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CJ Thompson '16 talks about her experience in the Part-time MBA program.

Building Authentic Leaders

Ertugrul Tuzcu's leadership course left such an impact on CJ Thompson ’16 that she co-created a monthly development group after graduating from the Part-time MBA program at St. Thomas.

Authentic leadership is the core of Tuzcu's teaching philosophy. “All students come with a certain level of God-given IQ,” he said. “But how do you really build upon emotional intelligence in all areas of life?”

In the Executive Perspectives course, he introduces his students to True North Groups. These groups consist of a small group of peers who meet regularly, following a structured curriculum to discuss personal and professional issues, beliefs, values and principles.

True North Group is essentially a tool for self-awareness and leadership development. What does it take to become an inspiring human and inspire others? Thompson sought to answer those questions for herself.

The course emphasizes the integration of life’s domains in terms of family, work, community, self. Tuzcu invites a dozen CEOs into the classroom to share examples of how they apply self-awareness to every day life. Students also write a personal development paper with a 15-year vision for living their best life.

Full-time MBA students take a deeper dive into Truth North Groups. During the 16-month program, they study and create experiments for how they’re going to close those gaps if they’re not moving in the direction of what's important for them.

“MBA students learn all kinds of functional expertise of finance, marketing, operations and accounting,” said Tuzcu. “I look at them as bricks. But if you want to build a wall, the bricks alone aren't enough. You need to have cement. That’s leadership.”

Thompson and her cohort mate Jenn loved the concept so much that they decided to form their own True North Group: “We liked the idea of keeping the magic going as part of our MBA.”

After a lengthy recruiting process and interviews, their True North Group was made official in 2018. Seven out of eight members are from the Full-time and Part-time MBA programs at St. Thomas.

Each month the group tackles prescribed topics outlined in Bill George’s book of what it takes to inspire others. “I’ve found that the group setting has helped me become a more self-aware leader,” said Thompson.

The closeness of the group is palpable. Reuben Thompson-Amarteifio is a graduate of the Full-time MBA program. He took a job with Google in California, but flies back to Minnesota for their meetings every month.

“I feel proud of the space we created for honest and in-depth conversations,” said Thompson. “We share our challenges and principles to become better leaders. True North has been such a meaningful way to grow way beyond the classroom.”