Spotlight Archives: Leadership

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Acting as Leadership

Take a SIP

From reciting Shakespeare to simulated rock climbing, from finding your inner leader to silencing your inner critics, the fall 2007 Sloan Innovation Period challenged students with mental and physical exercises designed to hone management skills and instill leadership values.

In the weeklong series of workshops and lectures, SIP participants delved into real-life scenarios with re-enactments of the crisis in Bosnia and controversy over a development project in Bangladesh. They pondered the meaning of integrity with the creator of est, Werner Erhard, and even participated in a play.

Several SIP classes targeted different approaches to leadership, including “Targeting Your Leadership Style,” taught by Margaret Ann Gray, MIT director for Organization and Employee Development; “Global Leadership” by Victor Menezes, former senior vice chairman of Citigroup Inc.; “Leadership Styles and Values” by Jeffrey Shames, the retired chairman of MFS Investment Management; and “Will You Be A Great Leader?” by Jon Moynihan, executive chairman of PA Consulting Group.

In “Leadership As Acting,” MIT Sloan senior lecturer Christine C. Kelly led students through a shortened production of Shakespeare's Henry V, mining the dialogue, plot, and action for lessons in how to command and cajole a team — or in this case, an army.

“Leadership is an emotional expression,” said Taariq Lewis, '09, who enthusiastically dived into the nuances of playing Shakespeare's young king. “In this class, we remember how to be open and honest and emotional. I'm trying to be a better leader by learning how to be emotionally charged but still corporate.”

Some SIP participants enjoyed the challenge of tackling difficult subjects such as game theory; others relished the pleasure of doing something completely different, such as learning improvisational skills, and still others just liked “having a break” from rigorous coursework. As George Tan, '08, said gratefully, “Most of the SIP classes are very different from what you're normally doing.”

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Dean David Schmittlein

Beginning the Schmittlein era

Early September brought the first official campus visit of our new John C Head III Dean, David Schmittlein, for a series of gatherings involving students, faculty, and staff. While he doesn't officially start for several weeks, Schmittlein provided all in attendance with a glimpse of the kind of leader he'll be, and his vision for the future success of MIT Sloan.

Calling his appointment the greatest professional honor of his life, Schmittlein paid tribute to the MIT Sloan legacy of innovation in management research and education. Where other schools may have the third, fifth and 14th leading experts, he stated that MIT Sloan has the one top person. He vowed to continue this tradition of thought leadership and to encourage even more innovation in creating valuable learning outcomes for students.

“A leader among business schools must stand for the creation of real and useful knowledge. It must offer more than bromides, war stories, cases and networking. It must be the source of thought leadership that is useful now, and that will stand the test of time.”

Schmittlein sounded a few additional themes in meetings with different audiences over the course of his brief visit. He wants to make the School more engaged with the world–a world that is increasingly global and interconnected. As part of this, he plans to expand outreach to thoughtful business leaders throughout the world. Even as he moves his family to “the best metropolitan area on earth,” he plans to travel extensively, reaching out to alumni, business leaders, supporters, and strategic partners.

The Schmittlein era begins soon. Our new dean says he is eager to get started, and it sounds like the pace will be brisk.

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Making a difference with your investments

An investment in social responsibility

Once a laudable goal, Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) is now a growing force across global markets. A recent tally found $4 trillion in such investments worldwide. One in eight investment dollars in the U.S. is connected to environmental, social, and governmental factors.

The time is ripe for analysts to help their clients make a profit while making a difference, says Graham Sinclair of KLD Research and Analytics in Boston. Sinclair made this case during a morning-long presentation to MIT Sloan students in March 2007 as part of the Sustainability at Sloan Speaker Series.

An excerpt of Sinclair's presentation is featured in the MIT Sloan Podcast this month. Student interest in SRI reflects widespread adoption among students of the larger goal of sustainable business.

An increasing number of students come to MIT Sloan with sustainability in mind. The Non-Profit Internship Fund has enabled dozens of students to spend their summers applying business knowledge for social causes.

This past academic year teams of students helped small and large ventures across the globe advance sustainable practices, as part of S-Lab, a first-year course modeled on curriculum staples G-Lab and E-Lab.

