Can 'Leadership' Be Taught?

Developing innovative, principled, and insightful leaders who change the world is not for the meek, but it is part of our mission at Stanford.

Research suggests that for most people, developing as a leader entails a fundamental transformation. It involves reexamining beliefs and assumptions that they hold about their professional identity, their role, the tasks they perform, and the people they work with. Leadership encompasses both complex competencies and unspoken mindsets that color the way people look at the world and view their roles and responsibilities within it.

As a result, traditional forms of teaching often fail to challenge students in a way that provokes such self-examination. Rather, we seek to provide challenging experiences that, combined with conceptual frameworks, enable students to build a greater capacity for leadership.

A Leadership Transformation

The Stanford MBA Program has always been grounded in general management knowledge. With the launch of a new curriculum in 2007, it places a greater emphasis than ever on personal development, building the capacity of students to lead teams in complex organizational environments. The program begins with students taking General Management Perspectives and General Management Foundations courses primarily in the first year, and MBA electives in the second year.

Several components of the first year curriculum focus on the challenges that students will face as leaders, and provide a greater emphasis on experiential learning opportunities. The first quarter of the MBA curriculum includes a Leadership Lab component, supported by the Center for Leadership Development and Research, as well as conceptual courses for organizational leadership. A select group of students become GSB Leadership Fellows, giving them a unique opportunity to get hands on experience developing others, building high-performance teams, and shaping culture.

Students also have the opportunity to expand on this learning through several electives on topics related to leadership.