Business leadership in the classroom
MacRae, John Donald.
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This action research assesses a framework that assists business educators in promoting leadership within a classroom. It is designed to better prepare students to assume leadership and fill the "leadership gap" in business. Two classes of 2nd-year community college business students participated in running and managing their own business community as teams of sales professionals by developing and practicing their own individual leadership for 28 weeks during their sales courses. The intent was to assess the development of leadership resulting from the implementation of the "Business Leadership in the Classroom" framework. This framework balances leadership principles to simulate a business environment with the practical elements of a learning community under the facilitation of an experienced business educator. The action research approach was used to assess and adjust approaches to business leadership on a continuous basis throughout the research. Data were collected from 61 students based on journals, surveys, peer group reviews, and my (facilitator) reflective journal.The findings reveal that both individual and collective business leadership views and practical skills developed over time. A business leadership mind-set evolved that ranged from a general awareness of the importance of leadership, to a conscious and deliberate use of individual leadership. Areas important in building a progression of leadership included: leadership teams, membership roles, weekly leadership teams, peer feedback, and activity-based learning. Emerging themes included leadership, leadership style, teamwork, as well as influence and motivation. The research framework was effective in supporting the development of business leadership but required some adjustments. These included increased structure and feedback mechanisms. Interpretation of the findings demonstrates the importance of real-world practical education in the classroom. Results show how focusing on a single mind-set such as business leadership, can result in enormous individual growth and development. When business students are encouraged to act as real businesspeople, managing their own learning, the results are effective in preparing them for the business world. All participants expressed their leadership in different ways based on personality and individual strengths. There was an overwhelming and, in some cases, passionate interest in leadership. The use of action research with a range of data collection methods provides a way to measure and track individual student learning and to generate adjustments to the research framework design and learning approaches. The findings generate implications and recommendations to continue this research further. Key recommendations center around how to ensure leadership development is sustained, including improved approaches to heighten the real-world feel of the classroom. Specifically, the use of leadership goals and action plans for each individual participant and an active use of outside business resource people as contacts for participants is recommended.