Taught by seven prominent faculty members, S-Lab represents a uniquely MIT Sloan opportunity to put theory into practice for the sake of making a difference in the world. For students, the course proved a vehicle to meet Sinclair's clarion call that business as usual has failed and it's time for business unusual.

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In the business of improving the world

The irrational exuberance of the dot-com era has yielded a wave of social activism, and many now see business education as a means for improving the world.

Corporate responsibility and sustainable business are foremost on the minds of many MIT Sloan students, alumni, and faculty members. And they are resolute that social responsibility should — and does — make good business.

In an MIT Sloan In Depth report, we highlight this increasing sense of social responsibility and how it is influencing the practice of business.

The experience of Jeremy Hockenstein, SM '00, illustrates the power of applying business innovation to social issues.

Determined to expand the horizons of young people in Cambodia and Laos, he began Digital Data Divide (DDD), a nonprofit venture, five years ago. Today the company has 200 employees in three offices.

DDD employs disadvantaged and disabled young people in the two countries. The employees work half a day on data entry projects for U.S. companies and go off to DDD-financed school for the second half of the day. In three or four years they graduate and, with their enhanced education and experience, are able to land better jobs.

While Hockenstein is making a difference through entrepreneurship, MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Otto Scharmer says socially responsible business is an emerging career path for B-school graduates joining established ventures.

NGOs and nonprofits are beginning to pay competitive salaries, he says, and an increasing number of corporations are making social responsibility central to their business model.

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Economic disasters: Woman surveys the damage from Hurricane Katrina MIT Sloan community makes key contributions to relief efforts

From late 2004 through the fall of 2005 catastrophic natural disasters hit nearly every region of the globe. Members of the MIT Sloan community, from Thad W. Allen, a 1989 MIT Sloan Fellow, to MIT Leadership Center Club Copresident Nathalie Butcher, MBA '06, have been front and center in planning, aiding, analyzing, and overhauling relief efforts.

Coast guard Vice Admiral Thad W. Allen took the reigns of the Gulf Coast hurricane recovery from FEMA Director Michael Brown. Another MIT Sloan Fellow, Bruce Gordon, SF '88, president and CEO of the NAACP, put his organization at the forefront of those same recovery efforts to help the poor and displaced. On International Day for Disaster Reduction, Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, a 1972 MIT Sloan Fellow, called for a hard look at how disasters are affecting the most vulnerable members of society.

Back on campus, MIT Sloan professor Thomas C. Kochan participated in the high-profile MIT symposium, "Big Questions after Big Hurricanes." As part of this month-long series of discussions, Kochan and other members of the MIT community assessed the realities of disaster management and looked to productive solutions.

MIT Sloan is a global community and concerns about disaster relief extend to Pakistan and Indonesia and to all the countries facing massive recovery efforts. Nathalie Butcher, MBA '06, spent the summer of 2005 in Indonesia, where she helped remote communities rebound.

Disasters have a long and devastating reach through global systems, from the energy industry to the economy, and members of the MIT Sloan community have been analyzing the impact from each of these catastrophic events.

MIT Sloan Professor Deborah Ancona, faculty director of the MIT Leadership Center, believes the involvement of the MIT Sloan faculty, students, and alumni is second nature, a manifestation of MIT's Mens et Manus credo. "The engineering roots of the Institute have grown an action-oriented culture. MIT is all about putting theory together with action," she says. "People learn problem solving here. They think about what needs to be done and they do it.”

Read more about these and other MIT Sloan experts and their insight on relief efforts.

Get their perspectives on:

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Ben Bernanke, '79 PhD, new chairman of the Federal Reserve MIT alum Ben Bernanke assumes daunting role as Greenspan's successor
January 2006

MIT–trained economist Ben Bernanke, '79 Economics PhD, is taking center stage with the toughest following act in central banking history. And it's not just economists and financial professionals who are anxiously watching to see how he will perform.

The high public profile and unprecedented success of his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, has made average citizens around the world keenly aware of the impact the Federal Reserve can have on their lives. As Bernanke himself has said, “Good economic policy makes a big difference to the welfare of the average person.”

