The LEADER Project (LEADER) was founded 31 years ago, in 1991, by Scott Helloffs, Paul Fitzgerald, Robert Elensky, then MBA students at Ivey Business School, and Chris Albinson, HBA ’90, MBA ’93. With the fall of the Soviet Union, they recognized that the new and emerging market economy required an infusion of fresh managerial skills. They responded by creating “Project USSR” (now known as The LEADER Project), an initiative that sent 27 Ivey MBAs to Moscow and Leningrad to teach Soviet officials and budding entrepreneurs the basic skills of finance, accounting, marketing, and general management.
Fast forward to the present, LEADER has sent 850+ Ivey HBA, MBA, PhD, and MSc students to 22 countries around the world to coach 8,000+ entrepreneurs and students. LEADER currently operates in seven global sites, namely Bosnia & Herzegovina, India, North Macedonia, Nepal, Serbia, Vietnam, and Whitehorse.
What is LEADER?
“I’ve really enjoyed Ivey’s case-based curriculum - using what I’ve studied in my MBA to empower entrepreneurs and help better their businesses and environment is incredibly compelling to me.” - Tega Odjevwedje | MBA LEADERite
The LEADER Project’s mission is to coach and inspire promising entrepreneurs in frontier markets to envision, launch, and scale new ventures. Using Ivey’s world-renowned case method, LEADER empowers entrepreneurs and transforms ideas into engines for sustainable economic growth, and positive social change.
Through the LEADER Project, HBAs, MBAs, and Ivey alumni collaborate and put their knowledge to good use by building strong foundations to help entrepreneurs succeed in their businesses, environments, and economies. Supporting high-potential entrepreneurs through Ivey’s case-method philosophy can develop local business solutions and create opportunities for communities across the globe.
What does LEADER do?
“During an MBA orientation session, someone mentioned The LEADER Project’s mandate was ‘to teach business fundamentals to entrepreneurs in emerging markets.’ Every word in that excited me. As a former coach and teaching assistant, I was thrilled to have an opportunity to teach and mentor entrepreneurs around the world.” - Parker Bollmann | MBA LEADERite
The LEADER Project provides current and aspiring entrepreneurs with the analytical tools, thought processes, and decision-making skills to tackle complex business challenges.
LEADER instructors deliver a two-week intensive program of cases, lectures, and coaching. Cases simulate a real situation confronted by business leaders and forces participants to learn by doing and making confident decisions in the face of uncertainty. Case-method teaching is complemented by lectures that provide analytical tools for envisioning, launching, and scaling new ventures.
Key topics in the LEADER Project program curriculum include;
- Financial Statements;
- Cash Budgeting; and,
LEADER offers Ivey students a real-world application of the skills they developed during their studies. By teaching the case method, students can enhance their learning and represent the Ivey brand globally.
In 2021, LEADER launched a fully virtual curriculum offering across its seven global sites and successfully coached 130 students and entrepreneurs. The impact seen around the world was notably significant and the program received strong participant engagement.
This year, LEADER’s Executive Directors and Advisory Board are making plans to return LEADERites back to in-person teaching across sites that are safe to travel.
What was your favourite part of LEADER?
“LEADER gave me the structures and frameworks that I can apply to my business … [The Instructors] are great at teaching concepts clearly and are very helpful. If anyone gets a chance to do this program, even if they only have a small idea of what they want to do, they should do it. LEADER can help them plan their business out and support their future.” - Bobbi-Rose Koe | 2019 LEADER Program Participant Whitehorse, Yukon
“During our virtual program, one of our students revealed to us that he recently bought a motorcycle. He was so excited about this motorcycle, so I thought it would be fun to incorporate it into the lesson. That day, I went into the slides and replaced the case example with an image of a motorcycle and a poorly cropped picture of him sitting on top of it. When I flipped to that slide and asked the class what options he had for financing his motorcycle, the class laughed so hard. I could tell he didn’t expect it, but he was so happy about it. I don’t think we saw his smile disappear for the rest of the class. It’s my favourite memory because one of our team’s worries going into the virtual environment was that our students wouldn’t feel like we knew them as individuals – it’s easy in the virtual environment to feel like you’re just one name on a screen. But through these little interactions where we could bring their uniqueness into the classroom and showcase it, we could see our students light up. You could tell they felt appreciated and valued, which was just such a beautiful thing to cultivate and witness.” - Danilla Xing | Former HBA LEADERite Kathmandu, Nepal
“We were all excited to teach the cases and lectures, but what really stood out to me was being able to strike a meaningful rapport with a Whitehorse entrepreneur via coaching. The entrepreneur I worked with, Alex, was planning on opening her own mental health wellness coaching business to improve the livelihood of her communities. By engaging in thoughtful dialogue over the course of two weeks, I was able to work with Alex to (a) define the geographic scope of her business in Whitehorse, (b) create a human capital plan for her business, and (c) help them create a business plan to pitch to potential investors. Through these conversations, I learned so much, namely how promising Whitehorse’s growing entrepreneurial landscape is!” - Zuhayr Abbas | HBA Executive Director Whitehorse, Canada
“How emotional I got on the last day. I didn’t expect to feel so attached to the students because we were delivering the program virtually. Seeing how much the program had helped these entrepreneurs got the waterworks flowing. It just goes to show that strong human connection can be made through any means!” - Tania Kwan | Former HBA LEADERite Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
LEADER Nepal 2021
LEADER Whitehorse 2021
If you’re interested in joining LEADER, keep an eye out for our MBA applications in the summer and HBA applications in September!