What leadership skills do students need before they even begin their MBA? The Sanger Leadership Center and a vibrant, diverse team of students, faculty, and staff from across the university tackled this question over the summer as they planned our 2021 Leadership Jumpstart Orientation as part of the Full-Time MBA Orientation for the Class of 2023.

The Leadership Jumpstart Orientation, which was held in-person during the week of August 23, 2021, included five unique leadership workshops and activities from Sanger. “Our August orientation offered a comprehensive approach to expanding students’ lifelong leadership skills,” said Lindy Greer, Sanger’s faculty director. “To help accelerate students’ learning journeys, we set up different experiential activities to elicit challenges and emotions the students face in their jobs, and we then debriefed these moments in light of the cutting-edge science on the topic. We then helped students to personalize the learnings into actionable behaviors they can use in their teams at Ross and in their leadership positions afterward. We introduced students to skills around self-leadership (including the power of a growth mindset and behavioral experimentation), team leadership (including engaging diverse voices, working through pressure, and aligning teams around a well-communicated vision), and organizational leadership (including designing and curating organizational culture, and creating empathy and improving communication across different layers of organizational hierarchies).

THE SESSIONS

Sanger held the following sessions to students throughout the week, led by faculty from our Management and Organizations department, student leaders, Sanger staff, and Rackham Professional Development.

Leading Yourself: Launching Your Sanger Leadership Journey
This session introduced students to the Sanger Leadership Journey. They built awareness of where they come from and visualized where they want to go during their journeys at Ross and beyond. They set their first set of behavioral experiments to accelerate their leadership skills, which they then ran at the ensuing orientation events.

Leading High-Performing Teams: Leveraging Differences
We introduced our spin on a classic team-building exercise called Desert Survival during this session. Afterward, we debriefed the exercise in light of the cutting-edge science on leading high performing teams, including seeking out differences, creating bursts of flatness where everyone in the team can speak up equally, keeping task debates constructive, and ensuring those with the most data for the final decision in a team get to be the ones to call that decision.

Leading High-Performing Teams: Creating Agile Teams
Agile teamwork requires both leaders and teams to be adaptive to the current demands facing a team. In this session, we examined how both leaders and teams can adapt to changing task requirements, and explored how members in teams can adapt to different ways of working on different types of tasks. These skills were put to the test with a Lego creation activity.

Leading Organizations through Values-Driven Culture
In this session, students worked to design, discuss, and imagine the culture they want to build at Ross within their sections, classes, and communities. They got up on their feet to examine the Ross campus from a cultural perspective and enjoyed getting to know the campus along the way.

Leading Yourself, Teams and Organizations: The Big Picture
In our final session, we pulled together all of the skills from the previous days in an interactive exercise. Students examined how personal, interpersonal, and team/organizational leadership skills come together to inform the success of an organization. The application of these lessons required students to think critically about the role of leadership and their ability to contribute to the big picture.

THE RESULTS

Students welcomed the opportunity to get on their feet and practice leadership skills after learning the research and theory. Our teamwork activities also jump-started relationship-building for the student sections. “Over the weekend, I did some reflection on the week and really believe our experience with you was a turning point in our relationship as a section,” said Allie Isaac, MBA 2022. She went on to note, “Struggling, reflecting, and celebrating our success together was a pivotal moment in our time during orientation week and made me even more optimistic of what we can do together.”

Another student commented on the effectiveness of the Lego activity in our Leading Agile Teams workshop: “I found the Lego exercise most valuable and how to work in agile teams. These sessions really show you that everyone has different weaknesses, strengths, and work at different speeds but really promote a cohesive environment.”

We look forward to working further with the Class of 2023 this year! A few photos of the experience are showcased below.

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