Alan Mullaly entered Boeing in 1969 straight out of the University of Kansas, rose through the ranks, and was made president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes in 2001. A mere five years later, he was named “Person of the Year” by Aviation Week for the quality of his leadership and was soon wooed to the helm of Ford Motor Company. One Forbes columnist called him a “visionary in chief” who turned Ford around by focusing its culture on innovation. Another Forbes writer said that Mulally’s “innovation track record should be the envy of every executive today” and that his “turnaround of Ford will likely be studied by business students for years to come.”

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Inventing a laboratory for leadership

The idea of a leadership program for executives of exceptional promise was so revolutionary in 1938 that all five talented managers chosen to be MIT Sloan Fellows were featured in The New York Times. The program, which actually was created seven years earlier, has stayed on the front-facing edge of management for three quarters of a century, acquiring a deep archive of wisdom—wisdom distributed across generations of alumni and faculty who have helped to rethink the way we work and live.

We’ve launched this blog as a forum for sharing that knowledge. We’ll reach across industries and geographies and collect late-breaking bulletins from alumni and faculty on the frontiers of management. You’ll find out how Sloan Fellows alumni and faculty are changing the way we approach cancer treatment, using system dynamics to thwart poverty, or rethinking the electric car.

We’ll kick off with a few posts about the program itself, so that you’ll have a deeper understanding of the community that is generating this knowledge. The program’s roots actually reach further back than those New York Times headlines. The story—and the program itself—began in 1931, as the world struggled to emerge from the Great Depression. General Motors was not just the largest corporation in the U.S., it was the largest company on Earth—in no small part because GM President Alfred P. Sloan (MIT Class of 1895) was behind the wheel. Audacious and visionary, his mid-century chronicle My Years with General Motors is still considered a seminal text in modern management education.

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