There's no question that Bernanke has his work cut out for him. In addition to the core responsibilities of directing monetary policy, exercising good instincts for economic data, and providing insight on policy debates, the new Fed chairman will have to respond well to crises.

His personal style may differ from Greenspan's, but Bernanke is no more likely to lose his cool under pressure than the outgoing chairman was. In the delicate balancing act that has come to characterize the Fed's public pronouncements, experts believe that Bernanke's performance will resemble Greenspan's.

“To professional economists, Greenspan was careful but clear,” says MIT Sloan John C Head III Dean Richard Schmalensee. “He did not simplify complex situations and, since he mostly talked about complex situations, he generated relatively few good sound bites — to the great frustration of the press. I don't expect Bernanke to be less than careful. If he speaks in short sentences he might be more quotable, but I do not believe he will over–simplify either.”

Bernanke has already demonstrated that he is ready to lead the world's most important central bank. As a former Federal Reserve governor with an unusually high profile, Bernanke is largely credited with the Fed's decision in 2005 to begin providing two–year inflation forecasts.

Given the previews, look for Bernanke to provide strong, visible, and carefully considered leadership — and maybe even someday reach that immortal status his predecessor attained.

Read more about the legacy of Alan Greenspan and the future of the Fed under Ben Bernanke, in an MIT Sloan In Depth: Federal Reserve.

Photo: Ben Bernanke, new chairman of the Federal Reserve.
AP Photo

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MIT Sloan alumna Carly Fiorina Bright lights of business converge at MIT Sloan Convocation 2005
November 2005

Alumni traveled to MIT Sloan Oct. 6-8 from around the world to get late-breaking knowledge from business legends like Morris Chang, chairman and CEO of Taiwan Semiconductor, John Thain, CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, and Carly Fiorina, former CEO and chairman of Hewlett-Packard.

At this, MIT Sloan's much anticipated triennial convocation, alumni had the opportunity to connect with one another, with faculty, and with some of the great business minds of our era. They took classes with the school's top faculty — intensive updates like Rebecca Henderson's "Standards and Strategy: Competing in Increasingly Open Worlds."

Many of the weekend's discussions dealt with issues of global responsibility — "Making Globalization Work for All," for example, featuring Hannah Jones, vice president for corporate responsibility at Nike, and "Leadership in an Age of Uncertainty" with Barbara Stocking, director general of Oxfam, Great Britain. During a networking lunch, MIT Sloan students presented a poster session, sharing information and insights on current projects that are changing the world.

One of the high points of the convocation was the Passion to Action Summit. The event celebrated the launch of the MIT Leadership Center and featured panel discussions organized around critical global business issues. Featuring such headliners as biotech pioneer Bob Langer, Nobel prize-winning biologist Phil Sharp, and Ethernet inventor Bob Metcalfe, the summit presented discussions that illuminated the hallmarks of productive, visionary leadership.

Photo: Carly Fiorina, former CEO and chairman of Hewlett-Packard, speaks at MIT Sloan Convocation 2005.

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MIT President Susan Hockfield MIT mobilizes to address global energy crisis
December 2005

President Susan Hockfield believes that MIT, as one of the world's preeminent problem solvers, faces great responsibilities. She underlined her point shortly after her inauguration in May 2005 by forming the interdisciplinary Energy Research Council to fast-track solutions to the global energy crisis. And a fast track it is — the council's recommendations are expected Feb. 1, 2006.

“Many MIT faculty are working already on new routes to renewable and sustainable energy," Hockfield announced at the launch of the council. "We need to advance this scientific and engineering work, while focusing our efforts and magnifying their impact, through our world-class expertise in economics, architecture and urban planning, political science, and management.”

Professor Henry "Jake" Jacoby, an expert on global environmental issues and codirector of the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, represents MIT Sloan on the 16-member council. He integrates research in the natural and social sciences and policy and management studies to support the implementation of domestic and global responses to critical environmental issues.

