CSOM, Sociology Foster Leadership for Change

By Reid Oslin
Staff Writer

"Social justice" is becoming as much a watchword as "productivity" in the business community, according to Boston College Leadership for Change administrators, who say their program seeks to champion corporate America's newest revolution.

Prof. William Torbert (CSOM) and Assoc. Prof. Eve Spangler (Sociology) are faculty members playing a prominent role in the Leadership for Change program. (Photo by Justin Knight)
A non-traditional blend of the Carroll School of Management's MBA curriculum and the College of Arts and Sciences' Sociology Department, Leadership for Change prepares middle and upper level managers for the changing social climate of the global corporate environment through workshops and classes held on campus over an 11-month period.

CSOM and Sociology faculty, as well as business professionals with extensive experience in initiating corporate change, serve as teachers for the program. Participants who complete the program earn 12 credits toward an MBA or other advanced degree.

The eight-year-old program's administrators say the combination of seemingly divergent academic disciplines brings an "interaction of practice and reflection" that results in an awareness of social responsibility in addition to corporate accountability.

"Boston College has become the place where the business community looks to have its discussions on how we can create this new, socially responsible corporate world," said Assoc. Prof. Eve Spangler (Sociology), faculty chair of Leadership for Change. "A Jesuit business school is certainly the appropriate place to have these conversations."

Currently, 21 managers are enrolled in Leadership for Change, where workshops and seminars are geared toward applying aspects of change leadership at the individual, group, organizational and ultimately, societal levels.

Participants are taught to recognize their own influence within management teams, for example, and the resulting ability to develop inclusive ways of problem solving. The managers also learn to measure the effects of responsible business practices in the overall community.

The Leadership for Change curriculum fits in perfectly with the University's overall goals, according to Spangler. "How is what we know related to our actions?" she asked. "This is knowledge used for the purpose of social justice, and that is a unique mission of Jesuit universities in particular."

While the program's faculty possesses considerable expertise, says Leadership for Change Director Rebecca Rowley, participants are encouraged to play an active role and offer lessons learned from their own workplace experiences.

"People may think they are going to be getting 'Leadership 101,' but it's not that at all," said Rowley. "The whole curriculum is based on work-related learning. It helps managers to transcend artificial lines and think outside their own box when planning corporate and stakeholder strategies."

Leadership for Change administrators say that the results of the program are becoming apparent in the corporate arena.

Rowley cited one program participant who helped develop a "Welfare To Work" program at Citizens Bank. This program not only helped meet that bank's need to hire more entry-level personnel, such as tellers, she said, but also provided a measurable community benefit by employing and training people for higher opportunities within the organization.

"We feel that we have made a tremendous impact on the people who have come through the program in their business situations," said Prof. William Torbert (CSOM), one of the founding faculty members of Leadership for Change.

"In the early years of the program, we realized that we weren't having a significant impact on the organizations that brought participants to us," he noted. "As a result, we have been quite self-critical and outer-directed in terms of the program's approach. We have invented a whole new way of relating to our participants and their employers."


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