Leadership and executive development

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Fall 2014

Draft August, 2014

Monday, 6:30-9:30

JKP 204
Morgan McCall, PhD


Department of Management and Organization

Bridge Hall 306C

Marshall School of Business

213 740-0746

Office Hours: Monday 4:00-5:00 and by appointment

Poor leadership can do damage overnight. It’s amazing the extraordinary damage poor leadership can do. Really good leadership can move mountains over a longer period of time.

Anne Mulcahy

Former CEO, Xerox
At the most fundamental level, it is an honor to serve—at whatever type or size organization you are privileged to lead, whether it is a for-profit or nonprofit….Positive leadership—conveying the idea that there is always a way forward-- is so important, because that is what you are here for—to figure out how to move the organization forward…. A big part of leadership is being authentic to who you are, thinking about what you really believe in and behaving accordingly.

Alan Mulally

Former CEO, Ford
What kind of leader do you want to be? Will you move mountains (Gerstner, Mulally, Mulcahy) or do damage overnight (the M-16 case that starts this course)? Will you consider it an honor to serve others (Glenn Ault and Marianne Hill do) or will you see leadership as a way to serve yourself? Authentic or Machiavellian? Your choice… And the purpose of this course is to give you a chance to think deeply about leadership, what it requires, and what that means for you.
There are many different paths that lead to leadership success or failure. The good news is that effective leaders do not have the same personalities, or the same styles, or even the same skills and abilities. But leaders-- whether in corporations or non-profits, whether CEOs or project leaders-- do face similar demands. We know a lot about those demands, various ways leaders meet them, and how the ability to meet those demands is developed. That’s what this course is about. Most of all, it’s about what you can do to develop your own leadership ability if you choose that kind of career.
The course is organized around the fundamental challenge of leadership: creating a context so that other people will be successful in achieving the organization’s mission. Context is created by how leaders handle the five demands in any leadership role:

  • setting and communicating direction,

  • aligning key constituencies with that direction,

  • developing an executive temperament,

  • setting and living values, and

  • growing themselves and others.

How you effectively you handle those demands will determine how successful you will be as a leader. My primary purpose in teaching this course is to help you understand the demands of a leadership role and, in that context, help you to craft a leadership development plan for the first or next step in your career as a leader. After examining how different leaders have handled the leadership demands, the last part of this course focuses on you. You will learn how leadership talent can be developed, reflect on where you stand in your life and career, and write the final paper-- a personal leadership development plan.

In short, by the end of this course you should 1) see the many ways effective leaders create a context for the success of others, 2) understand each of the five leadership demands, 3) reflect on your own experience and level of leadership ability in light of these demands, and 4) identify the next step in your own path to mastery.
Before you commit to taking the course, please consider the following conditions:

-First, because the outside speakers are well known and very busy, we may have unexpected schedule or topic changes. You will need to adjust accordingly.

-Second, because the course is highly interactive, your level of engagement with the material, each other, and the guest speakers will determine a hefty portion of your grade.

-Third, you will be asked to share with your classmates aspects of your background, career experiences, and strengths and weaknesses, and to be a receptive and trustworthy listener when your classmates share theirs.

-Finally, I have designed this course as I would an executive development program, emphasizing practical application and exposing you to current leaders who will talk about their challenges and experiences. It is extremely difficult to make up a missed session, especially the life map session on November 24, so I put a premium on your showing up, being prepared, and fully engaging with the class, the guests, the issues, and me.
If you are unwilling or unable to accept these conditions, I ask that you not take the course.

During class please put cell phones on stun, and turn off laptops, things that beep, iPads, and any other gadgets that might distract you or those around you!
Grading will be based on three components: how actively you engage the course, a team project at the mid-term, and a final paper.
1. ENGAGEMENT (1/3):

There are several pieces to the engagement portion of your grade:

  • Showing up

Have you attended class regularly, arrived on time ready to work, stayed to the bitter end, and appeared to be with us in both body and spirit? Because the class meets only once a week and has only 14 sessions, attendance will be taken very seriously. As is done in the EMBA program, a sign-in sheet will be passed around in every class (please note, it is an honor violation to sign in for another student!) Attendance is especially critical on days we have executive guests and on November 24 (for sharing of life maps), and will count extra on those days.

