Chapel Hill Immersion: Leadership Development - Day One







With over 320 students, this year's immersion at Chapel Hill was the largest to date. Two hundred and twenty-six of these students were enrolled in the Leadership Development tracks, where sessions covered everything from identifying and practicing ethical behavior to maximizing your skill set and performing well under pressure. Let's take a closer look at day one:

Ethical Leadership

Professor Jeff Edwards, Belk Distinguished Professor of Organizational Behavior, UNC Kenan-Flagler

In the kickoff session on ethical leadership, University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School professor Jeff Edwards challenged the students to practice moral and ethical leadership in their daily work, an effort that goes beyond just determining what is legal or illegal.

With 94 percent of workers saying it is “critical” or "important" that the company they work for is ethical, it's never too early for students to assess their own approach to ethical gray areas. As one student pointed out, things like “little white lies” may seem like small infractions, but could be indicative of worsening behavior at a later date.

Professor Edwards introduced both the utilitarian approach to ethics, which suggests that morally good actions are those that bring the most benefit with least amount of harm, and the formalist approach, which concerns the extent to which our actions themselves can be considered ethical. Students then broke into small groups where they were presented with three hypothetical ethical gray areas and tasked with defining how utilitarian and formalist approaches would handle each.

The session rounded out with a look at some real-life case studies such as the 1970s Ford Pinto recall or the more recent Toyota window hinge recall. In the case of the latter, students used a utilitarian approach to determine that no recall was necessary, but were pleasantly surprised to learn that Toyota had cited consumer trust and company integrity when issuing a voluntary recall, a good reminder that not every ethical dilemma can be viewed in black and white. As Professor Edwards put it, "the tough decisions in life involve choosing right vs. right, not right vs. wrong." It was a lesson students took to heart as they continued on with the immersion.

[Friday's] 'Ethical Leadership' session, led by Professor Edwards, provided a much-needed reminder about the importance of discussing and thinking through moral dilemmas that we face each day. As a manager, I encounter situations and decisions that require me [to] weigh the needs of one group against many others, and I sometimes struggle to find the right or best answer. The session did a nice job of helping me frame ethical dilemmas, and gave me the language to use when navigating murky ethical waters. Interesting, applicable sessions such as this one underscore why I attend every immersion that I can. The lessons you take away, particularly from discussions with classmates and professors, are simply invaluable.

— Megan Salmon, July 2013 Cohort

Executing Strategy Through People

Professor Dave Roberts, Assistant Professor of Marketing, UNC Kenan-Flagler

UNC Kenan-Flagler professor Dave Roberts spoke to students about how best to execute strategy through other people, keeping in mind that others will always ask “what is in it for me?” He shared the key strategy leadership roles: “architects,” who communicate strategy, “translators,” who create meaning and “doers,” who implement and take action.

Professor Roberts asked students to consider their own time allocation between these three roles and challenged them to change the balance if they didn't like what they found. For example, many new managers have a hard time letting go of the doing/implementing piece but that can take valuable time and energy away from their new responsibilities.

Students brainstormed other reasons a leader's time allocation might be skewed, including the fact that leaders might have to stop something else to take on new responsibility, may face limited resources, may not have the time to properly “hand off” tasks, might fear change and may be comfortable being known for a certain value-add. Professor Roberts challenged the students to make time for key things, as appropriate time allocation is one of the best ways to get where they want to be. He cautioned, however, that rearranging a calendar or schedule is a self-driven action and that true leaders must also know how to motivate others to work towards the same goals. In order to make strategy happen, leaders must take into account both their employees' motivation styles (self vs. external) and ability levels. Most important, he said, is hiring employees with the appropriate attributes. As Professor Roberts put it, “you can develop competencies but you can not develop attributes. Seek out employees with attributes.”

I took Professor Roberts' "Leading in the Middle" course this past term and it was so great to finally meet him in person. He is such an animated and engaging instructor; it was so fun to see him in action. His lecture [Friday] offered very practical information on how to effectively communicate in a professional setting. I also found his guidance on gaining influence in the workplace to be something that I will take away and actively apply in my current position. These immersions offer a great opportunity to ask questions of the professors face-to-face. I have also found they are a good way to get to know classmates and professors personally and outside of the "classroom." Professor Roberts' session was thought-provoking and really drew everyone into the conversation. I am looking forward to using what I learned.

— Danielle Nastro, January 2013 Cohort

For more about the MBA@UNC Global Immersions, see our post on Chapel Hill day two and three or catch up on the events of previous immersions.