The bar was set high
Receiving my undergraduate degree in business, I really thought that my core courses over the summer were going to be a carbon copy of college- I was wildly incorrect about that in the best way possible. Every class exceeded my expectations; however, Leadership with Nate Pettit was on another level. Going into leadership, I had insanely high expectations of the class because I had taken classes somewhat similar to leadership in college, such as Organizational Behavior and Law & Ethics. Both courses in college provided HBS articles with discussions to follow in class- your fairly typical b-school experience.
So you want to be a leader…. Right?
Professor Pettit was able to take that typical business school class experience and morph it into a genuinely thought-provoking mixture of tough conversations to have(with classmates, himself and co-workers), coursework, in-class exercises, and reflections. One of the first questions that he asked in class, “ so who wants to be a leader?”…. Every hand in the 22-person class goes up. The professor then follows up, “so why?”. Not one sustentative answer was provided. Some twenty minutes later, everyone was participating in a thought-provoking conversation as to why the term “leadership” tends to be glorified, especially in business school.
You will have an amazing case and conversation with Professor Pettit over Mount Everest.
In Class Experimentation
Another example of Professor Pettit making Leadership an amazing experience was our in-class exercises. One such class focused exclusively on verbal and non-verbal communication. Prior to the class, I thought I had great interpersonal skills and was great at communicating with everyone- little did I know, I was wrong. This specific exercise was broken up into groups that had to be silent and play a card game. The rules were that no one could verbally communicate and you would be penalized if you muttered a word. Once someone lost, they moved to another part of the class to play the card game with another group. My group won the first game, and then a classmate of mine came to our group. We played our silent card game, and I won. As I went to claim the cards to assert my victory, she signaled vigorously with her hands that she had won. I thought to myself, “she’s definitely wrong, she doesn’t know how to play cards at all; clearly I won according to the rules provided to me.” Shortly after the second game, people started whispering to each other, a clear violation of the rules. Then those whispers became louder and louder as the game went on, and no clear winner was assigned. Finally, after several rounds, a confused group of students went back to their seats to find out that Professor Pettit had given each group in our class a different set of instructions. Each team playing cards would, therefore, think they won and would have to non-verbally communicate with everyone else in the group to assert who won. After the exercise, we de-briefed, and it was fascinating to learn: A) how much we rely on verbal communication, and B) communication can break down too early.
What separates Professor Pettit from other teachers is his unwavering ability to accept feedback and try to make the class better as we go along. He places an extraordinary emphasis on making sure students feel fulfilled rather than getting the highest paying jobs possible. In almost every class, he talks about a personal or professional failure of his in order to make the classroom conversations more approachable. He is always asking tough questions in order to help his students improve personally and professionally, and I am incredibly thankful to have taken his class.