Transformational leadership class goes outdoors for unconventional exercise

January 6, 2010

Students in the inaugural Introductory Exploring Leadership   course at Brescia University College learned about transformational leadership   by building snow people, and then abandoning their conventional behaviours to   shout at and beat their frosty creations with rolled up newspapers.

Lecturer Carlie Forbes, who teaches the course with lecturer Eric Sloat,   explained that the purpose of the activity, held on January 5, was to increase   understanding of transformation and to raise questions among the students about   how to step outside of their comfort zones to reach their full potential. “The   purpose of this course is to expand their curiosities with regard to leadership.   The reality is you can learn only so much from reading about it in a textbook.   This activity is hands-on. The goal is to inspire these folks, and it’s about   recognizing diversity and what each person has to contribute because everybody   does have something to contribute.”

This kind of exercise is made possible because of the close interaction the   teachers have with the 33 students in the class. The instructors have come to   know their students very well through their in-class work and from entries in   their learning journals, which are maintained by the students and read by the   instructors throughout the course.

The class was broken into teams, and each student was assigned a role based   on the skills and personality traits identified by Forbes and Sloat and given a   personal statement customized to him or her. For example, a student who doesn’t   show leadership tendencies regularly in class was asked to take on a director’s   role.

After the physical activity was complete, the class returned to the classroom   for a discussion about what they learned about transformational leadership and   to write an entry in their journals. Student feedback was very positive. They   talked about learning more about teamwork, being proud of the ingenuity shown by   classmates who used the newspapers as shovels to speed along the process, and   the sense of exhilaration they felt when screaming and thrashing at the snow.   One student said, “I understand now that transformational leadership is about   helping individuals achieve their full potential, and it is okay to get creative   and have fun with everyone as you try to encourage, motivate, and lead them to   accomplish all that they can!”

The idea grew out of a past experience Forbes had in a Dale Carnegie course,   when participants were asked to beat on a table and shout. “It had a profound   impact on me. I knew it was a way to get people to stretch and find their   voice.” The recent snowfall inspired Forbes to take the activity outside.

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For more information please contact:

Carlie Forbes

Eric Sloat

Brescia University College, Canada’s premier women’s university college,   is affiliated with The University of Western Ontario. The 1,100 women registered   as either full or part-time students at Brescia study a wide variety of subjects   in Arts, Social Sciences, and Foods & Nutrition in an empowering,   compassionate, student-centred, and invigorating environment. Degrees are   granted by Western. The Catholic College welcomes students from all backgrounds   and values diversity. For more information, please visit