MIT Sloan Fellows Learn from Army During Leadership Exercise

The MIT motto, “Mens et Manus,” or, “Mind and Hand,” took on new meaning for the 85 members of the current Sloan Fellows cohort on 5 and 6 August, as the fellows were immersed in a challenging, high pressure, leadership simulation that required them to exercise their leadership skills in a rapidly evolving and ambiguous environment. The simulation replicated the environment of 1995 Bosnia, and the initial implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords. This year the Fellows, faculty, and staff were joined by members of the MIT Department of Military Science faculty, retired, and reserve component military officers.

The Paul Revere Battalion, MIT’s Army ROTC program, seized the opportunity to lead one of the Sloan School’s leadership course exercises. The Army now teaches leadership at the undergraduate, graduate, and executive levels at MIT. Assistant Professor of Military Science, Major Sam Peffers, galvanized support for and led the Army effort to participate in the “flagship” executive MBA Sloan Fellows program furthering the ROTC outreach efforts and advancing the Army ROTC brand in the leadership arena.

The active and retired military officers were: Colonel (Retired) Allard, a veteran with over 30 years of active duty experience and former Public Affairs Officer for the NATO Implementation Force (IFOR) in Bosnia during 1995; Major Peffers, Assistant Professor of Military Science at MIT and former Observer/Controller at two of the Army’s three Combat Training Centers; Major Crosier, recent Army Command and General Staff College graduate and a China Foreign Area Officer; Major Balogh, a bomber and tanker pilot of the Washington State Air National Guard, who is a leadership and management consultant in civilian life; Major (Retired) Cancellieri, a career Infantry officer with extensive operational and combat experience, who spent 15 of 20 years in the service stationed outside the Continental United States; and Captain Sullivan, a Blackhawk helicopter pilot and former member of the 82nd Airborne Division, recently returned from two years in the Republic of Korea, where he commanded an Aviation company.

ROTC Department Head Lieutenant Colonel Brian Baker stated that he is “excited about the expansion of our involvement in all-things related to leadership development at MIT. Leadership is an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes that reflect their shared purposes, akin to those shared by the Army and the Sloan School. Our Army has been developing leaders for centuries. The past three Professors of Practice in Leadership at the Sloan School were Army trained; John Reed, Dana Mead, and Marshall Carter all received their initial leader development training from the Army, served their nation in the Armed Forces, and went on to be CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Baker went on to say that the most recent Presidents emeritus at Harvard and MIT, Neil Rudenstine and Paul Gray both earned commissions through ROTC and both served as captains in the Army. Put another way, the top two academic leaders in America, some say, the Presidents of MIT and Harvard got their initial leader development training from the Army.”

The simulation required the Sloan Fellows to quickly establish an organizational structure, plan for a complex series of requirements, and respond with agility to an ambiguous and rapidly developing situation. The Fellows role played a variety of governmental, non-governmental, and NATO military organizations, all engaged in attempting to establish initial local stability and averting a major humanitarian crisis. Each of the organizations represented, and staffed by a student work group of two to four Sloan Fellows, brought a unique set of priorities and resources to the undertaking. There was no pre-established leadership hierarchy or organizational structure dictated to the Fellows, and a significant portion of the exercise was devoted to the Fellows learning to work together with their peers to share available resources while balancing priorities and objectives that were at some times competing and at others complimentary. Two groups of Fellows also role played two ethnic communities within the local population, one of which had recently displaced the other.

Active and former military officers provided background information, observation, and feedback to the Fellows as well as the faculty and staff of the Sloan School. The officers also assisted in operating the simulation’s control center which orchestrated interaction between the exercise participants in the live world and the constructive environment of the simulation. The Sloan Fellows found the military officers’ experience and insights particularly valuable in developing potential courses of action to meet their basic requirements and respond to unexpected circumstances encountered during the execution phase of the simulation. The military officers found the use of the simulation in a strictly academic setting strikingly similar to what the Army refers to as a, “Command Post Exercise.” Both operations share several elements in common, though their educational and training objectives are quite different. One of the officers was invited to lead the concluding after action review.

Faculty director of the MIT Leadership Center, Professor Deborah Ancona said of the event, "The presence of six military officers in full uniform lent drama and realism to the simulation. The officers shared their amazing experience and knowledge enhancing the situation for both participants and faculty. We are extremely grateful for their participation and hope that we find more ways to collaborate in the future." Lieutenant Colonel Baker commented, “I think both organizations benefit substantially from our collaboration.” Baker cited the, “synergy,” between the Sloan School and ROTC Department, “the joint action of agents, that when taken together increase each other’s effectiveness; we now teach 15.305, Leadership and Management; 15.952, an IAP course offering on leadership; and collaborate with the Sloan Fellows Program.” He concluded, “The simulation was a wonderful opportunity for the world’s premier leadership development organization, the United States Army, to exchange ideas with one of the world’s best academic leadership and management institutions.”

Major Balogh (left), and Prof. Deborah Ancona (right), Faculty Director of the MIT Leadership Center, work with Fellows portraying displaced persons (photo by Jennifer Mapes). Simulation control room, from left to right: Major Peffers, Colonel Allard, Major Cancellari, Mr. Newsome, Prof. John Carroll, Stephen J. Sacca, SF ’90, Director MIT Sloan Fellows Program (photo by Jennifer Mapes).

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