LEADERSHIP TRAINING GROUNDED IN PEOPLE SKILLS
In fact, “leadership” and “self-growth” are far bigger passions for Stanford MBAs than entrepreneurship. Thus far, Kettlun considers the program “more of a Life School than a Business School.” Notably, the program emphasizes ‘people’ skills as a cornerstone of leadership. On the surface, such programming might seem “soft” However, Herrera viewed it as a strength that few schools could match.
“Stanford’s focuses on transformation and development of character through experiential learning,” he observes. “While it is important to be technically strong early in your professional career, leading people becomes increasingly important as you rise through the ranks. I was looking to go to business school to better understand my leadership style and refine it through various experiences. I was attracted to Stanford’s focus on developing empathetic leaders with strong interpersonal skills.”
Song joined the class for a similar purpose as Herrera. She wanted to become an “authentic” leader whose ability to connect would further her ability to sell her vision and boost her teams’ performance as her career progressed.
“I wanted to go to business school to become a better manager and leader, and lead in a style that was authentic and true to my strengths and personality,” she explains. “I was drawn to Stanford because of its emphasis on defining and cultivating personal leadership. Stanford’s classes like Interpersonal Dynamics (known on campus as “Touchy Feely”), Managing Growing Enterprises (answering tough management questions), and Leadership Labs (small group role-playing) have and will help me become a more impactful, authentic, and effective leader.”
FEEDBACK ISN’T FOR THE FAINT OF HEART
In fact, Stanford’s leadership programming takes an entirely new spin on leadership. It starts with the school’s core Leadership Labs course, which are led by one of the school’s 60 Arbuckle Fellows – selected second years who’ve been hand-selected to complete a two quarter course on areas like coaching and mentoring. Guided by faculty, the fellows produce custom experiential content that cover awkward situations like delivering feedback and managing conflict.
Another legendary Stanford course is “Interpersonal Dynamics,” which is better known as “Touchy Feely.” Taught through small group role playing, Touchy Feely is designed to help students gain awareness of how their communication style impacts how they are perceived. It is a tough love course conducted in a safe space, where students receive unfiltered feedback followed by group support. It is a place where students don’t shy away from hard truths – and come back to the next class more determined than ever to better connect with others. In other words, it is an environment where students truly learn. In short, the course exemplifies Stanford’s feedback-driven culture.
“I’ve gotten more feedback in the past two years than I have in my entire life,” Wood admitted after graduating last summer. “Giving personal and professional feedback is deeply ingrained in the Stanford GSB culture. It’s part of every group project, every presentation, and every night out at The Patio, our local dive bar. We’ve grown so accustomed to giving and receiving feedback that we worry our candor will ruffle some feathers in the real world.”
LOWKEY NOTES AND TALK MIXES INTROSPECTION AND PRESENTATION
The GSB could also be described as a ‘confessional culture,’ where courage often means standing up in front of peers to share life-defining events and personal passions. For example, LOWkey Notes is part of a class where students must deliver a 10 minute keynote presentation on – to borrow Stanford’s famous admissions essay question – what matters most to them and why. From the importance of the Midwest to the agonizing search for love, LOWkey Notes left a deep impression on students – and even administrators like Feinberg.
“I was there last week and I had goosebumps,” he admits. “It was tremendously moving – not only the magnitude of challenges that students are willing and able to confront, but the powerful openness that students had as well.”
For most GSB students, the highlight of their two years is TALK. Each Wednesday, you’ll find hundreds of students streaming into the MBA lounge to listen to their peers deliver 30 minute reflections on their personal triumphs, struggles, values, and vision. For presenters, it is a cathartic experience; it is a time for ripping off the facade by revealing their fears and failures –without fear of criticism. For the student audience, it is a time to connect more deeply with peers with whom they have more in common than they thought.
AN EMPHASIS ON INTROSPECTION, VULNERABILITY AND INTENTIONALITY
“I have sat next to a person in class or casually chatted with someone on ten different occasions and then am blown away by the trials they have overcome or by their milestone achievements, says Zachary Ullah, a second year. “I left with the oddly common feeling here of inspiration.
Such rites of passage have already left a mark on the 2019 Class too. Yarlagadda talks up the Stanford GSB culture, where an “emphasis on introspection, vulnerability and intentionality” has enabled her to forge strong bonds with classmates that she now considers family. At the same time, Stacey Christiansen, who’d previously earned a Biology degree at Stanford, has bought into the program’s “strong point of view” on how leadership skills should be developed.
“The GSB creates the most hands-on, dynamic, and real-life experiences both inside and outside the classroom that pushes each of us out of our comfort zone and challenges us to test out new things every day,” she professes. “This environment then attracts the students that seek out challenges like this and are ready to experiment, allowing you to grow personally as well as meet and work alongside the most interesting peers you can imagine.”
SUCCESS MEANS FACING WHAT SCARES THEM…AND DOING IT ANYWAY
So what will success look like to the Class of 2019? At Stanford, business is treated as a force to do good. Mahere, for one, hopes to better understand tech trends in Silicon Valley. That way, he can take this knowledge back to emerging markets to “accelerate that process” of transforming lives. In contrast, Herrera dreams of lining up a team of “rockstar individuals that I have mentored and coached” to help him build a private equity fund.
For others, their measure of success will stay true to the Stanford GSB spirit of gaining self-awareness, projecting authenticity, and pursuing risk. That’s particularly true for Hafner.
“The GSB emphasizes how important it is to know yourself well and encourages us to dig deep, to ask the why’s behind the why’s and to push ourselves into honest introspection,” she points out. “After this first year of business school, I believe that success means knowing oneself fully, not missing the opportunity to dive into one’s own complex, messy, and fascinating inner world and then using that knowledge to move in the outer world with heightened self-awareness, empathy, and purpose.”
For Christensen, success will hinge on risk – and her willingness to take on what might deter most. “Success for me will be to seek out and take on the newest and scariest challenge I can,” she says. I hope to use my time at the GSB to continue to push my boundaries and try things that I previously would not have thought possible.”
To read profiles of incoming Stanford students — along with their advice on tackling the GMAT, applications, and interviews — click on the links below.
|Student||Hometown||Undergraduate Alma Mater||Employer|
|Lian Boerma||Assen, The Netherlands||University of Groningen||EY-Parthenon|
|Stacey Christiansen||Redondo Beach, CA||Stanford University||Medallia|
|Jayce Hafner||Edinburg, VA||Hendrix College||Episcopal Church|
|Dionicio Herrera||New York City, NY||Wharton School||Barclays|
|Ahmad Ibrahim||Cairo, Egypt||American University in Cairo||African Development Bank|
|Felipe Kettlun||Santiago, Chile||Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile||Syspiral Technologies|
|Tawanda Michael Mahere||Harare, Zimbabwe||Beihang University||Jide Technology|
|Julian Nicks||St. Louis, MO||Washington University in Saint Louis||Bain & Company|
|Alex Pruden||Tucson, AZ||United States Military Academy||U.S. Army Special Forces|
|Alice Song||Alpharetta, Georgia||Yale University||Eli Lilly|
|Hiro Tien||Bandar, Brunei||University of Brunei Darussalam||SocialBuzz|
|Chaitra Yarlagadda||Hyderabad, India||Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT)||Unilever|