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.
Professor(s): Dr. Russell Roberson
Term: Spring 2012
Grade: A
Text: 1) Northouse, P.G. (2009). Leadership: Theory and practice (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. [ISBN-13: 978-1412974882] 2) Harvard Business Review on Leadership (Harvard Business Review Paperback Series). Harvard Business School Press. [ISBN-10: 0875848834] 3) Harvard Business Review on Change (Harvard Business Review Paperback Series). Harvard Business School Press.  [ISBN-10: 0875848842] 4) Harvard Business Review: What Makes a Leader. (Harvard Business Review Paperback Series). Harvard Business School Press. [ISBN-10: 15785163741] 5) Harvard Business Review on Teams That Succeed (Harvard Business Review Paperback Series). Harvard Business School Press. [ISBN-10: 159139502X] 6) Harvard Business Review on Developing Leaders (Harvard Business Review Paperback Series) Harvard Business School Press. [ISBN-10: 1591395003]

Learning Objectives:

  • Analyze different forms of value (economic, meaning, and social) and the role value, experience, and research play in effective leadership.
  • Identify the theoretical foundations for successful leadership in today's organizations.
  • Compare and contrast the major leadership theories and discuss the key points and application methods of each theory in the workplace.
  • Discuss the context and outcome of applied leadership in selected situations.
  • Analyze and interpret a particular performance-based organizational issue, develop a solution to the issue at hand, and apply appropriate leadership theories in the given situation.
  • Given different organizational scenarios, discuss and analyze the responsibility, privilege, value, culture, ethical considerations, and the appropriate use of authority and power.
  • Synthesize best practices to create a plan for engaging, implementing, and sustaining planned organizational change.
  • Identify principles by which successful leaders operate.
  • Identify your personal philosophy and style and expand this for interpersonal influence in your organization.

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:

  • "What Makes a Leader?" by Daniel Goleman
  • "Building the Emotional Intelligence of Groups" by Vanessa Urch Druskat and Steven B. Wolff
  • "Are You Picking the Right Leaders?" by  Melvin Sorcher and James Brant
  • "Managing Away Bad Habits" by James Waldroop and Timothy Butler
  • "Personalize Your Management Development" by Natalie Shope Griffin
  • "Leaders That Get Results" by Daniel Goleman
  • "The Discipline of Teams" by Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith
  • "Speeding Up Team Learning" by Amy Edmondson, Richard Bohmer, and Gary Pisano
  • "How the Right Measures Help Teams Excel" by Christopher Meyer
  • "Why Transformational Efforts Fail" by Paul Strebel
  • "Building Your Company's Vision" by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras
  • "Reshaping an Industry: Lockheed Martin's Survival Story" by Norman  R. Augustine

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):

  • "Leadership is about seeing change that is needed and acting before the change is mandatory."
  • "The application of 'power' is dependent on the situation"
  • "It takes more than Emotional Intelligence to be a leader; leaders must understand the technical side of the areas they lead."
  • "Trust goes a long way in motivating people; but at the end of the day people want results from their leaders."
  • "Self-awareness is one of the most important characteristics of a leader."
  • "Leaders assume the best until proven otherwise."
  • "Leadership is about sacrifice."
  • "Different leadership styles are just fine, a lot depends on the organization, markets, employee maturity and talent and direction the business wants to go.
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