Infusing Leadership Into Business Education Programs

Infusing Leadership Into Business Education Programs

Business schools approach leadership in a variety of ways. These three schools are uniquely integrating leadership throughout the curriculum.

AACSB’s Redesigning the MBA: A Curriculum Conference just wrapped up on Tuesday in Indianapolis, Indiana. One of the recurring topics shared by attendees at the conference was the difficulty of teaching leadership skills through traditional pedagogy. Some hold that leadership is not even a skill that can be taught but rather something intrinsic to one’s personality. However, the overwhelming feeling that I walked away with was that leadership is something that business schools are indeed teaching—and teaching successfully. Leadership is approached in a variety of ways. One presenter shared that leadership should be taught early, in a standalone course, to stamp its importance for students. Yet, some schools integrate leadership concepts throughout the curriculum. The following are three examples of schools tackling leadership in very different ways, drawn from AACSB’s Innovations That Inspire collection.

BAT Program

Saginaw Valley State University, College of Business and Management (United States)

In the BAT Program, four teams of three business students each coordinate Arts and Theater students to develop a mural, provide skits, actively incorporate the community, and make a public presentation about strategies for developing Downtown Saginaw. To increase the leadership challenge, no time is specifically set for the BAT teams to meet. The business students must separately set up virtual team meetings, develop an overall vision, and implement their action plans. The joint BAT teams interact with the Saginaw County United Way, who provides funding for the Downtown Event arena and ideas for downtown development as well as helps to obtain a downtown location for the final mural, which is a blend of the four team murals. The Joint BAT also met with the youth in First Ward Community Center, located in downtown. The final program was a two-hour public presentation to an estimated 300-plus audience. Expert judges evaluated the final murals, skits, and the overall integrative integrity of public presentations.

The BAT program helps business students directly experience and hone their leadership and team-building skills by accomplishing a challenging task in a public setting. The program also enhances the students’ time management and virtual team management skills and highlights what can be accomplished through team diversity.

The Leadership App

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kenan-Flagler Business School (United States)

The Leadership App includes interactive content about UNC’s leadership methodology and offerings across all programs, student profiles showing different leadership development paths, and a leadership library featuring insights and articles from the school and other publishers. Through interactive content, videos, and examples, the app guides current MBA students through the diverse offerings of the Leadership Program so they can create individual development plans. It also serves as a course portal for the off-campus Leadership immersion—the first mobile course app at UNC—which began last March.

The Leadership App first launched as an iPad app and was followed by iPhone and Android versions. It showcases the breadth and depth of the Leadership Program at UNC Kenan-Flagler to attract prospective students and recruiters who hire them as well as to act as a road map for current students along their academic and professional development journeys.


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, College of Business (United States)

The College of Business at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign offers a MOOC-based MBA program with focuses on strategic leadership. The iMBA involves a blend of intimate cohort experience (University of Illinois) and open (Coursera) systems that brings the power of MOOCs into a traditional MBA classroom. iMBA dismantles silos by creating non-discipline-based specializations that students can choose from to build toward their MBA. Course content reflects the way the business world works and draws from various educational units on campus as well as business executives from companies such as Google. Students from around the world can take the iMBA courses on the Coursera platform (self-directed model) or from the University of Illinois platform (high-engagement model).

The goal of the iMBA is to create a global footprint that will make an impression on communities around the world that are positively impacted by the business leaders and entrepreneurs being prepared—the leaders and entrepreneurs who will have the know-how to revive flagging businesses and economies and communities and who will play a role in reinvigorating local, national, and international economies.

About Innovations That Inspire

These examples are part of a larger collection of Innovations That Inspire. From October 15 through November 20, 2015, AACSB member schools were invited to share ways in which they have challenged the status quo. Nearly 300 innovations were submitted from more than 200 institutions across 35 countries—an array of inspirations that illustrates an impressive commitment to engagement, innovation, and impact. Thirty of these innovations were initially highlighted at the 2016 Deans Conference and are currently available for public browsing.