With his experience in interdisciplinary teamwork around energy and the environment, Jacoby was a natural choice for a spot on the council. He and his colleagues across the Institute will work together to foster new research in science and technology aimed at increasing the energy supply and bringing scientists, engineers, and social scientists together to envision the best energy policies for the future.

“Sloan in particular has a lot to offer," Jacoby says, "because its faculty has been deeply involved in economic and policy aspects of these issues since the energy crisis days of the 1970s.”

All of the Institute's five schools will participate in the initiative. "The involvement of economists, architects, urban planners, political scientists, and management experts is crucial to make sure that the research results can be rapidly deployed in the real world," noted council cochair Robert C. Armstrong, head of the Department of Chemical Engineering. He will lead the think tank along with Ernest J. Moniz, director of energy studies at the MIT Laboratory for Energy and the Environment.

Undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Energy during the Clinton administration, Moniz believes that the Energy Research Council "is arguably the pre-eminent opportunity in the 21st century for bringing science and engineering to bear on human needs.”

Learn more about President Hockfield's energy initiative.

Photo: MIT President Susan Hockfield

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Ben Bernanke, PhD '79, nominated to be next chairman of the Federal Reserve MIT alumnus Ben Bernanke poised to lead nation's economy
November 2005

Ben Bernanke, PhD '79, has been nominated by President Bush to succeed Alan Greenspan as chairman of the Federal Reserve. If confirmed, Bernanke, who holds a doctorate in economics from MIT, will become the most powerful financial arbiter in the country — the head of the nation's central bank.

Word in Washington and on Wall Street is that Bernanke's confirmation will face relatively mild opposition, even from Democrats. Stocks rallied as soon as news spread of his impending nomination. Renowned as one of the best economic minds of the day, Bernanke was governor of the Federal Reserve when he was tapped earlier this year to chair the president's Council of Economic Advisors.

Bernanke came to Washington after a long-time career in academia. He was chairman of the economics department at Princeton and taught at several universities, including his alma mater MIT, where he was a visiting professor of economics.

Should he take the helm from Greenspan, whose term expires in January 2006, Bernanke says his first priority will be to "maintain continuity with the policies and strategies established during the Greenspan years." Known for his tough attitude toward inflation, he is expected to hike interest rates if there is any sign that inflation is accelerating.

New York Senator Charles Schumer, a member of the Senate Banking Committee and a democrat, praised Bernanke. "We need a careful, non-ideological person who understands that the Federal Reserve's main job is to fight inflation, and Ben Bernanke seems to fit the bill." He noted that the country needs a chairman who will "adopt the Greenspan model of flexibility in monetary policy that has served our economy so well.”

Bernanke has published extensively on a wide variety of economic issues, including monetary policy, macroeconomics, and the Great Depression. His works have been used in economics courses at MIT Sloan and in MIT OpenCourseWare.

Read more about Ben Bernanke's nomination to the Federal Reserve post.
Read more about the Federal Reserve.

AP Photo

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Bruce S. Gordon MIT Sloan alum assumes leadership of NAACP
September 2005

1988 MIT Sloan Fellow Bruce S. Gordon in August assumed leadership of the NAACP, the nation's oldest and most powerful civil rights group. Former president of the Retail Markets Group at Verizon, he is widely seen as having the social vision and business expertise to reinvigorate the organization.

Renowned for being that paradoxical variety of leader, the level-headed visionary, Gordon was deemed most likely to succeed in meeting the complex challenges facing the 500,000-member civil rights organization. "Like the excitement around the election of Barack Obama," Earl G. Graves Sr., founder of Black Enterprise magazine, told The New York Times, "Bruce Gordon will generate excitement in corporate America.”

Gordon retired in December 2003 after a 35-year career in the telecommunications industry. As president of the Retail Markets Group at Verizon, he was responsible for the company's consumer and small business customers and directed corporate advertising and brand management. Often recognized for his outstanding leadership, Gordon was named to Fortune magazine's list of "The 50 Most Powerful Black Executives" in 2002.

“It's a fantastic fit," Tony Lewis, president of Verizon's office in Washington, D.C., told the Associated Press. According to Lewis, Gordon guided Verizon through a number of mergers and helped the company adapt to modern times. "He understands that we need organizations like the NAACP," said Lewis. "The needs change, but the needs never go away.”

