London Business School announced the launch of its cross-discipline Leadership Institute last Wednesday (February 3). Drawing in faculty from organizational behavior, economics and marketing, the new institute will focus on developing leaders who appeal to the heart as well as the head.
“That’s exactly the point,” says Randall Peterson, a professor of organizational behavior and director of the institute. “Of course if you’ve got an MBA you can put your head on and do what you’re meant to do. But to be a great business leader, you have to grab people by the heart. You have to understand psychological and technical leadership. And that’s what we’re trying to promote.”
David Myatt, a professor of economics, Nader Tavassoli, a professor of marketing and Peterson will round out the institute’s advisory board. The main purpose of the institute will be to foster leadership research and “incubate new thinking.” The research produced will rest on the three pillars of “Diversity: return on inclusion, leading effective organizations and the future of leadership.”
“Those are the areas we’ve been collecting from major companies,” explains Peterson. We’ve made those areas the core of the institute and encourage the faculty to research and give good answers to.”
Organizational psychology and effectiveness expert, Vyla Rollins, will serve as the executive director of the institute. “It is our aspiration to contribute to accelerating the impact individuals can have, given the business and leadership challenges they face,” Rollins, who has been a strategic organizational effectiveness consultant for more than three decades, said in a release from the school. “In our view, this involves not only promoting learning about leadership but creating experiences to develop the capabilities required to lead effectively and dynamically. Our desire is to be a driving force in the world to help individuals connect with the reality that effective leadership is not just a ‘nice-to-have’, but that it is a business and global imperative.”
STRATEGIC LESSONS FROM THE 2014 RYDER CUP
The institute will be available and open to students across programs at London Business School as well as executive education students. Along with research, the institute will offer competitions, case clinics, case studies, incubator projects and various events. Peterson is quick to tick off examples of cases already being written by the researchers. One of those has to do with the 2014 Ryder Cup, a golf dual between Europe and the United States.
In the 2014 Ryder Cup, Europe team captain Paul McGinley, was able to take a ragtag team of Europeans and beat the Americans by knowing his individual golfers and strategically matching them against the Americans. “What he did incredibly well was using a lot of data for each personal golfer and come up with a clever set of strategies and for each individual and it helped them worked together.”
Peterson says McGinley’s case is a pertinent example to the research and work at the institute because it focuses on technical skills like strategy but also involves many decisions of the heart. “It has to do with employee engagement,” believes Peterson. “The heart piece in this case is to truly know and be clear on who you are and also have a good understanding on the other people you’re managing to get the best out of everyone.”
A CALL FOR A LESS ‘MACHINE’-LIKE MANAGER
The focus on softer management skills is part of a greater effort from the school to do the same, says Peterson. “MBAs might have a reputation of being technical or cold, but we’re trying to change that by considering what impact one person has on other people they’re working with,” insists Peterson. According to Peterson, all entering MBAs at London Business School now come armed with a 360 degree employee review from their previous employer. The school has also developed a soft skills “compentency framework” that is used in all degree programs to provide assessments and feedback throughout the programs, Peterson says. “We want to measure students on these motivational and softer skills throughout their time here,” says Peterson.
An example Peterson gives of the institute’s work in this area is the “return on inclusion” pillar. “How do you take inclusion further and turn diversity of professional and personal backgrounds into a potential source of competitive advantage? In a nutshell, it’s about authenticity and being a real human being–not just a person who acts like a machine,” believes Peterson.
RESOURCE TO BE MADE AVAILABLE ONLINE FOR FREE
But perhaps the most beneficial aspect to the new institute, Peterson says, is that all cases developed and leadership materials will be available free online for anyone in the world with internet access. Peterson says they will also be producing short videos of interviews with leaders of major organizations that visit campus, which will also be posted on the institute’s website and may be viewed for free.
“What excites me most is the opportunity to promote leadership and make the world a better place,” admits Peterson. “LBS has a long history of great leadership research but we haven’t got it out there. And this is a good way to have an impact and get the leadership at LBS out into the world for many to benefit from.”