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Washington Post Online Brings Blogosphere to MBA Classroom

11/17/2009 --

Ross professors see early success with online discussion group that connects classroom to boardroom.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Ross School of Business professors Scott DeRue and Maxim Sytch recently partnered with The Washington Post's On Leadership section to deliver "The Leadership Seminar," a new online discussion group that brings innovative implications to the classroom. In just one month, "The Leadership Seminar" had more than 18,000 page views to rank in the top 10 among the 50 discussion groups at washingtonpost.com

"The Leadership Seminar" went live Sept. 28, 2009, and has been integrated into the Ross MBA core through the class "Leading People and Organizations" (Management and Organizations 503). Content is managed by DeRue and Sytch, both assistant professors of management and organizations. Students in their M&O course have been encouraged, but are not required, to post and participate in the group.

"It's been a great experience for Scott and me," says Sytch. "We are able to engage both the students and the broader Washington Post audience. The students have yet another opportunity to apply leadership skills and frameworks we teach in class to understand current situations and events. It helps them think through how they would have acted (and why) when faced with a given leadership challenge."

The online discussion group offers a unique opportunity for the Ross community to a have a thoughtful dialogue about leadership with the global business community, he adds. "In particular, it allows our students to connect research-driven insights from class and their own broad base of personal experiences to current leadership issues, successes and failures, and the big challenges facing our society."

As the name indicates, "The Leadership Seminar" integrates what the researchers think and know about leadership with the opinions and insights of anyone who wants to participate in the group. While current events and trends may be covered, the professors are using the forum as a teaching tool to explore why leadership matters, says DeRue.

"We are talking to developing, emerging leaders," he says, "so the content has a more class-like feel than a typical blog."

Add Sytch: "One advantage of the blog is giving our students the opportunity to link leadership insights from class to some of the most pressing public policy issues."

While "The Leadership Seminar" offers nearly 500 first-year MBAs an international media outlet to connect with an external audience, it also offers the outside world an inside track to the thought leadership developing at Ross.

"This discussion group gives our users a chance to interact directly with others following and shaping the nuances in the leadership world every day," says Andrea Useem, Washington Post On Leadership editor. "With their wealth of insight in this field, Scott and Maxim will be able to bring attention to the most relevant, timely questions about leadership today."

In his own research, DeRue seeks to understand how leaders and teams in organizations adapt, learn, and develop over time. He has been published by the Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Applied Psychology, and Human Resource Management Journal, among others. Prior to academia, he held leadership positions at the Monitor Group and Hinckley Yacht Company.

Sytch focuses on the origins and evolutionary dynamics of the dual social structure of markets that encompass both collaborative and conflictual interorganizational relationships. He also investigates how network positions of firms determine their behavior and performance. In addition, he looks at the role of varying global network topologies in shaping performance consequences for entire communities of firms. He has been published by the Administrative Science Quarterly, California Management Review, and The Wall Street Journal.

"Professors DeRue and Sytch are great choices to head up this discussion on emerging global leaders," says Sue Ashford associate dean for leadership programming and the Executive MBA Program at Ross. "They are young themselves, globally oriented, and true leaders. They both have led in their respective fields, in their work experiences, and in inspiring current Ross students to engage in issues of personal effectiveness, widespread influence, and organizational impact."

For their part, DeRue and Sytch say they are eager to see how the experiment with social media plays out over time. At the very least, they hope to provoke compelling content that advances leadership research and practice even after the class concludes.

Ashford says she intends to encourage Ross students to participate in the group as part of the Ross Leadership Initiative (RLI), a co-curricular set of leadership development activities that runs for the duration of the full-time MBA experience.

"RLI exists because this business school sees leadership and leadership development as central to our mission of preparing people to make a difference in the world," Ashford says. "We believe to be effective in business, people need not just great ideas and analytic tools, they need an ability to influence and inspire others -- they need leadership."

For more information, contact:
Bernie DeGroat, (734) 936-1015 or 647-1847, bernied@umich.edu