Demystifying the only required Booth course

By Rafael Tuachi, Class of 2017

By Rafael Tuachi,
Class of 2017

LEAD… “The only class you need to take.” A few still remember those weeks spent with the same cohort of students. Given all that has been happening since, who can blame us for forgetting the details? Since it overlapped with Orientation+ (or at least started around the same time), most students perceived LEAD and the leadership development as nothing more than an introduction to the classroom setting.

Well, not quite. Every year Booth welcomes 600 new MBAs-to-be with the LEAD program, sorting them into cohorts with names no one understands.

  • Stuart – Harold L. Stuart, an American financier and early investment banker, whose role in establishing Chicago as a financial center was instrumental.

  • Gargoyles – The University of Chicago’s mascot.

  • Davis – Harry Davis, founder of the LEAD program in 1989.

  • Harper – William Rainey Harper, the first president of the University of Chicago.

  • Bond – Joseph Bond, a trustee for the Baptist Theological Union, predecessor of the Divinity School at the University of Chicago.

  • Nobel – Alfred Nobel, founder of the Nobel Prize and inventor of, among other things, dynamite.

  • Rockefeller – John D. Rockefeller, whose donation of ~$600,000 at the time ($16 million in today’s dollars) kick-started the University of Chicago in 1892.

  • Maroons – The University of Chicago’s main color.

  • Walker – George C. Walker, a real estate mogul in the late 1800s, was a member of the first Board of Trustees of the University of Chicago and major donor in the first years of the institution. Initially, Walker wanted to sell the land in Morgan Park for the university to settle its main campus.

  • Phoenix – The other mascot of the University, present on the University’s seal

The responsibility of the management of these cohorts falls on the shoulders of facilitators, second year students who enrolled in the Leadership Lab (the equivalent for leadership of the Strategy Lab, or the Private Equity Lab). The LEAD program is unique in that it is the only two quarters class. Forty students, biased by self-selection, have a chance to become friends on and off campus, working together and having fun. It is as much laughs as as it hard work, and very much worth it.

Because of how it is framed, we tend to think of LEAD as a program centered around the first year students, when the facilitators are the ones who reap most of the benefits. Facils sign up for an experiential class, working together for months. The deliverable is the LEAD program of the following year, but the actual learning and the experiential material come way before, during the weekly ten hours of class time facilitators have to go through (and you thought Micro with Murphy was taxing!). This is to say, the bulk of the learning and work is reserved for those who choose to take the class, and the program that everyone has to go through is just the tip of the iceberg.

LEAD is an exceptional experience that extends beyond the classroom in that it develops skills and behaviors, useful in general, invaluable in group settings, both professionally and personally. As facils, we  engage in discussions and debates twice a week for a couple of quarters. That is the real benefit of the lab class. To keep it current, Facils develop the LEAD content, not the professors or the administration. Having to compromise and agree on so many levels and on so many practical matters encourages self introspection and provides insight into other students’ perceptions of oneself. This is not the faculty teaching us leadership, it’s us understanding who we are in order to evolve organically into what we want to become. If I had to summarize LEAD it in one concept, it would be self-actualization, the fulfillment of one’s potential.

The office of Leadership Development works year round on a variety of programs, in addition to the LEAD class, to help students grow as individuals. One can hardly tell since the fine team running these programs is mostly invisible to the majority of students; a clear example would be that Chris Collins, Associate Dean for Leadership Development, addresses every class at the very start of the LEAD program, only to disappear into the fog of the C level of Harper Center. There, Chris directs a team of coaches dedicated to planning and running programs at Booth and coordinating the LEAD Facils through the content of the class. In his own words, his main purpose at school is “to create and sustain an impactful portfolio of developmental offerings for Booth students”, a huge part of which is the LEAD program.

The LEAD coaches oversee the proper implementation of each of the modules within the LEAD class as well as create and run a variety of programs along the year. The Day, Golden Gargoyles, The Leadership Challenge and The Hard Sell are optional programs, but their success is unmatched, as every year demand for them grows and attendance increases.

In summary, LEAD is an amazing program that looks slim on the outside, but it is very deep on the inside. Its main purpose is to provide leadership knowledge via a 2-quarter class for those who take it, and its reach is such that everyone at school gets a taste of it. But not only is it an excellent program, it also provides a platform in which 40 very diverse people every year come together to form true friendships, and an impact upon the entire Chicago Booth class every single year.


Rafael Tuachi ’17, is a regular Chicago Business contributor and LEAD Facil to the class of 2018. May the Heavens guard us all! Also, Rafa would like to thank the LEAD office and particularly Chris for being an awesome sport about the info provided in this article. We could all use a little bit of Chris Collins’ wisdom in our lives… let’s get LEADing!