Track 2: Leadership Crisis Challenge



A Leadership Crisis Challenge (LCC) is based on a traditional case study, however, it is written and designed as a real-time, role-playing event aimed at offering graduate and undergraduate students a robust opportunity for action-based learning. Therefore, the LCC must include the items detailed under “Submission Criteria” below.

The topic of the LCC case should be diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). The Sanger Leadership Center is looking for cases that are rigorous in their composition and research, as well as feature tension between a fictitious company/organization and its stakeholders with regard to DEI-related business decisions and dilemmas. The dilemma can also be cross-disciplinary, affecting several different disciplines such as accounting, marketing, supply chain operations, strategic management, information technology, economics, entrepreneurship, sustainability and leadership, to name a few. The geographical setting for the LCC case can be anywhere in the world.

Submitted LCC cases should feature diverse protagonists/characters who might have more nontraditional, yet inclusive, management styles and highlight challenges of underrepresented groups and/or present diverse styles of leadership. The DEI-related crisis (dilemma) should be progressively unveiled through a series of time releases (see below) that force students to react, communicate and make bold strategic decisions under pressure. Watch the video below of a previous LCC to get a better sense of how the event unfolds.

DEI is defined within the University of Michigan’s most recent DEI Strategic Plan Progress Report as follows:

  • Diversity: We commit to increasing diversity, which is expressed in myriad forms including race and ethnicity, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, language, culture, national origins, religious commitments, age, disability status and political perspective.
  • Equity: We commit to working actively to challenge and respond to bias, harassment and discrimination. We are committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons and do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, religion, height, weight or veteran status.
  • Inclusion: We commit to pursuing deliberate efforts to ensure that our campus is a place where differences are welcomed, where different perspectives are respectfully heard and where every individual feels a sense of belonging and inclusion. We know that by building a critical mass of diverse groups on campus and creating a vibrant climate of inclusiveness, we can more effectively leverage the resources of diversity to advance our collective capabilities.

Submission Criteria


  • Please adhere to WDI Publishing’s “Preferred Style and Best Practices” document.
  • Final documents must be submitted online in Microsoft Word format.
  • Citations/Endnotes: All data in the case must be cited (in-text with consecutive numbers) with reputable primary or secondary sources. (Note: Wikipedia sources are not accepted.) The consecutive, in-text citations should correspond to full source information at the end of the document as Endnotes. Please use MLA style for endnotes.

Primary vs. Secondary Research: Your LCC case will feature a fictional organization, so the data in your case should be based on secondary data (i.e., data publicly available).

Previously Unpublished: The LCC case study must be previously unpublished and must not be bound by any copyright restrictions.

Geographical Setting: The setting for the LCC case can be anywhere in the world.

Authors of Winning LCC Cases: If your LCC case is chosen as a winner, all authors must sign a publishing agreement that states:

  • Authors assign Sanger Leadership Center exclusive distribution.
  • Authors certify and accept responsibility for the type of data in the case.
  • Author will receive no royalties on future sales of the case.

Publication of the Winning LCC Cases: The three winning LCC cases will be edited, formatted and published on and priced as determined by the Sanger Leadership Center.

LCC Final Submission Elements

  • Case Synopsis: Brief overview (1-2 paragraphs) of the case and the crisis.
  • Board of Directors (BoD) Bios: These are the bios of board members that student participants communicate with on Day 1 of the challenge. Faculty and/or alumni generally take on these roles during Day 2 of the challenge. Bios should include:
    • Name-Background/Experience
    • Education
  • Participant Bios: These are the executive-level roles that the student participants take on during the competition and  should include:
    • Name
    • Position
    • Background/experience
    • Education
    • Hobbies
  • Key Tensions/Sample Board Questions: This part of the LCC explains the challenge of the crisis and leads the BoD to ask pressing questions about various issues. Sample question categories include:
    • General
    • Financial
    • Legal
    • Public Relations
    • Strategy-specific (Early in the role-playing event, students will be prompted with several strategies they can implement to manage the crisis. Sample questions should be provided for each strategy scenario.)
  • Financial Statements (balance sheet & income statement): Financial statements for the firm, ideally for the past 2-3 years.
  • Company Overview / Mission / Values / DEI Commitment & Action / Community Investment: This section should be about one page total or less. Mission should be roughly one paragraph and  values are one word with a brief description.
  • Product Overview: A detailed overview that includes at least 1-2 graphics.
  • Corporate Sustainability Report (Optional)
  • Competitive Landscape: This section should include descriptions of non-fictional competitors, as well as the competitive advantages of the featured, fictitious company in crisis.
  • Press Release (Optional)
  • Time Releases: Please include 14-16 total. During the role-playing event, the crisis will be slowly unveiled via time releases that are “delivered” as emails to the student team and can include:
    • Fictional press release
    • Voicemail transcripts
    • Video scripts
    • Fictional news articles & interviews
    • Fictional social media posts
    • One of the time releases should provide specific strategies that the student team can utilize to manage the crisis. The team will ultimately present its recommended strategies to the fictional board of directors.

