Leadership: A Lifelong Endeavor


As we welcome our students back to school for the start of fall semester, many of them are participating in activities designed to develop their abilities as leaders. Whether our students are new undergraduates who are leading a team of peers for the first time or seasoned graduate students who are honing their ability to create and lead high performance teams, each of our students has an opportunity to develop as a leader during their time at Michigan Ross.

I view learning to lead as an ongoing, lifelong journey. Rarely a day goes by when I don't find myself learning new lessons or encountering new challenges that make me a better leader—and I encourage each of our students to take a similar view, not just while here at Ross, but throughout their careers. This concept of leadership is core to our Michigan Model of Leadership, which is embedded in every educational program we offer. The idea that leadership is a journey is equally applicable to 18-year-old undergraduates, graduate students, senior executives, and everyone in between. The Michigan Model of Leadership emphasizes the idea that leadership is not a position or a formal title, but rather a set of skills and behaviors that anyone can learn and practice, whether or not they are formally “in charge” of others.

Business, perhaps more than any other institution, has the ability to fundamentally shape our world. The future impact of business on the world we live in rests in the hands of tomorrow’s business leaders who are joining the ranks of today’s business school students in great numbers. When one considers that more than 500,000 graduate and undergraduate business degrees are conferred each year*, that is an enormous wave of students who will be the leaders of tomorrow.

As educators, we have a responsibility to teach students not only the fundamentals of the functional areas of business but also to prepare them to be effective and ethical leaders who will use the power of business to create the kind of society that we all want to live in. In short, we need to ask ourselves not only what do students need from us, but what does the world need from our students?

This is why at Ross, our mission is to develop leaders who make a positive difference in the world. In order to make that statement truly meaningful for our students, we have created leadership experiences that are immersive, impactful, and long-lasting.

Perhaps the best example of that is the Ross Leadership Initiative (RLI), which held its annual Impact Challenge for MBAs and BBAs as part of the students’ first week back to school. One of the most ambitious and immersive leadership development programs of its kind, the Impact Challenge is action-based leadership learning for our students that also gives back to the Detroit community. While each year the challenge takes a slightly new twist, the one constant is that the students are completely immersed in the project and spend each day with Ross faculty, special guest speakers, and members of the Detroit community who bring real experiences and powerful voices about the role of leaders in organizations. In addition to the Impact Challenge, RLI offers several other major initiatives, three learning communities, and a variety of skill-based workshops to serve more than 3,000 students across eight academic programs annually. These unique opportunities help ensure that our students are not only willing to lead, but also fully prepared to do so.

The newly-revamped Ross BBA Program is a good example of how we incorporate leadership learning directly into the curriculum. This fall, incoming BBAs will start by considering the role of business in society through a new, required course called Businesses and Leaders: The Positive Difference. This new course orients BBA students around the concept that business can make a positive impact and help solve the world’s toughest challenges. Students will study concepts from multiple perspectives to learn the relationships between the corporate, public and nonprofit sectors. When combined with the action-based learning elements we’ve added to the program, our BBAs will be better positioned to lead with confidence upon graduation.

Ongoing leadership training is also becoming increasingly important for executives, who, although well-established leaders already, wisely seek opportunities to enhance and modernize their skills through our Executive MBA and Executive Education Programs.

One of the most highly-regarded elements of our Executive MBA degree is the Leadership Development Program (LDP). Designed by Professor Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, the LDP is a personalized and powerful leadership tool. At the outset of the program, students create their own leadership development plan through individualized executive coaching, guided self-assessment, 360-degree feedback, and more. Throughout the program, they work on the plan and gain the skills, tools, and insight to maximize leadership effectiveness.

The tradition of leadership excellence is one of the main reasons why leaders turn to Ross for our Executive Education Program. These programs, offered here in Ann Arbor and in cities throughout the world and led by some of the most highly-respected leadership experts in the country, are firmly rooted in the fact that the best leaders never stop learning. Our faculty members engage each participant with valuable leadership insights which are grounded in research and designed to generate real and immediate results, for both the leader and their organization. An excellent example this is the Positive Leadership Program, an intensive, five-day program where executives learn to further leverage unique leadership strengths and stimulate performance gains in others. We hear time and again from participants that they found the program transformational and highly practical, as they gained powerful tools to increase employee engagement, transform organizational culture and drive innovation and change.

Regardless of program or initiative, each of these educational elements are made even more powerful thanks to Ross faculty who are world-renowned leadership experts and share their insights in each of our degree and Executive Education programs.

I find this time of year inspiring and look forward to hearing stories throughout the year of students and alumni who are extraordinary leaders as a result of their experience here at Ross. Leadership is a lifelong endeavor. At every age and at every point in your career — never stop learning, and never stop striving to be a better leader for you and for your team. The best leaders know that and embrace every opportunity to strengthen their leadership skills.


*According to the National Center for Education Statistics

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