Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


In this class you will be creating a leadership development tool for students like yourselves in the leadership program at Sloan. This tool might be a coaching guide for second-year pilots, a leadership workbook for MBA students to use during their summer employment, a leadership assessment for club presidents or a workshop on networking. You will be free to choose the tool that you want to develop, but by the end of the class there must be a product that can be used at Sloan. In addition, the tools must link in some way to the leadership model used at Sloan.

In order to design your tool, you will work on an X-team that will serve as the vehicle for product development. X-teams are an adaptive structure for innovation. You will learn about the fundamental behaviors of an X-team and go through the three phases of explore, exploit, and export to create your leadership tool. X-teams have been created for companies such as Merrill Lynch, BP, and NewsCorp to facilitate product and process innovation.

In order to be an effective X-team you will be asked to explore — find out what other business schools and consultants are doing in your product area, what products currently exist in the market, what fellow students want to learn, and what faculty and administrators are trying to achieve in the Leadership program. Then you will move on to exploit — moving from idea generation and collecting information to actually developing your product. You will want to create a prototype and beta test it with faculty and students, get feedback, and improve your design. Finally, you will export — present your product and figure out how to make it part of the Sloan curriculum.

This course will cover leadership theory, X-teams, and concepts of leadership development. The emphasis will not be solely on theory, however, but instead on actually working in an X-team structure so that you will be able to use this structure in the future for key team tasks.

Specific Course Objectives

  • Expose students to the Distributed Leadership and X-team models.
  • Create an Ideas Fair where students define and pick leadership development tools that they want to produce.
  • Learn how to operate as an effective X-team.
  • Produce a leadership development tool that will enhance the Leadership Program.
  • Get feedback on your team, presentation, and product development skills.

Key Ideas

  • Students can create their own leadership development tools.
  • To be effective, team members must reach outside their boundaries to connect to innovative ideas, best practices, centers of expertise, customer needs, market trends, and organizational realities.
  • To be effective, team members must practice extreme execution, creating the culture, norms and procedures to consolidate data from outside and create innovative products.
  • To be effective, team members must move across three phases of activity: explore, exploit, and export.

Course Format

Classes will be highly interactive and after the first several classes will focus almost exclusively on X-team activities. In addition, students will be expected to reach out to other organizations in order to learn about best practices at other organizations. Students will also be responsible for building a supportive team culture that gets results.


Ancona, Deborah, and Henrik Bresman. X-teams: How to Build Teams That Lead, Innovate and Succeed. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2007. ISBN: 9781591396925.

Course Evaluation

Grades will be computed by weighting your scores on each component of the class as follows:

Class and team participation 30%
Interim team assignment 30%
Final team assignment 40%


Class and Team Participation

Since this is an experiential class, participation starts with doing the readings and speaking up in class. In addition, participation involves being an active X-team member, contributing to the various team assignments and tasks, and helping the team to develop a supportive and performance-enhancing culture.

Interim Team Assignment

Midway through the class, each team will be asked to do an interim assessment and progress report. Each team will report on their exploration activities and plans for transition to exploitation. In addition, team members will report on how well their team is operating and what can be done to enhance effectiveness in creating an innovative, useful product.

Final Team Assignment

On the last day of class team members will present their Leadership program tool and report on what it is and how it can be used. They will also present the steps they went through as a team and what they learned.