Leadership is an on-the-job skill that, like a muscle, becomes stronger the more it is practiced. Yet leaders need new settings and challenges to elevate their skills. This is one way in which the Tobias Fellows program provides a unique opportunity to leaders, according to Timothy Baldwin, Randall L. Tobias Chair in Leadership, department chairperson, and professor of management at the IU Kelley School of Business.
“Experience is a really good teacher, but it’s a very inefficient teacher. A program like the Fellows accelerates the learning experience because you simply couldn’t get all those exposures doing your job on a daily basis,” says Baldwin.
“The program broadens leadership competence by examining it within so many different contexts, manifesting in many different ways. It’s not something a leader can achieve in their daily roles.”
The experiential and immersive learning environment of the Tobias Fellows program provides myriad opportunities in which leaders can implement new lessons and challenge old habits.
“In any good pedagogy in education, if you’re trying to generalize great principles it’s going to come across best within context,” he says. “What the Fellows does is expose you to a whole series of other leadership contexts: a monastery, a sports venue, an academic environment, a variety of other corporate environments. It opens your eyes to the breadth of leadership.”
Baldwin has been researching and instructing on leadership and management for 30 years. He investigates the best approaches and outcomes in leadership to gain practical lessons. Baldwin says an evidence-based approach to leadership education is critically important.
“Research-based perspectives are almost self-evident in medicine or in finance. If I told you I had a great stock option or new cholesterol pill, you’d want to see the evidence before investing,” he says. “But in behavioral sciences such as leadership, people get very anecdotal with learnings – often modeling lessons after someone. That’s a fairly shallow approach.”