Read more about Bruce S. Gordon.

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MIT Sloan alumnus Thad W. Allen MIT Sloan alum takes charge of Gulf rescue operations
September 2005

MIT Sloan alumnus Thad W. Allen, a 1989 MIT Sloan Fellow, is now managing search and rescue operations along the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Allen, U.S. Coast Guard vice admiral and Coast Guard chief of staff, has been one of the key agents of change at the agency since the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Division of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff handpicked Allen to lead the federal recovery efforts. Frequently praised for reaching out to other agencies and for developing big picture approaches to homeland defense, Allen took over from Michael D. Brown, the embattled former FEMA director. Lives and reputations are relying heavily on Allen, who was described in The Washington Post as "unflappable, engaging, and intensely organized.”

Allen is collaborating with Army Lt. General Russel L. Honore, head of the Joint Task Force Katrina, to oversee, manage, and lead all military and civilian recovery efforts in a devastated region where the death toll is expected to rise into the thousands in the wake of the country's worst natural disaster.

Retired Admiral James M. Loy, former commandant of the Coast Guard and former deputy secretary of Homeland Security, was quoted in The Post as confident that Allen has the experience to help steer the federal response to the Katrina catastrophe in the right direction after initial shortfalls. "He always brings a new idea per minute to the table as far as how to grapple with difficult situations.”

Read Washington Post article on Allen's appointment.
Learn about MIT's response to Katrina.

AP Photo

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Historian and MIT Professor Rosalind Williams MIT celebrates its leaders
September 2005

MIT is celebrating the launch of the MIT Leadership Center today with the Passion to Action Summit, a half-day program that draws together extraordinary leaders for intense, provocative discussions of ideas that are shaping society — how we live, how we work, how we learn, and how we lead.

Rosalind Williams, historian and MIT professor; Bob Langer, biotech pioneer; Phil Sharp, Nobel prize-winning biologist: and Bob Metcalfe, inventor of the Ethernet, will explore the implications, opportunities, and responsibilities of propelling technological innovation.

MIT Professor Peter Senge will talk with Frannie Léautier, a World Bank executive; Jeremy Hockenstein, CEO of a non-profit in Cambodia; and Ron O'Connor, founder of Management Sciences for Health — all striving to develop sustainable solutions to societal challenges and overcoming the barriers of leading across sectors, locally and globally.

Four entrepreneurial, creative MIT students will demonstrate how they organize, innovate, and act on their passion to make a positive difference in the world with MIT Professor Woodie Flowers. Together, they examine what more can be done to support and enable MIT students to lead.

This celebration of MIT leaders is the ideal occasion to launch an organization dedicated to spurring creative thinkers into active leaders. The MIT Leadership Center blends MIT's pre-eminence in technological innovation with the MIT Sloan School of Management's resources in management and leadership. Working together with business, academia, and industry, the Center creates cutting-edge theory, pragmatic tools, and action-oriented curricula to enable present and future leaders to tackle complex, global challenges and create positive social change.

Learn more about the MIT Leadership Center and the Passion to Action Summit.

Photo: Rosalind Williams, historian and MIT professor, will participate in a session exploring the implications, opportunities, and responsibilities of propelling technological innovation.

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Urban leader Opening the path to urban leadership
August 2005

All good leadership requires courage and creativity. Urban leaders must possess those qualities and others — in double doses. Present and future city leaders will converge to explore the enormous challenges and extraordinary opportunities they face at the MIT Summer Institute for Urban Leadership Tuesday, Aug. 30 - Thursday, Sept. 1.

Prominent alumni who have leveraged their MIT academic experience into leadership roles in the management, governance, design, and development of cities will speak frankly about their careers in city planning, public safety, infrastructure, transportation, the environment, city management, economics, health care, and urban design and development.

Through candid discussions and workshops, MIT graduate students will develop both a personalized leadership profile and a network of leaders to call upon as they navigate their urban career paths. A professional career facilitator will work with participants in an interactive workshop.

