One of the (many) ways in which Fuqua sets itself apart as an MBA program is the focus on leadership development, evident through its mantra to mold, shape and empower “leaders of consequence.” To support this mission, the Fuqua/Coach K Center on Leadership & Ethics (COLE) was created in 2004, in collaboration with Duke University Athletics and the Kenan Institute for Ethics. There are many ways in which COLE plays an active role in everyday Fuqua life, but one that made a big impact in my last term was the COLE Leadership Cohort Experience (LCE).

LCE is a unique opportunity that runs in Fall 2, Spring 1, and Spring 2, allowing students to interact with C-Level executives and senior managers, as well as fellow students, in a more intimate setting. First-year students who are interested in the program apply during Fall 1, and 125 students are selected to participate in one of the following three terms. I was fortunate to be a member of this last term’s LCE session.

Structure of the Leadership Cohort Experience

Although classes aren’t usually held on Wednesdays, LCE typically meets four Wednesday mornings during the term. During the first session, we were privileged to hear from Joe LeBoeuf and the two second-year students who organized the session. We were also split into small groups of 5, who we would work closely with during the duration of the program.

Before each subsequent meeting, we were sent the bio of the next speaker and were required to read an article that related to the speaker’s topic. Each student came prepared to listen, question, reflect and engage. After a brief introduction, each speaker would present for about 45 minutes, explaining their perspective of leadership and giving examples from their personal and professional life to highlight the points they were making. Since it was a small group, we were allowed and encouraged to ask questions. After the main presentation, we broke out into our small cohort groups and discussed what we learned, the principles that most impacted us, and how our own unique experiences added to the discussion. Each team then had the opportunity to present to the group (which included the speaker) to highlight their main takeaways and learnings. It was inspiring to see the speaker taking notes on what we were saying, proving that even great leaders have opportunities to learn and improve.

Following each meeting, the speakers would typically linger in the classroom to interact with any students that wanted to ask follow-up questions. Also, we were all given access to a message board where we gave our insights and reflections after we had some time to internalize the session.

Speakers and Key Insights

This past term, the three speakers that visited us and the key insights I took away from each session were:

Andrea Hyde – President, C. Wonder. Formerly at French Connection (CEO) and Nicole Farhi, Kenneth Cole, The Gap, Old Navy, Estee Lauder, and Calvin Klein.

  1. Be confident in your abilities.
  2. Take responsibility for the team.
  3. Don’t be afraid to hire someone smarter than you. If they eventually deserve your job over you, then they should get it.

Mike Zafirovski – Founder & President, The Zaf Group LLC. Formerly at Nortel (President & CEO), Motorola (President and COO), and General Electric

  1. You need values and results. Values without results = a failed company. Results without values = no sustainability.
  2. Always put the company and the team above yourself.
  3. As a leader, be transparent and consistent.

Patrick Jordan – Vice-President, Quintiles.

  1. Make sure everyone on the team knows the team’s goals and that they can give the same 30-second pitch. If everyone knows it, everyone will be unified.
  2. Be ‘cool’ in a crisis, but not ‘cold.’ Make sure your team can see you as a human.
  3. It’s better for a leader to know his/her limits than for his/her team to guess at them.

I’m honored to have had the privilege of participating in last term’s Leadership Cohort Experience and would highly recommend it to anyone at all interested in becoming a better leader.