Montpellier Business School
12 November 2020

MBS students learn leadership with The Lord of the Rings

MBS students learn leadership with The Lord of the Rings

Can we teach leadership to students?

MBS trains future decision-makers, aware of the social and environmental impacts of their decisions, to engage in the responsible and sustainable transformation of the world. In order to achieve this ambition, the final year work-study students of the MBS Grande Ecole Program take part in an atypical pedagogical module to develop their leadership, i.e. their ability to guide and mobilize a group of individuals towards the achievement of a specific goal in a sustainable manner.

What is the particularity of this elective? It immerses learners in the world of The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien in order to identify the constituent characteristics of leadership.

“In a work-study program, as in an internship, it is rare that a student has had the opportunity to manage a team so early in his or her career. Corporate theory and pedagogical cases are not always enough to capture the relationships and emotions that influence management and decision-making. It is therefore useful to look to art, novels and films to reproduce emotions and thus more easily assimilate complex leadership theories. “says Dr. Philippe Villemus, author of the book Le leadership selon la trilogie de l’anneau.

Bringing Middle-Earth closer to the major themes of business, management and sustainable development

Immersed in Tolkien’s universe, the alternates initiate a three-day quest in Middle-earth to identify the key characteristics of leaders in dialogues and speeches. “Using a reverse class methodology, students analyze the project, vision, motivation, autonomy, performance, team spirit, conflict management, stress and resilience of the protagonists and draw up a typology of groups and leaders. “explains Dr. Philippe Villemus.

 “The objective for them is to recognize the similarities between fiction and reality, and to identify analogies with the help of managerial theories. For example, the students quickly assimilate the sorcerer Saruman, who leads his teams from the top of his tower, to a CEO and negative leader who would like to keep a distance of information from his teams. »

Immersion in this complete work allows students to develop a critical sense of the consequences of environmental policy and management. “From the anarchy of the County to the industrial dictatorship of the Orcs, all regimes are represented, and the environmental management of Middle-earth creates increasingly arid and devastated landscapes in regions where resource exploitation by Orcs is motivated only by performance and not sustainability. “says the professor.

The power of inclusion

Another common point between Tolkien’s work and MBS is the conviction that inclusion is a lever for collective performance. “The quest is carried out by a group that adapts to the diversity and characteristics of each person, which transcends each member in the missions they have to accomplish. Conversely, evil is represented by Sauron’s armies, mainly composed of Orcs who have been stripped of their identity. “analyses Dr. Philippe Villemus.

The work values autonomy and team spirit, and raises awareness of the impact that each member of the group can have, regardless of their hierarchical position. “The power, represented by the Ring, isolates its owner and drives them crazy, as the character of Gollum proves. When the group delegates the mission of destroying the Ring to Hobbit Frodo, it’s like entrusting the entire future of the company to a trainee. “An optimistic conclusion that demonstrates that at any level of experience or responsibility, MBS students can be pioneers and agents of change within their host company. 

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