FYI: You Already Know How to be a Great Leader

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By Courtney Black, MBA ’17

One of the primary reasons I came to business school was to develop leadership skills. While I enjoyed learning about finance, marketing, operations, and everything else in the core curriculum, one of the primary draws for me was being able to better understand the complexities of effective leadership.

When I came across the Ross Leaders Academy (RLA) through the Sanger Leadership Center, I thought it could be a great opportunity to have some structured time to discuss and learn about the topic and understand what it is that makes a great leader.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Working during one of the sessions in the Innovatrium

While I was expecting RLA to give me a playbook and specific advice based on case studies of leaders, one of the surprises of the program is that that’s not really how any of this works.  For us, the process of understanding leadership began by looking into the research surrounding the topic.

We explored how individuals fit into the Michigan Model of Leadership through sessions about its various components: Empathy, Courage, Drive, and Integrity. It was a lot of introspection, most of which came in the form of looking into our past experiences and discussing our values, goals, and what makes us tick.

Working closely with other participants in RLA, who came from schools and programs across the university, gave me the opportunity to hear different perspectives on leadership and helped shape my own sense of how I want to lead.

Learning About Yourself

A memorable moment of the program came in a session where I learned about the impact I have had on other people.

In this particular session, I heard from several people that I have worked with in different capacities about how they saw me at my best as a leader. They shared stories of impressive contributions that I had made to our team, personal stories that I had forgotten about but had left a lasting impression on them, and character traits that they see in me that they do not find in many other people.

They revealed to me many things that I either did not know about myself or took for granted. This exercise drove home the point that leadership styles are as unique and personal as fingerprints.  

These sessions, along with hearing tales of leadership from JFK to Eleanor Roosevelt to a Michigan basketball player, showed me that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to leadership.

You can’t be given a step-by-step guidebook on how to lead. However, leaders know who they are and find a way to lead that best suits them, their values, and personality. I have no doubt that this lesson, in combination with the lessons that I learned in the classroom at Ross, will help me become the leader that I aspire to be.


Courtney Black is a graduate of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business MBA Class of 2017. He currently works as a Marketing Finance Manager for Mars, Inc.

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Courtney Black
MBA '17

Current Role

Marketing Finance Manager,
Mars, Inc