Leadership from Many Angles

Larry Fobes' post-Fuqua journey back to the classroom

For Larry Fobes MBA '99, the Fuqua journey has come full circle. Sixteen years after graduation from the Global Executive MBA program, Larry is now helping provide course content for that very program. Larry helped to establish Learning with Leaders, LLC less than a year ago in partnership with Ray Smith, former Fuqua Associate Dean for Executive Education and president and learning strategist at Modos Learning; and E. Allan Lind, James L. Vincent Distinguished Professor of Leadership at Duke. The company uses technology to "flip" classroom lessons on leadership; the concept made its debut in March 2015 as part of the Global Executive MBA Class of 2016's Leadership for the Global Executive course.

Larry's path to the Global Executive MBA program came in the midst of a 30-year career with Ford. When he was charged with forming the strategy for a major overseas expansion, he realized that he needed more training, and the Global Executive program was a perfect fit for him. In particular, his course on leadership with Allan Lind was especially relevant to the type of work that he was doing at Ford. After graduation, Larry delved further into the leadership milieu while working at Wayne State University, developing the "Leaders on Leadership" television program, interviewing national and international chairs, CEOs, and Presidents. The series ran on public television for eight years and was broadcast in Michigan, Canada, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Korea. It earned several Emmy nominations and one Emmy win.
 
Fast forward to October 2012, when Allan Lind was the featured speaker in the Fuqua Faculty Conversations series, talking about how leaders establish trust and credibility. Larry submitted a question via Twitter for Allan to answer in the live online session, which lead to a continued conversation via email. After Larry returned to campus to speak in Allan's class, the two began talking about a book project that would incorporate Allan's academic material with video snippets of interviews from Larry's television program. They recruited Ray Smith, who spent nine years at Fuqua leading Executive Education and developing Fuqua's multi-modal learning concept that uses a mix of targeted technology and non-technology approaches to form an interactive learning experience for MBA and Executive Education students scattered across the globe.

The product of this collaboration is a new venture-Learning with Leaders, LLC -and an interactive e-book that illustrates the Six Domains of Leadership, developed by Allan Lind and Sim Sitkin. The e-book uses a short set of movies that function as a learning parable, exploring a fictional organization trying to lead a transformational change. The challenges that they come across on their journey of change are reviewed by Allan through the lens of the six domains model. The interactive e-book also incorporates video clips from Larry's interviews with corporate leaders that are relevant to the topic at hand, interview-style video of Allan providing further explanation of the topic, and calls to action to help students apply these lessons in their current jobs. The structure enables students to absorb academic material from the e-book, relate it to their personal leadership practice at work and share it with their team members prior to attending class.  Thus, when the students are together in class, they can focus more on the application of the model and engage in other interactive learning activities; this is what is meant by the "flipping the class."

"Learning happens best when a variety of learning methods are used, each one utilized for maximum impact, whether in class or in the learner's work experience" says Ray. "The interactive e-book is just one component of the learning experience; with it we hope to combine reading material with storytelling and engaging video content to solidify each student's understanding of the core concepts of the model and its application to their practice and to share their leadership insights with others in their team and class."

Members of the Global Executive MBA Class of 2016 are the first to use the new Learning with Leaders e-book and flipped classroom concept, and the initial reports are positive. As part of the multi-term Leadership for the Global Executive course, students will explore the Six Domains of Leadership throughout their program, with intense classroom discussion focused on applying these principles to their leadership styles.

In Term 1, students received the first section of the book prior to their opening residency, allowing for classroom time to focus on students interacting with one another and Allan.

"Our initial sessions using the Learning with Leaders e-book were quite successful," reports Allan. "Not only did it free up valuable time for in-person discussion, but the students were also quite fluent in the leadership model from day one."

The Global Executive MBA '16 class will continue to work through the e-book section by section during their distance learning sessions with regular conversations with Allan via WebEx. Combined with the creation of personal development plans and organizational change initiatives, delivery of the program will culminate in Term 5 when Allan and the class again meet in person back in Durham for their final residency.

As for Learning with Leaders, the possibilities abound. There are applications for the e-book as a stand-alone product, as well as being a basis for executive education programming, corporate training, and other learning opportunities in the classroom and online. For now, this trio is content to continue enhancing their product over the course of the next year as the Global Executive students progress through the material. For Larry, it's just the beginning of an exciting new phase in his career.

"It's been an honor to go from being a student in Allan's class to working with him and Ray to create such a unique delivery method," reflects Larry. "It's been an exciting journey, and I can't wait to see what's next."