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MIT Sloan Senior Associate Dean Alan White Senior Associate Dean Alan White wins Billard Award
July 2005

MIT Sloan Senior Associate Dean Alan White says he had no inkling he was up for one of MIT's loftiest honors. But then the Gordon Y Billard Award is not the kind of honor that people expect. For one thing, the competition is steep. Faculty, staff, even individuals outside MIT are considered for the award, which is bestowed annually "for special service of outstanding merit performed for the Institute.”

While Dean White's modesty might have kept him from realizing he was in contention, his record of service to the School made him an obvious choice.

A 1971 graduate of the MIT Sloan Fellows Program and a former director of that program, Dean White is one of the Institute's most knowledgeable minds on international issues. He has established and oversees MIT Sloan programs in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and Africa.

Dean White is especially respected for his leadership of the China Management Education Project. The program, launched in 1996, brings Chinese faculty to the School to work with MIT Sloan professors and take classes with MBA students. Visiting professors then incorporate this fresh knowledge into management classes at their home universities.

“Through your hard work, the China Management Education Project has defined what an MBA should be in China," MIT President Hockfield told Dean White at the 2005 MIT Awards Convocation May 10, "and has positioned [MIT] Sloan as one of the most visible global business schools in Asia.”

Read more about Alan White and the Gordon Y Billard Award.

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Retired GE Chairman and CEO Jack Welch Jack Welch tells what it really means to be the "smartest person in town"
April 2005

“A rock star of the business world," was how MIT Sloan Dean Richard Schmalensee introduced him, and retired GE Chairman and CEO Jack Welch did not disappoint the hundreds of students crammed into Wong Auditorium, spilling out into corridors, and watching live on Webcam.

As famous for his candor and rhetorical skill as for his strength as a business leader, Welch needed no warm-up act to keep the crowd on the edge of its seat during his talk at MIT Sloan on April 12, 2005. Although in the midst of promoting his bestselling memoir "Winning," written with new wife and former Harvard Business Review editor Suzy (Wetlaufer) Welch, America's most charismatic CEO spent the hour focused on leadership and never lost track of whom he was talking to.

Part of the Dean's Innovative Leader Series, the talk was heavily attended by present and future leaders and Welch talked straight to them. A leader's role, he told them, is to impart vision and a healthy corporate culture, build great people and great teams, and show them how to lead. A leader's job, he said again and again, is not to be "the smartest person in town," but to hire and inspire the smartest people in town.

One of the keys to growing into leadership, Welch said, was to build confidence and for that reason, he noted, he never berated anyone when they were down. He himself had accidentally blown up a plant early in his career as an engineer at GE and never forgot that his boss, former MIT professor Charles Reed, left him feeling taller and more confident than when he arrived for the reckoning, quaking in his boots.

Confidence, Welch said, was something the students seated before him would build at MIT Sloan. "As one of the greatest schools in the world, MIT Sloan gives you self-confidence — after all, you got here in the first place." But he urged his audience to aspire beyond being one the smartest in the classroom. Looking around at them, he predicted, "The people in this room will go out and do something that will change the shape of the game!”

Watch the video of Jack Welch's talk.
Read about Jack Welch's talk at MIT Sloan.

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MIT Sloan student in Henry V To be or not to be ... a leader
December 2004

Most people wouldn't equate the teaching of Shakespeare with a business school, but MIT Sloan isn't like most business schools. "Leadership in Action: Performing Henry V" is the latest in a long line of innovative curriculum offerings that bring the unexpected to the MIT Sloan classroom.

Created by the new MIT Leadership Center as part of the weeklong Sloan Innovation Period, the course features both an examination of the play's content and a student-run performance of the Bard's famous work. Through this process, students learn valuable lessons about communication, teamwork, and leadership.

Both the play's storyline — and the act of staging it — make clear how much can be accomplished by a united group with a clearly stated purpose in a short period of time. And the course itself, with its dramatic acting component, encourages students to step outside of their comfort zones and approach problem solving in an innovative way.

Learn more about "Leadership in Action: Performing Henry V"

Photo: MIT Sloan student Yulia Poltorak on stage in Shakespeare's "Henry V," learning leadership by acting.

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