  • Contribution to the class

Have you been a part of creating a constructive and lively classroom atmosphere? Have you added to the conversation by contributing your ideas, building on the ideas of others, and constructively challenging assumptions? Is it clear from your comments that you have read and understood the material? Did you encourage participation by your classmates and respect their ideas? Did you ask thoughtful questions of our guests and take advantage of your time with them? Were you a good listener and respectful colleague in the small group discussions?

The opposite behaviors, or distracting the class by grandstanding, repetition, talking for its own sake, etc., will count against you.

  • Contribution to the team

Have you contributed fully to the team assignment (as reflected in a peer rating)?

  • Have you done the assignments along the way and turned them in on time and in acceptable form? These include:

-Background form, due 9/8

-Chris Connolly reflections, due 9/29*

-Jack Hollis reflections, due 10/13*

-Todd Richmond reflections, due 10/20*

-Marianne Haver Hill reflections, due 11/3*

-Glenn Ault reflections, due 11/10*

-Self-assessment of strengths and weaknesses, due 11/10

-Moheet Nagrath reflections, due 11/24*

-Life map, due 11/24**
*One of the most important factors in learning from experience is taking time for reflection. After each of our guest speakers, we ask you to reflect on what was said, identify one thing you learned that was important to you personally, explain why it was important to you, and draw some implications for your future actions. The reflections must be typed, cannot exceed one page double-spaced, and will be collected at the beginning of the class following the guest speaker.
**This classroom portion of the life map experience cannot be made up, therefore it is weighted heavily: failure to complete the life map and attend the class will have serious impact on the engagement portion of your grade! Note that unavoidably the session is scheduled the Monday of Thanksgiving week, so please plan accordingly.

  • I reserve the right to give unannounced quizzes on assigned material if I feel that people are not coming to class prepared. If given, these will count as part of the engagement grade.


Your mid-term is a team project in which each member of your team will select and interview at least one leader about leadership development. After the interviews are completed, the team will integrate the interviews and relevant course material into a six page essay on leadership development.
The Team
A team should consist of 5 or 6 members. Each member of each team must identify and interview at least one leader. Teams of more than six or less than five members must get my approval in advance (if approved, a team smaller than five still must conduct at least five interviews with different leaders). You should send me a list of your team members no later than September 15.
The Interview
The focus of the interview is “growth of self and others”—the leadership demand that explicitly focuses on leadership development. Your interview should include the following questions to ask of the leaders you have chosen:

  • About their own development:

  1. When you think about your career as a manager or executive, certain events or episodes stand out in your mind—things that changed you in some way and have ultimately shaped you as an executive. Please choose three of these experiences that have had a lasting impact on you: For each event, what happened? What did you learn from it (how did it change you)?

  • About how they develop others:

  1. What is your approach to developing leadership talent in others?

  2. Please think of a specific person for whom you played a significant role in his/her development as a leader. Tell us the story—how you decided to invest in this person, what you did, what the person did, why you think things turned out so well.

Your team may add additional questions related to “growth of self and others” but the assigned questions should be fully addressed in the interviews and in your paper. If you do choose to add questions, limit the number—it is much better to have a conversation with some depth than to take a superficial cut at a long list of questions!

I recommend that you give your interviewees the three central questions in advance so they can think about their answers prior to the interview.
While it is okay to conduct the interviews singly, I recommend that you interview in pairs when you can. Not only does it make the interview more interesting, it usually results in better integration in the final paper (not to mention that you get to meet additional successful leaders!).

