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MBAs push their limits to become better leaders

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School - MBA - Leadership

Executive coach Lorena Clark works with MBA students.

Many of us choose to go to business school to become better leaders – myself included. What’s special about UNC Kenan-Flagler is that our leadership training starts even before we first sit in a classroom.

The goal of The Luther H. Hodges Center for Leadership is to enhance student leadership capabilities. Leadership development is a focus throughout the two years we spend on campus. Throughout this program, all students are asked to give and receive feedback to one another and reflect about ourselves through activities ranging from role playing and simulations to workshops and classes. Even though my agenda is so busy as an MBA student, I’ve always found myself engaging in these activities to improve as a business leader.

When an e-mail popped up in my inbox with an invitation for a new workshop called “Leading Across Differences,” I immediately found myself captivated by this opportunity and thinking about how unique and useful it would be to my career. Leadership is a skill that all MBAs are supposed to develop – and leading across differences is something that UNC Kenan-Flagler students are constantly encouraged to practice.

The workshop addressed topics we’ve been practicing at school and helped us to learn how to manage conflicts that are common in a globalized workplace. The facilitators, Lorena Clark and David Bond, demonstrated great passion and personal experience around the topic.

From training us on how to have courageous conversations to mapping our own social identity, the Leading Across Differences workshop made the uncomfortable comfortable. Through open and safe discussions, we built awareness of methodologies and models we can use to leverage diversity for the best.

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School - MBA - Leadership

Marcella Xavier Aquino (MBA ’16) completes an Outward Bound challenge as part of the Leadership Immersion.

To make my UNC Kenan-Flagler experience even more meaningful, I’ve decided to participate in the Leadership Immersion Capstone during my last seven weeks on this wonderful campus.

During the capstone course, our class will be split into teams and matched with former senior business executives who will coach us throughout the entire process. We will complete a program called Outward Bound, during which we will spend a week in the mountains – away from any contact with civilization – going through many teamwork and leadership exercises. Then, we’ll come back to campus to participate in challenges designed to simulate competition among the different teams.

Throughout my capstone experience, the value of the Leading Across Differences workshop has become even clearer to me. The Leadership Immersion is tailored to enhance our ability to work in teams and lead from any position in an organization’s hierarchy, no matter the task at hand. In order to do so successfully, it’s essential to understand how to balance different perspectives, communicate effectively and work towards our collective goal at all times.

The Leadership Immersion is an intense, challenging and unforgettable leadership training experience – one which I’m sure will directly impact my leadership style throughout my career.

By Marcella Xavier Aquino (MBA ’16)