The School’s Program on Social Intelligence (PSI) has recently launched several initiatives to develop students’ leadership capabilities.
A new initiative called Action Learning takes students out of their comfort zone to learn the collaboration skills used by firefighting teams, mountaineering expeditions, and restaurant kitchens. Action Learning Ventures are single-day extracurricular trainings that present students with team challenges at off-campus sites such as the FDNY’s Randall’s Island training facility, the Shawangunk Ridge upstate, and Institute of Culinary Education. Sessions are led by experts in each respective field, who use these team challenges as cases to illustrate more general collaboration and leadership techniques.
PSI is also launching courses with an action-learning emphasis. The Patagonia Leadership Expedition is a course that centers on a nine-day expedition on a mountain in Chilean Patagonia. Each student serves as the designated leader of their climbing team for a day on the mountain and must make decisions, delegate duties, and maintain morale. Other days, students support their team’s success as an active follower. Trainers from the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) provide daily feedback. On-campus sessions before the trip prepare students through cases and simulations that clarify the Chilean economic context, the ecotourism industry, and the dynamics of team decision making.
Another new PSI course that stays closer to home is The Leader’s Voice, a performance-oriented seminar on the types of communication central to contemporary leadership: storytelling, coaching, public speaking, elevator pitches, networking, and running meetings. Each class challenges students to perform and provides peer and video feedback.
“These classes fit the PSI mission — they draw leadership lessons from fields outside of standard business education through first-hand experiences, not just cases and lectures,” said Michael Morris, the Chavkin-Chang Professor of Leadership and head of PSI.
Morris added that PSI played a role in the new core curriculum launched this year. A redesigned Management core class called “Lead: People, Teams, and Organizations,” taught during the pre-term was closely integrated with two pre-term PSI streams: “Leading Teams” delivered by student Peer Advisors and “Navigating Careers” delivered by the Career Management Center (CMC). The class built on the teamwork concepts that Peer Advisors had introduced to students in their new Learning Teams. The course used CMC’s Alumni Career Networking event as a case for illustrating the functions of social networks.
Grounded in psychological research, PSI imparts techniques and frameworks for students in managing and leading individuals, teams, and networks. PSI sponsors programs to teach students leadership skills from the engaging experiences of the School’s MBA program: collaborating with their cluster and learning team, conducting a career search and facing recruiters, and taking on responsibilities in student Clubs and Advisor roles. The latest offerings add to PSI-integrated courses and activities already woven throughout the Columbia MBA student experience — from orientation to reunions, in core and elective classes, career management programs, and extracurricular clubs.
“PSI is premised on continuous lifelong learning. Leadership capability cannot be developed overnight or even in a single semester,” Morris said. “MBA students’ leadership capability grows continually through the many different streams of curricular and extracurricular activities that students engage in at the School, like a river which gets broader and broader from the confluence of many streams.”