The people you interview should be successful senior managers or executives you believe to be very effective in developing themselves and others. One purpose of the project is to give you an opportunity to learn from veteran managers you admire, so be intentional in your selections. This can be an opportunity for you to get to know someone you haven’t worked with before, to understand someone better with whom you have worked, to meet someone in an area of expertise other than your own, or to make a connection in a different function or even organization. Do not interview anyone in the Marshall School administration.
Do not wait until the last minute to do this assignment. It takes time to set up and conduct interviews, and only after those are completed can you integrate what you have learned and write the paper.
The Paper
This is a team project because much of the value in the exercise comes from sharing with each other what you have learned from the interviews and figuring out the implications for your own growth and development. As stated above, the paper should address “growth of self and others,” using relevant course material to clarify, support, or build on the interview results, and concluding with some specific implications for what this might mean for your own development as leaders.
The paper should accomplish the following:

  1. An introduction should begin with a brief discussion of

  • your interpretation of the topic “growth of self and others”

  • a brief statement of why the people you chose to interview were appropriate for the topic (note that the details are supposed to be in the appendices, so this is your general rationale only)

  • succinctly cover what you were looking for if you asked additional questions

  1. The body of the paper should synthesize what your interviewees revealed about how they developed and about how they develop others, drawing on materials from the class as appropriate to show your depth of learning.

  2. In the final section of the paper draw conclusions about the implications of what you learned from the interviews for your own development as leaders. 

NOTE: You may want to read ahead so that you can use future course material to clarify, support, build on, or put perspective around your interview results. Of particular relevance to the topic are the following readings that are assigned in the last part of the course and listed later in the syllabus:

Nagrath, “Foreword: A Senior HR Executive Perspective”

McCall & McHenry, “Catalytic Converters: How Exceptional Bosses Develop Leaders”

Colvin, “How to Build Great Leaders”

McCall, “The Experience Conundrum”

Formatting is Important

  1. Papers can be no more than six double-spaced pages (1 inch margins all around, Times New Roman, 12 point font).

  2. There should be three appendices to the paper:

  • Appendix 1: the interview questions asked, including both the assigned questions and any that you may have added

  • Appendix 2: a list of the people interviewed, their organizations and titles, the reason each was chosen, and who conducted the interview

  • Appendix 3: a summary of each interview (no more than two double-spaced pages for each person interviewed). This is to be a synopsis, not a verbatim recitation of interview questions and responses

Failure to follow formatting guidelines will be taken into account in the grading.  The six page limit for the paper does not include the required appendices and any tables or charts you choose to add. 

Two complete copies of your paper are due at the beginning of Class on October 13.
The Team Grade is Your Grade
Each paper will be read and scored by me and by a qualified independent second reader, using the same criteria. Agreement between the readers will determine your grade. The four criteria are:

  1. Depth of your understanding of the topic “growth of self and others” as stated in the introduction and demonstrated throughout the paper. How appropriate were the people interviewed around this topic? If you asked additional questions, were they thought-provoking and on topic?

  2. How effectively the interview results are presented in the context of the leadership demand “Growth of self and others” and how well are they integrated with course material? (Note: selected quotations from the interviews can be very effective ways to summarize and clarify your central themes.) How well done are the synopses of the individual interviews in the appendix?

  3. How effectively does the paper develop meaningful implications for yourselves—either for developing your own leadership capacity or for helping others develop. Are the implications specific? How logically do they follow from the results presented?

  4. Do the appendices include everything required? Are there any additional tables or charts used to support or enhance the paper?

This is a lot to do in 6 double-spaced pages. Do not short-change the team part of the process where ideas are brought together and the themes/conclusions identified. In the past I have had papers that contained fantastic interviews, both in terms of the people interviewed and what they said (as I could tell from the synopses), but they received mediocre grades because they did a poor job of integrating the results and drawing out the implications.

3. FINAL PAPER (1/3):
The final paper requires you to craft a personal plan for the next stage of your growth as a leader. This paper should draw on material from the entire course, and you may want to include in appendices self-assessments, your life map, etc.-- so hang on to them. You also may want to include materials from outside of the course that you consider relevant, such as past performance evaluations. Detailed instructions for this paper will be distributed in class.
Two complete copies of your paper are due in the M&O Office, 306 Bridge Hall, or my office after hours (306C Bridge), by 6:30pm on December 8.
Cruel experience has taught me that I need to set guidelines for both papers. They must be done in 12-point font, Times Roman or equivalent, double-spaced, with 1-inch margins all around. In other words, please don’t try to defeat the page limits through chicanery.
I do not accept papers submitted on Blackboard or sent by email or fax. Plan accordingly!

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