Judging Criteria

  • Topic/Content
    • The characters and/or the crisis are clearly focused on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
    • Content focuses on a business effort/challenge that is compelling and significant within the DEI space.
  • Inclusive Case Design
    • Diversity and inclusiveness is reflected throughout individual case elements such as the protagonist, writing style, and language.
    • Case is written with sensitivity to intercultural differences.
  • Teaching/Learning Value
    • Engages students into an active learning mode.
    • Provides students opportunities to analyze/solve relevant, practical, and regional business issues related to DEI.
    • Contains elements allowing students to exercise higher order, complex thinking.
    • Requires students to make key decisions under pressure and at times with limited information.
  • Case Synopsis
    • Introduces and provides relevant background information on the featured fictitious company.
    • Addresses the problem to be examined and arouses the interest and curiosity of the reader.
  • Characters/Organization
    • Introduces the board of directors & executive team with appropriate detail about their role in the organization.
    • Provides sufficient details about the organization or company including mission, values, product overview, evolution, competitive landscape, financial statements including previous 2-3 years balance sheet & income statement, culture including DEI commitment, community investment, and geographic location(s).
    • Provides adequate context for both characters and the organization, relative to the concept of the case.
  • Crisis
    • The crisis can realistically be solved by the executive team.
    • The problem has applicability beyond the immediate situation described in the case.
    • Challenges students to analyze the situation and consider multiple, integrative solutions.
  • Time Releases
    • Include 14-16 total.
    • Crisis details are slowly unveiled to keep the role-playing students intrigued, engaged, and on their toes.
    • Mini crises are presented that challenge students and force them to think and react quickly.
    • Action items and/or deliverables are included that students are required to complete over the duration of the challenge event.
    • Multiple audio and visual elements are included to add realism.
    • 2-3 strategies for managing the ongoing crisis are presented to students.
  • Format/Writing
    • The case is an appropriate length based on the difficulty of the situational context described.
    • Case submission is free from structural, grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors.

Final Judges

Susan Ashford

Susan Ashford is the Michael and Susan Jandernoa Professorship in Management and Organization at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and the Area Chair of the Management and Organizations group. On the Ross faculty since 1991, she taught previously at the Amos Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College (1983-1991). Professor Ashford works with executive audiences in the areas of leadership and leadership development, negotiation, managerial skills and effectiveness, and bottom-up organizational change. She teaches the negotiation course within the EMBA program and the capstone leadership course within the WMBA program. Professor Ashford received her MS and Ph.D. degrees from Northwestern University. She has taught in executive development programs at The University of Michigan, Dartmouth College, Duke University, and for Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Whirlpool Corporation and the Corporate Leadership Center’s Leading Women Executives program. She has consulted to various organizations, including General Electric and Merrill Lynch. Dr. Ashford has also served as a trainer for the management simulation project at New York University, working with executives from various organizations on their strategic and interpersonal skills. Professor Ashford is a Fellow of the Academy of Management professional association. She served as an Associate Dean for the Ross School of Business from 1994-1995, as the school’s Senior Associate Dean from 1998 – 2002 and as the Associate Dean for Leadership Programming and the Executive MBA from 2006-2010.


Mike Barger

Dr. Mike Barger is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Business Administration and Executive Director, Ross Online, at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. In his teaching role, Dr. Barger leads courses in entrepreneurship, early-stage business development, and leadership during organizational crisis. In his staff role, he facilitates the design and execution of the School’s digital education initiatives and oversees the operation of Ross Online. Dr. Barger graduated from the University of Michigan in 1986 where he received his undergraduate degree in Economics and Psychology. He then received his commission as an Officer in the United States Navy where he served for thirteen years, completing three, six-month deployments as a pilot and flight instructor flying the F/A-18 Hornet aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt and USS Dwight David Eisenhower. These deployments included combat action in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, over Bosnia, and in the skies above Kosovo. While in the Navy, Mike spent his entire career in pilot education highlighted by a tour as a student, Instructor and then Chief Instructor at the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN). Throughout his naval career, he was a widely published author, speaker and educator on combat strategy, training techniques (particularly in advanced simulation), and complex weapons systems employment. Dr. Barger left the US Navy in 1999 to be founding member of JetBlue Airways. He created JetBlue University, the award-winning corporate training function that provides learning and development to all members of the JetBlue workforce (it remains the only single-source provider of company education in the airline industry worldwide).


Anuradha Nagarajan

Dr. Nagarajan is a faculty member in the Corporate Strategy and International Business department at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. Her primary research interests include the study of emerging industries, technology strategy, and the competitive implications of inter-organizational arrangements in highly uncertain, networked environments. Her reserach has focused on the patterns and the firm level performance effects of technology adoption in the trucking industry. Her research also includes the study of the international development of the intelligent transportation systems industry with particular interest in the development of standards and technology trajectories in a technologically interdependent environment. Her papers have appeared in the Strategic Management Journal and Industrial and Corporate Change. Her recent research papers on the use of technology and the internet in the trucking industry have been published as chapters in the following books: “US Industry in 2000 – Studies in Competitive Performance” published by the National Academy Press in 2000, “Tracking a Transformation – e-commerce and the terms of competition in industries” published by the Brookings Institution Press in 2001, and “The Economic Payoff from the Internet Revolution” published by the Brookings Institution Press in 2001. She teaches courses in corporate strategy, corporate development, mergers and acquisitions, managerment of alliances, and the management of technology and innovation in the BBA and MBA programs at the Ross School of Business. She received her Ph.D. in Corporate Strategy from the University of Michigan in 1996.

Award Details

  • First Place:
    • $10,000
    • Edited & published by Sanger Leadership Center and utilized at 2022 LCC event
    • Authors may have the opportunity to attend the War Room for the 2022 LCC event
  • Second Place:
    • $5,000
    • Edited and published by Sanger Leadership Center
  • Third Place:
    • $2,500
    • Edited and published by Sanger Leadership Center
  • Honorable Mentions:
    • Edited and published by Sanger Leadership Center
    • No monetary prize

Prize money will be awarded in US currency with applicable taxes and bank fees withheld. Prize money will only be paid to the winning authors of the case; no third-party designated recipients. Prize money will not be awarded until authors provide Sanger Leadership Center with the following:

  • Completed W-9 tax form (if a US citizen)
  • Completed W-8BEN tax form with a US ITIN number (if not a US citizen)


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