MMI 481 - Foundations of Leadership
Course Description:This course served as an introduction to leadership theory and practice. The course examined the research and literature regarding organizational leadership and provided an opportunity for examining and developing personal leadership skills. The course featured relevant readings, case studies, projects, and class discussions. The purpose of this course was to identify the fundamental leadership behaviors that enable people to excel in their careers and to help students apply these behaviors to personal and professional success. The course built from the basic premise that leadership is learned. It looks at the theory and practice of leadership at the individual and organizational levels. The course explored definitions of leadership, the importance of leadership, leadership styles, the role of vision and integrity, the importance of giving and receiving feedback, how to lead change and solve problems, effective teamwork, and communication strategies.
What I Learned:
This class came at a critical time for me during my professional career. I started the class when I was just five months into a new leadership role at Blue Cross of Idaho. I had worked for the company for three years, and had then been asked to serve as the lead developer and supervisor of a team of nine other developers. Many on the team were friends as we had worked together before on other projects or collaborated in architecting software solutions. The team was struggling and experiencing strife with another group. There were two other leaders (in the same role) that had stepped down before I was asked to consider the prospect, and a couple other contributing developers had left. The stakes were high, with expectations for delivering software assets while improving morale at the same time in order to retain talented staff.
The format of the class was great! It asset me on a personal journey where individual students like myself could discover more about themselves through reflective exercises. In particular, we used an instrument known as the Leadership Measurement Instrument (LMI), which consisted of a fourteen individual questionnaires compiled by Peter Northouse (and republished in his "Leadership: Theory and Practice" book). The exercises each focused on different dimensions of leadership and helped respondents learn more about themselves through situational analysis. Some questionnaires considered direct feedback from the followers of the leaders participating in the survey.
What I liked about the approach is that each instrument followed a focused reading assignment from the Northouse text, and after taking the survey, we were asked to interpret the results and reflect on what it meant to us personally. I learned so much about myself through this with regard to my core values, motivations, and personality attributes that contribute to effective leadership.
The Northouse text taught me about leadership theory. The introductory chapters defined leadership as either a trait or a process. Trait-based theory posits that we are fitted for leadership by traits such as our sex, height, eye color, etc. Process based theory suggests that the necessary skills and attributes can be learned or developed. The premise of the class and text was based on the idea that leadership is a process.We then focus on understanding the theories and principles to help us develop the various skills and attributes that develop us into exceptional leaders.
In addition to the fourteen personal reflection assignments, we also accompanied our reading from the Northouse text with readings from compiled Harvard Business Review (HBR) texts so that we could see leadership applied through action. The HBR articles were personally one of my favorite aspects of the class. We did four case studies that were based upon our HBR readings to analyze and apply our learnings. There were so many aspects that I learned and applied "on the job", and that I shared with other colleagues at Blue Cross of Idaho.The assigned HBR readings included:
In summary, I plan to take all that was gained through the readings, writing assignments, lectures, and classroom discussion, and develop myself into a more effective leader. The class helped me learn that progress requires measurement, and that reflective analysis of our own performance leads to growth. Some thoughts taken from the class include the following (taken from the professor’s notes):