mba students
41 new COLE Leadership Fellows are wide awake and ready for a full day of training, after being inspired by Professor Joe LeBoeuf.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of just going through the motions as an MBA student and making it a very “transactional” period in our lives. In retrospect, I have made the mistake of simply attending class, participating sporadically in a few extracurricular events, and thinking casually, if at all, about trying to develop my leadership skills while giving back to Fuqua. After speaking with Professor Joe LeBoeuf, head of Fuqua’s Leadership Development Program, I realized how ambivalent my attitude had been toward my overall development, and was inspired to write my previous blog post on leadership.

Through our Consequential Leadership (C-Lead) classes with Prof. LeBoeuf, my classmates and I have had several opportunities to assess our current leadership skills and determine which areas need improvement, but introspection quickly gets pushed to the side when accounting or finance assignments are due. Last August, I thought I’d have plenty of time to discern what I needed to do to become a more effective leader and well-rounded person, but earlier this year, I felt like I was already severely behind the curve. Luckily, there was time during the spring terms for me to raise my hand and take ownership of clubs and organizations to which I can contribute most.

Taking Steps to Become a Leader of Consequence

My resolution for this year was to decide how I can make Fuqua a better place by committing my time and abilities to organizations that I am passionate about. For starters, I volunteered to become Co-Chair of Fuqua’s Leading Women Organization, which is a new joint initiative between the MBA Association and Student Life Office, dedicated to fostering connections among women leaders on campus. I have only been “in charge” for a few months, and I already appreciate the amount of time and effort leading a club requires! I’ve hosted several events this spring, and while the planning portion is getting a little easier, I always get nervous that something will go wrong on the big day! Luckily, I have a great Co-Chair and the support of Fuqua staff, which has helped me to learn that I don’t have to do everything by myself — a lesson in leadership that is crucial to success.

Students navigate through a “minefield” at COLE Fellows training.

Another step I’m taking in fulfilling my resolution is becoming a COLE Leadership Fellow — we are students who are chosen to work with the Fuqua/Coach K Center on Leadership and Ethics, and we are guided by Prof. LeBoeuf to help shape leadership development for other Daytime MBA students. When I first arrived at Fuqua, I didn’t have the slightest bit of interest in becoming a COLE Fellow. It seemed like a large time commitment, and it’s unpaid!

COLE Fellows are all second-year students, and I didn’t think that they would be able to help me become a better leader — I had been in the Navy, after all. But, like it or not, my first-year C-Lead team was assigned to a COLE Fellow, Dionne, and luckily, I had a wonderful experience with her. I understood that she wasn’t just there to help me develop my leadership skills, but to ensure that I was taking enough time to think about my personal happiness and whether I was actually transforming into the person who I want to be.

It isn’t easy to corral a team of 6 people together to talk about their feelings, stress levels, and any other issues they may be facing, but that is exactly what being a COLE Fellow is about. It is also about giving people an outlet for their concerns or frustrations during a hectic time in their lives, which is a necessary skill not only at Fuqua, but in the real world as well.

COLE Fellows are the backbone of Fuqua’s leadership program because they are the impetus behind so many leadership opportunities for students, like the Leadership Cohort Experience and BOLD. I want to be a part of an organization whose sole mission is to promote leadership within our community while also maximizing cohesion within C-Lead teams, which is exactly what I would be able to do as a COLE Fellow, so wish me luck as I work on my leadership style this summer, in anticipation of meeting my C-Lead teams in September!

mba students
Matt Ganderson hands RJ Fox a board to help him reach an “island.” The team building exercise was part of COLE Fellows training.

I am lucky that I was able to personally speak with Prof. LeBoeuf before the end of my first year, because I gained insights into the disparity between what I wanted out of Fuqua and what I was actually doing at Fuqua. During the next year, I will actively seek out leadership roles, both formal and informal, within the Fuqua and Duke community in order to give back to a school that has given me so much already, and to position myself successfully in the real world. And hopefully, I’ll have time for a round or two of golf at the WaDuke (Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club)!