Professor Susan Ashford (business) won the Provost's Teaching Innovation Prize in 2011 for her project, The Leadership Crisis Challenge (LCC): Forging Courage, Judgment, and Integrity.
The LCC simulation forces students to make decisions under acute time pressure and to trade off competing demands, thereby addressing the difficulty of teaching these key elements of leadership. Intangibles such as judgment, courage, and integrity are hard to meaningfully broach with traditional teaching methods. However, leaving these skills to be learned in the field has costly financial, social, and career consequences.
The intensive exercise runs 24 hours and presents a realistic business crisis that poses vexing questions: What does a company “owe” the community in which it does business? Should the natural environment be sacrificed for shareholder wealth? Can companies admit wrongs in today’s aggressive legal climate? In the absence of any “right answer,” students must think hard and critically together regarding the best response, exercise integrity in making judgments about how to proceed, and exercise courage in standing up for those judgments under fire.
Acting as corporate executives, student teams present their plans of action to a confrontational Board of Directors (played by Ross faculty), who evaluate the quality of their decisions. The best student teams move on to a final round press conference where they face rapid, contentious questions from actual journalists (Knight-Wallace Fellows). Throughout the simulation, students are faced with changing circumstances conveyed by time-release documents, videos, and other interactive elements.
“…there are no preceding examples to guide you, no textbook reading to help your decision, and every answer at some point will feel like the wrong answer.”
“In many ways the amount of information we were given was intimidating – in other ways, we were starving for information. …the case writers did a great job providing just enough ambiguity to make the case challenging.”
“…the [LCC] not only allowed me to apply lessons learned from my accounting, strategy, and management courses, but also taught me about making challenging, high-level decisions as a team, given limited time and incomplete information.”
“To stand in front of a hostile audience and defend yourself – that’s an opportunity that you don’t get that often in b-school.”
“It’s common to go into a business setting and have to work with VPs who may span different continents, who’ve never met or worked together before, to address a crisis in that moment. So I found the whole challenge to be very realistic. I think having this experience will definitely help me in the future.”
The LCC “really for forced students to draw upon skills that they may never have realized they possessed.”
Susan Ashford (Management of Organizations)
Professor Ashford is accepting this award on behalf of the Ross Leadership Initiative.