Please notice this was first posted in the period 2012-2014 and can be outdated
The whole MBA class of 2012 knows what an episode of Babylon 5, an Animal Farm animation, and the movie Titanic have in common, but it won’t be easy to guess as an outsider. So let me just tell you what connects them: they are all shown, partly at least, during the course Leadership in Organizations. Besides that, we also learned how to make a origami crane. Is this course serious you wonder? Let me tell you there is a closed book exam, two papers to be written, and there are 3 credits on the line.
Leadership is something you can learn, at least partly, and are not just born with. That is the message Dr. Roonrerngsuke, Dr, Phornprapha, and Dr. Liefooghe teach us during the 10 classes of Leadership in Organizations. They each take turns to cover a class and they each have their totally different style of explaining the concepts and ideas we should become familiar with before the exam date. They do agree on one point though: there is not one way an organization should be led, it all depends on the circumstances.
And instead of just telling us several leadership concepts during class, we are forced to think about it ourselves by watching an episode of Babylon 5 or StarTrek where the video is stopped several times to go over the situation and the possible steps that can be taken from there on.
Besides Babylon 5 we also have guest speakers sharing topics from their own experience, and we fill in questionnaires dividing the class in groups based on “leadership styles”. In some cases even some role-playing is needed, for example on how to influence others in a company, and this is where the experience from the performance in Hua Hin comes in. The most ridicules plays are being performed in front of the class where a simple case scenario gets an extra dimension by making the two managers introduced in the case flamboyant gays resulting in a lot of laughter and applause from the rest of the class.
The biggest downside of the course is the book that we are required to read. This book is seriously one of the worst-written books I have ever had in a classroom, as it not only fails to explain the concepts in an understandable way, it even insults the reader with the most childish examples in the text. And you can’t just blame the subject for it, because in the reader are some chapters copied from other books that are much better in explaining the concepts.
One of the reasons I choose to do an MBA in Thailand was that I wanted to understand the way Thais operate compared to how we do it in Europe. In this course this subject passes by where the Thai culture and way of working is extensively compared with a Western way of working. The main difference is maybe that in Thailand everything is very process focused while in Europe we mostly look at the results. One of the guest lecturers, Charles Clinton from the Minor Hotel Group, was even able to compare Thai employees with employees from neighboring countries and explained why it is not smart to send Thais to neighboring countries for employment (for one, they will miss the somtam, seriously!).
During one class we watched an animation of George Orwell’s novel “Animal farm” in which the animals of a farm take over the leadership of the farm from the farmer and start working together resulting in shared benefits for everyone. The pigs soon grab power by telling lies and manipulating the other animals, resulting in them having a good life at the cost of the other animals. They keep changing the rules to keep the cloak of justice and are not afraid to use violence to protect their own position. While this book was originally written against communism, I could not stop seeing the resemblance with the current Thai political situation where a small group of people have all the power and wealth and the inequality is only growing. Maybe this idea was a bit too farfetched though, since the rest of the class was just laughing about the animation and enjoyed the story line.