7 Questions with the Harry L. Davis Center for Leadership

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The Harry L. Davis Center for Leadership supports leadership development at Chicago Booth with programs for students and alumni. We connected with the Davis Center team to ask a few questions about the school’s approach to leadership education.  

What is the Chicago Approach to leadership?

The Chicago Approach to leadership is grounded in the idea that leaders need more than knowledge—that they need action skills to achieve their goals and insight skills to learn from their successes and failures. We call it the Action & Insight Framework, and we use it to inform our programs. The idea is that leaders can take control of their own professional development and work within the feedback loop of taking action and gaining insight for the duration of their career.

Who is Harry L. Davis and what does he have to do with leadership?

Harry L. Davis, Roger L. and Rachel M. Goetz Distinguished Service Professor of Creative Management, has taught at Chicago Booth since 1963. The framework we mentioned above? Professor Davis and his colleague Robin M. Hogarth drafted it in a 1992 paper (read the 2003 version here). It is our standard for leadership development. In other words, it’s kind of a big deal. Professor Davis also led the initiative to create the Leadership Effectiveness And Development (LEAD) program, which was among the first of its kind at a major business school. It’s the only class that all Chicago Booth students are required to take.

How does the Davis Center relate to the LEAD program?

In practical terms, the Davis Center and LEAD are located in adjacent offices—so if you have a question about leadership development, we’re all right here on the classroom level. We’re also aligned on a philosophical level. But whereas LEAD is a required course for students, the Davis Center provides supplemental programs for both students and alumni. (We should mention, LEAD also runs supplemental programs; as a student, you’ll have a lot of leadership development resources at your fingertips.)

What types of programs does the Davis Center have?

We put on a variety of events that are designed to help you learn something new about yourself, and fast. For example, we host a quarterly lecture and dinner with a faculty member from outside the business school (we call them Spark Dinners because they, ahem, spark conversation over dinner). We host theatre nights at Court Theatre in Hyde Park, where we go as a group and discuss the next day. We host artistic workshops, where you might find yourself singing in a choir and thinking about listening skills.

Can you tell us more about experiential education?

Experiential education is a broad category, but the most relevant part of it for us is the idea that we can learn from reflection upon doing. In practice, this means we like to set up immersive situations like signing in a choir, or acting a scene from King Lear. When you stretch yourself, and then reflect on your performance, you can gain insight.

Are there activities students can do on their own time?

We understand that students have busy schedules—that’s why we’ve created online resources in addition to the experiential programs we run.

For example, Business Practice is an online collaboration with Chicago Booth Review that creates a virtual workshop for sticky situations (like salary negotiations and performance reviews). We ask you to respond, and then let you see and rate everyone else’s responses. We do this quarterly, and George Wu, John P. and Lillian A. Gould Professor of Behavioral Science, writes a blog post with his analysis.  

Another activity you can do on your own is to work through our online tutorials. You can access an eight-part series on performance coaching, and do it at your own pace. We’ll add to this content library in the near future.

What’s new for the next academic year?

Soon students will have access to a set of for-credit classes, in addition to the LEAD program, that do deep dives on various action and insight skills. We can’t say any more than that right now…but keep your eyes and ears open for more.

 

More information about The Harry L. Davis Center for Leadership.