Leadership development is a core component of the Neeley Executive MBA
program – but can you really learn leadership? Isn’t it just something
you are either good at or not?
Dr. Linda LaCoste, Director of EMBA Student Services and Operations and
faculty for the personal leadership development process at Neeley, explains:
“Leadership development isn’t a course in the program: It’s baked into
every course.” As a student, you become the facilitator, while Neeley provides
content and experiences that let you hone your skills.
An Eye-Opening Exercise
Dr. LaCoste gave us a brief example at the June Preview Luncheon at City
Club of Fort Worth, asking everyone to sort themselves into four different
- North – The
action-oriented people, who’d rather just get started than go over
details. The “fidget spinner” people.
- West – The
logistical people, who want all the details and plenty of time to analyze
- South – The
caring people, who want to build a rapport with their team. The “can’t we
all just get along?” people.
- East – The
big-picture people, innovators who love coming up with big ideas.
Once we were all settled in with the groups we most identified with, Dr.
LaCoste asked us to answer four questions as a group:
- What are your personality
type’s greatest strengths?
- What are your greatest
- Which other type is most
difficult for you to work with?
- What do the other types need
to know to help you work more efficiently?
We talked amongst ourselves awhile, making notes of our collective answers,
nodding and chuckling at how easily we related to each other. Then Dr. LaCoste
asked each group to share one of their answers:
- North said their
strengths were: Getting things done, time management, focus and
- West said their
weaknesses were: Perfectionism, and spending too much time on the
- South said their most
difficult group to work with was: West – “They are too focused on
the details and tend to take advantage of our easygoing personalities.”
(Interestingly, West also named South as their most difficult group: West
sees South’s social pleasantries as an interruption to work).
- East said other
groups could help them this way: “If you shoot down our idea,
give us a reason why. And if you don’t have a better plan, just stick with
It was just a quick exercise, but it illustrated a powerful lesson: Great
leaders not only understand their own strengths and weaknesses; they know how
to identify strengths and weaknesses in their teams – and by extension, to
leverage all kinds of strengths.
Of course, the self-awareness and people agility demonstrated in the
exercise are just two parts of the comprehensive leadership development process
at Neeley. In total, Neeley focuses on 25 leadership competencies identified in
our partnership with Korn Ferry
International – leading experts in executive development. Korn Ferry
assessed more than one million executives across the world, and identified the
leadership styles of the top 20 percent of performers. Out of the competencies
Korn Ferry uncovered, Neeley identified the 25 that were most relevant to our
Dr. LaCoste explained how the program goes in-depth with those competencies.
Before students even attend the introductory in-residence seminar, they take a
variety of assessments including:
- Meyers-Briggs Type
Indicator, a detailed, well-respected personality test (your
spouse is invited to take this as well).
- Voices 360 Assessment,
which surveys your peers, direct reports, boss and even clients to rate
you on a select group of competencies.
- Strength Deployment
Indicator – Shows your motivation as a team member when things
are going well versus when you are under stress.
These assessments provide a detailed baseline for where you stand and where
you need growth. Afterwards, the entire program acts like an incubator for you
to learn how to leverage your strengths and overcome your weaknesses. This
happens in many ways throughout the program, but here are the top three:
- Leadership Coaching
– Neeley partners with seven top-notch leadership coaches, who work one-on-one with you throughout
the program. Using your assessments, your coach helps you choose three
competencies to focus on and helps you develop action items. Many of our
alumni also stay in touch with their coaches after graduation.
- Teams –
Every six months of the program, you’ll be grouped with a different team
of classmates to work on assignments together. At the end of each six
months, you’ll get evaluations from your team, so you can identify
specific strengths and weaknesses and implement improvements with your
next team – which means over the 18 months, you’ll have three levels of
increasing effectiveness as a leader.
- Personal Leadership
Brand – Though the same set of competencies is important for
everyone, Neeley doesn’t force you into a box with everyone else. In the
Leadership Journey Workshop, you’ll map out your unique brand of
leadership – that special combination of talents that sets you apart and
makes you most effective as a leader. That brand map becomes a handy guide
you can use to continue growing as a leader beyond the program.
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