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idea exchange Leading and Learning Involve CEOs directly in the design and delivery of a course in strategic leadership Location Xavier University's Williams College of Business in Cincinnati, Ohio The Course Who better to design a course on strategic leadership than business leaders? That's the premise of a course that Williams College has delivered in its executive MBA program—and integrated into its executive MBA capstone course in strategy—since 2008. CEOs don't just act as guest lecturers—they contribute to everything from the syllabus content and course delivery to reading selections and class presentations. "Students have an opportunity to witness leadership firsthand," explains Hema Krishnan, associate dean, professor of management and entrepreneurship, and instructor for the course. She adds that the course's design allows her students to engage with the CEOs on a personal level, participate in experiential learning, build their professional networks, and sometimes even find jobs after graduation. In addition, the school builds strong, long-lasting partnerships with the CEOs and their organizations. 72 May/June 2013 BizEd How It's Structured A few months before the class begins, Krishnan shares her syllabus with the CEO participants, for their review and input. Several weeks before class begins, she divides her students into teams and assigns each team an executive to work with. Each team then conducts research on its CEO, including a personal interview at his or her organization, and holds conversations with the CEO's direct reports, who share their insights on the leadership style of their boss. The teams discuss their interview questions with Krishnan beforehand. Each week during the semester, a CEO visits the class to give a two-hour presentation; the team assigned to that executive leads the hourlong discussion that follows. The CEO also lets the team know the title of a favorite book or article on leadership beforehand, which the team weaves into the discussion. Students in the course have read classic business books such as Resonant Leadership by Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee and Good to Great by Jim Collins, as well as unexpected texts such as Killer Angels, a novel by Michael Shara set during the U.S. Civil War. At the end of the semester, students submit papers in which they reflect on what lessons they've learned. Krishnan also contacts each CEO for suggestions on how to improve the course before its next offering. The Executive Perspective The executives represent a range of global, national, and regional organizations in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors. Because of their varied experiences and philosophies, the CEOs offer students a fairly comprehensive view of leadership, says Krishnan. "They discuss how to articulate a vision for an organization, communicate an action plan to stakeholders, act with integrity, and build and nurture a strong culture," she says. "They also emphasize little things that are often ignored, such as how writing a sincere handwritten thank-you note or showing interest in subordinates can go a long way toward establishing credibility as a leader." Maribeth Rahe, CEO of Cincinnati-based Fort Washington Investment Advisors, has participated in the course for the past five years. The experience "gives me the opportunity to see the caliber of midlevel executives and determine why they've decided to get MBAs," she says. "They benefit from concrete, practical learning, and I get the fun of going back into the classroom!" Sally E lfor d/G etty I mages The Idea

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