BY ALYSSA HOLCOMB
Professor Gail Berger’s Leading Creative Teams course reinforced more than just class themes and curriculum. Through two group-based projects, as well as an individual leadership presentation, hard work was elevated through teamwork, resulting in a busy but rewarding course that made us all reflect on what truly makes a good leader.
Each group was assigned two projects: a communal paper around two senior leaders of our choice, and a specific case study for which we prepared a 15-minute presentation. My team “En Pointe” was assigned with a case surrounding the choreographer Pina Bausch, hence the dance-themed pun in our team name. From the start, our team had one main goal: work ahead as much as possible. We were all busy balancing our other class demands, securing summer internships, and maintaining part time (or full-time) positions; in our eyes, it was most manageable to work ahead as a team to alleviate stress.
In doing so, and in the process, we learned a lot about each other and how to channel everyone’s inner strengths to make the best outcome possible. In our first class, Prof. Berger spoke about what defines leadership and how authentic leadership shows no “right” way to lead. Instead, there are ways to focus on effective leadership by channeling self-awareness, leveraging strengths and taking the time to reflect and ask questions.
This type of transparency and honesty was something that my team took very seriously. While we balanced a lot of big personalities, we made sure to take the time to ask each person their opinion, how they were feeling and what they thought would be best for them in terms of setting deadlines for the week. These practices kept us all in check with each other – an important aspect of teamwork that I had never experienced in a concentrated form until now.
After our group projects, we were tasked with creating a 1-minute oral presentation based around a picture of our choosing that we felt best represented “leadership.” After nine weeks of group work, I admit that I found it refreshing to work alone on a project to close out the course. However, I did find it challenging to pick a picture that I thought best represented “leadership” through my eyes. Reflecting on the themes that Prof. Berger had discussed in class, I finally settled on something that I thought could drive home what leadership meant to me as both a person and a professional: communication.
In class, we participated in a number of exercises, both in groups and individually, that relied on communication between parties and partners to come to a possible best solution. Whether it was navigating an expedition on Mount Everest or negotiating advertising prices for a news station, we experienced a variety of situations that all incorporate different aspects of leadership skills. The one aspect that I found was common and crucial was communication – to me, it is the building block of leadership. Without it, values would not be apparent and trust may be broken. Communication, to me, means transparency and trust. Communication, to me, is fundamental to leadership – both in the creative sector and beyond.