Duke Daytime MBA Student Blog
The Unofficial 5-Step Path to Leadership Success at Fuqua
While salaries and job statistics are quantifiable metrics that allow prospective students to compare business schools, how can you tell if a school will make you a better leader? There isn’t a metric that really defines leadership — and ask any person on the street, and they will give you a different definition of what it means to be a true leader.
In an effort to help you understand the reasons Fuqua is the place to be for leadership development, I have put together this “unofficial” 5-step path that future Fuqua students can follow to become a leader of consequence.
#5 – Fuqua is a Student-Run School
Get ready to be overwhelmed with opportunities.
In my eyes, one of the biggest differentiators at Fuqua is that the school is very much student run. What does that mean? As a future student, you will have immense opportunities to shape the way the school operates and the experiences of your current and future classmates. We all have the chance to leave a legacy. Still wondering how? What if I told you that the admissions interviews and campus visits are heavily organized by student volunteers? What if I told you that this blog you are reading right now is written by students, and we develop many of the story ideas? What if I told you that in addition to receiving guidance from Career Management Center staff, all first-year students are assigned to second-year career mentors? We also receive intense job prep through student run clubs. In addition, the professional clubs hold individual symposiums to not only bring the best speakers to campus, but to also educate current students on new trends in the industry. Finally, the MBA Association (the MBA version of student government) also provides more opportunities to shape your Fuqua experience. The leadership opportunities at Fuqua are immense and very diverse — it is up to you to decide where you want to be a leader.
#4 – Lots of Opportunities
How do I know what is best for me?
I think you get the picture — there are lots of opportunities for leadership — but how do you know what is best for you? Well, it all begins the summer before you start at Fuqua. You will be asked to pass along a leadership survey to your former colleagues to provide anonymous feedback on your leadership, your strengths, and development areas. Using that information as a base, along with a month-long orientation in August, which includes a leadership and ethics class, you will be armed with the information you need to work on your areas of development. In addition, Fuqua provides each student with a leadership journal, and we are encouraged to reflect on where we are, where we want to go, and the steps we will take to get there.
For example, if your survey feedback says you need to work on mentoring, maybe you should take on a role as a mentor through Fuqua2Duke, which pairs MBA students with Duke undergrad mentees. Does your feedback say that you need to work on project management skills? Then maybe you take on a club leadership role where you will be responsible for managing work across multiple work streams.
By arming you with feedback and by teaching you how to approach filling the gaps in your leadership skills, Fuqua provides you with the opportunity to develop into a better leader.
I chose to get highly involved with the High Tech Club as a first-year because it was a deep area of interest and passion for me, and I wanted to meet other students with that similar interest. As a second-year, I chose to get involved as a COLE Leadership Fellow, which provided an opportunity for personal leadership development and the ability to coach first years to think about leadership.
#3 – School is Intense During the First Year
Who will guide and coach me?
As a result of the Fuqua/Coach K Center on Leadership and Ethics (COLE), each first-year student and team is assigned to a COLE Leadership Fellow. The fellow’s role is to help guide and coach each first-year team so they remain high functioning. The COLE Leadership Fellow meets with each team 5 times over the course of the Fall and Spring terms and leads discussions on feedback, goals, and other relevant topics. Read more about this in Sarah’s blog post.
The COLE Fellow also coaches each individual first-year student through using a Personal Development Plan (PDP). The PDP is a document that helps each student set very tactical and specific goals for everything from recruiting, academics, or life. By making the leadership development process a specific part of the curriculum, Fuqua provides an end-to-end leadership development experience.
While your COLE Leadership Fellow is one coach, you will end up with many coaches! You’ll have a Career Fellow, who is a second-year student dedicated to helping you with your career development. In addition, faculty and peers take on unofficial coaching roles based on your interests and passions. The Fuqua community is unbelievable in terms of the availability of people who are committed to your growth — it is up to you to express your interests and find these people!
#2 – I Crushed my Internship & I’m Back as a Second-Year
How can I become an even better leader?
In the Fall of your second year, you will come back to campus for CLEAD-2, which builds on the orientation you completed as a first-year. While the topics may be familiar, the experiential aspects allow you to use all the skills and experiences you have gained over the previous year. You’ll also think about how you will make the most of your last year of business school, and create a transformational experience. The 3-day CLEAD-2 event puts you in uncomfortable business situations dealing with conflict, ethical grey areas, and courageous leadership. Each experience is meant to push students to think about how much they have grown and how they can use the time they have left at Fuqua to continue their leadership journey. For many, these situations will be an opportunity to practice how they may deal with a difficult situation in a work environment and provides students a safe place to have deep discussions on a variety of topics. At the end of the day, this experience provides more opportunities to practice your leadership in a safe and protected setting, and to get feedback. Eventually, we all will be faced with difficult decisions in the real world, and it’s great to have the opportunity to practice while in business school.
#1 – My Fuqua Experience is Over …
Am I a leader of consequence?
There isn’t a certificate at the end of your Fuqua MBA that grants you “leader of consequence” status. However, the 2-year journey will provide a ton of opportunities to develop yourself and your classmates, so together you become better and more equipped leaders. At the end of day, it is up to you to decide if you want to take the leadership journey or not. In my eyes, Fuqua provides an opportunity to make your MBA experience truly transformational. You have the opportunity to diagnose your weaknesses, chart a path to overcome or build on them, and then practice these skills so they become strengths. The Fuqua experience has been a transformational experience for me. It has allowed me the space to identify my leadership style, figure out what I want out of my career in the short- and long-term, and allowed me time to think about how my activities impact my personal purpose. I hope you will also follow the path, and allow it to be a transformational leadership development experience for you as well.