Professor of Organizational Studies; Faculty Director of the Leadership Center;Seley Distinguished Professor of Management
Teaching at MIT Sloan since: 1985
MIT Sloan is an entrepreneurial place. You've got all these very smart people working in an environment that consciously encourages innovation. There's a lot of freedom and creativity; as long as what you're proposing is of quality, people are very open to new ways of doing things. Last year, we created the Leadership Center at MIT Sloan. The Center provides a rich set of leadership workshops, courses, and initiatives that closely align leadership and team development with science, engineering, and management skills — blending the best of MIT and MIT Sloan to solve real problems.
At MIT Sloan, it's very much about learning by doing. You learn in your head and in your hand. Other schools emphasize action-focused learning, but I think MIT Sloan embraces more of it. We work with a number of executives from major corporations who try to create innovative approaches to business challenges, like taking a company global, for example. We bring X-team and suggested models into G-lab and take a look at how they might work. This is a good example of learning by doing at MIT Sloan.
The entrepreneurial spirit thrives in collegial initiatives as well. Several years ago, I began meeting with colleagues Tom Malone, Wanda Orlikowski, and Peter Senge to discuss, argue, and reflect on the notion of leadership.What is leadership? Can you teach it? If so, how? Many cups of coffee later, all of these questions percolated into what is now known as the Distributed Leadership Model and subsequent course of study. Our work on this particular model reflects the kind of cerebral energy that, when encouraged and supported as it is at MIT Sloan, leads to innovative ways of looking at things. The Distributed Leadership Model forms the basis of the leadership curriculum currently offered to MBA students and is the cornerstone of MIT Sloan's new Leadership Center.
More recently, I have been working with Professor Michele Williams to create a survey instrument to assess leadership capabilities. Over several years, we have tested and refined this assessment tool, which can effectively measure the leadership capabilities of individuals or teams. This is a very exciting development because it opens up a whole new way of evaluating leadership skills and coaching our students on campus. From it, we'll be able to put together databases and compare ourselves to global and industry benchmarks.
Next year, I hope to publish a book on the X-team, which is the culmination of a quarter century of research and years of practice. In the meantime, I continue to enjoy the challenges of being fully engaged in academic research, teaching executive education, serving as faculty director of the Leadership Center, and raising four children! Meeting the ever-changing needs of this particular growing organization is a prime case study of creative collaboration —andlearning by doing — a lot like at MIT Sloan.