Podcast: Business Beyond Usual
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Episode 804 — Learning to Lead and Leading Learning

On this episode of the Business Beyond Usual podcast, Full-Time MBA students John Brown, MBA ’24, Victoria Rudnicki, MBA ’25, and Denny Lai, MBA ’24, sit down with Jeff Domagala, Managing Director of the Sanger Leadership Center at the Ross School of Business, to discuss leadership. Exploring their own experiences learning how to lead at Michigan Ross, the panel dives into leadership philosophies, the resources available to MBA students, and more. 

In the conversation, Domagala elaborates on the hands-on leadership training at the Sanger Leadership Center, underscoring its real-world applications. Meanwhile, the students share personal anecdotes from their leadership journey at Ross, highlighting how they've effectively applied these learned strategies. The conversation brings out the myriad resources offered to FTMBA students at Ross - from mentorship programs to leadership workshops - and provides insights into the leadership fabric at Michigan Ross.

In the first part of the conversation, the panel focuses on a definition of what leadership is not: selfishness, control, and mere titles, emphasizing that leadership is about service and benefitting teams and organizations. They further discuss the goals and benefits of the MBA Council and Sanger's leadership initiatives and the difference between management and leadership. The panel expressed that while managers may not always be leaders, leadership is a choice and involves moving people into action.

“Sometimes you can be a leader as a manager, but I believe some managers are not leaders. And I think leadership is a choice,” said Jeff Domagala.  “The difference between how I think about management and leadership is moving people to action. And to do that, I think you have to motivate, you have to inspire, you have to get to know people. And to be able to do that, you have to unleash what it means to build trust and psychological safety in environments. People aren't going to just follow you or listen to your command. They might get work done, but you might not create an engaged, positive workforce that will continue to get to those results every time or a team committed to staying. So I think we have to think a lot about our people as we drive results, and I think leaders do that.”

In the second half of the episode, the panel discusses the importance of developing leaders who impact their teams and organizations. Jeff explains the role of the Sanger Leadership Center at Ross in facilitating skills for self-awareness, communication, emotional intelligence, and leading teams. The panel shares their experiences with self-paced leadership programs at Ross and the importance of self-reflection and self-awareness in becoming influential leaders. They all agree that pursuing leadership positions outside regular roles and interacting with diverse individuals can help hone leadership skills.

To close the episode, the group discusses what leadership means to them. A few common themes were how leaders build relationships, motivate and empower team members, collaborate and leverage relationships to achieve goals, and emphasize understanding the needs of a team or individual. 


 Have thoughts about topics we should cover, or just want to get in touch? 

Send us an email at [email protected].

 Want to hear more from Ross students, faculty, and alumni? 
Check out more of our podcasts. 

Business Beyond Usual LogoWorking for the Weekend: A deep dive into the daily life of part-time MBAs at Michigan Ross. Weekend and online MBA students discuss their experiences and advice for prospective and current students.

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About the participants

Hosts: John Brown and Victoria Rudnicki

Guest:  Jeff Domagala and Denny Lai 

Executive Producers: John Brown, David Amorim, Arpit Sharma, and JT Godfrey

Audio Engineer: Jonah Brockman