By Joe Giovannetti
“What makes a great leader?”
The students of the MSLCE 2016-2017 cohort pondered this question on the first day of their spring semester elective, “Leading Creative Teams.” Many of the students were excited to enroll in this class, after first meeting Gail Berger in the fall for a Professional Teamwork Seminar. Now, in that moment, they worked together to come up with a list of qualities that make a great leader, and those that make a “not-so-great” leader.
However, they quickly found that not all agreed on which column each item belonged in.
Berger’s ultimate goal for “Leading Creative Teams” is to help each student identify, define, and articulate their own “Vision of Leadership.” A passionate and engaging professor, Berger is never one to stick solely to traditional, 3-hour lectures. Every week, the class engaged in an in-depth learning activity that tested their strengths and weaknesses as a leader.
The activities varied in length, style, and intensity, but were always active: One week, the class banded in small groups to try and survive a climb to the top of Mount Everest in an online simulation.
Another, the team spent the entire lecture learning how to set their partners up to succeed by saying “Yes, And” in an Improv Fundamentals workshop. The final unit focused heavily on negotiation techniques, where students were pit against their peers in several rounds of negotiation situations.
Outside of class, the students were assigned in small groups of 5-6 to people that would become their main team for the quarter. These teams worked together to bond through ice-breaker activities, analyze a specific leadership case and present that case to the class, and interview/report on noteworthy senior leaders in the creative enterprises of their choosing.
On the final day of class, students took what they had learned from the 9-weeks and presented their “Vision of Leadership” to the class. The students had free reign to present their vision in whichever format they wish, and the results illustrated the innovative potential of this particular cohort: presentations ranged from rapping, to photo-series, original ukulele compositions, bundles of Shakespeare quotes, and even a live appearance from a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich. The students had fun watching their peer’s ideas in actions, while at the same time gaining clear insight into what each person’s unique idea of leadership means.
After the presentations, the cohort was sad to say goodbye to Berger, but thankful for all that they had learned. They hope to use these activities to guide their professional experiences as they now head off into their summer internships.