Professor James N. Baron

When we designed the core Employee course, our feeling was that it had to be about how you as a manager can forge relationships with those who you’re going to manage.

The Yale School of Management takes its mission of educating leaders for business and society very seriously. The students and faculty who come here are interested in the impact that leaders have and can have on society—not just on individual organizations or on individual careers. In putting together our integrated MBA curriculum, the faculty felt very strongly that we should instill in students the understanding that leadership is personal—that the essence of leadership is your set of values and beliefs, which serve as inspiration to others.

So when we designed the core Employee course, which I help teach, our feeling was that it had to be about how you as a manager can forge relationships with those who you’re going to manage. We’re not just trying to teach principles of social psychology or the intricacies of compensation systems. We’re trying to teach you about how to establish trust and how to lead others in a way that is consonant with both your organization’s objectives and your own core values. That focus on the relationship between manager and employee is particularly relevant for MBA students, who are early in their careers and need to forge effective working relationships out of the gate.

We do some provocative cases that engender strong disagreements about how a manager should approach a problem. That really drives home the point that leadership is personal. You end up with 60 students in a section who all respect one another, but who have radically different points of view about a manager’s responsibility. Hopefully that leaves students thinking, “It’s not self-evident what the right thing to do is. Therefore, I ought to think hard about what principles I stand for. I ought to develop a compass.” That’s a precious opportunity, because you’re not going to have the time to formulate that on the ground the first time you actually confront a challenging managerial situation.

Interviewed spring 2009.