By Valentin Vassilev, Published: 22 February 2019
Leadership development is one of the main incentives for experienced managers and executives to enroll in Executive MBA (EMBA) programmes. Many find out that in order to realise their full leadership potential, they need to gain more self-insight.
EMBA programmes use a wide array of methods to help professionals improve their leadership skills by gaining a more profound self-knowledge and exploiting their strengths to the utmost.
Becoming a better leader
No self-respecting executive education provider is indifferent to the subject of leadership. And while different courses employ diverse teaching methods and approaches, the top ones unanimously acknowledge that achieving personal growth is integral to becoming a better leader. IMD (Switzerland), for instance, does not just want to improve your knowledge and skills in management and business. It wants to help you become a more reflective leader. Professor Stefan Michel, Dean of the IMD Executive MBA, says: “We challenge you by taking you out of your comfort zone, while providing the resources and support required for personal growth.”
Many business schools, including IMD, offer participants personal, one-on-one leadership coaching throughout the programme. One of the objectives is to give them the opportunity to better understand their own behaviour, as well as human behaviour in general. Human psychology is also a major topic in the Leadership course of the Executive MBA programme at IESE (Spain). One of its main objectives is to teach professionals how to “do things through people” by giving them greater understanding of the basic motives that drive individuals. The course also underscores the importance of effective and meaningful interpersonal relationships in the workplace.
Understanding human behaviour can also be useful for improving leadership effectiveness. The Advanced Leadership Week at IE (Spain) is a mandatory week for Executive MBA participants where they learn about the science behind emotions and experience the impact emotions can have on their behaviour and that of others. The course is designed to help them improve their powers of persuasion and raise awareness of their role inside a team.
The EMBA does not give you a clear definition of your role as a leader. You need to figure that out for yourself. Experiential leadership development programmes are often used by business schools to help participants understand what kind of leaders they are. One of the most famous such initiatives is the LEAD programme at Chicago Booth (US), often referred to as “the only class you need to take”. Chicago Booth graduate Rafael Tuachi says: “LEAD is an exceptional experience that extends beyond the classroom in that it develops skills and behaviours, useful in general, invaluable in group settings, both professionally and personally.” LEAD is designed to enhance students’ self-awareness and interpersonal effectiveness. The programme aims to help them discover their true nature as leaders by putting them in situations where their leadership skills are tested – working in teams, influencing others, managing conflicts, communicating, and presenting. This enables managers and executives not only to explore who they are as leaders, but also to create a personalised plan for their studies at Booth and beyond.
Looking inward to see outward
Business professionals enrolled in EMBA programmes are constantly encouraged to exercise introspection. In an article entitled “The Five Minds of a Manager” for Harvard Business Review, academics Jonathan Gosling and Henry Mintzberg described the thoughtful mindset that leaders should possess: “These days, what managers desperately need is to stop and think, to step back and reflect thoughtfully on their experiences. […] Reflect means to refold, which suggests that attention turns inward so that it can be turned outward.”
Joseph Badaracco, who has taught courses on business ethics, strategy, and management in Harvard Business School's MBA and executive programmes, agrees: “EMBA students perhaps need a little less in the way of quantitative tools and a little more in the way of good judgment and self-knowledge, as well as a deeper understanding of human nature. [...] Leaders should learn more about themselves if they want to succeed. In other words, before you set out to manage others, you should look inside yourself and reflect on how well you can manage yourself. That takes time, and it is an unnatural act for action-oriented people. And you may not like what you see.”
For top EMBA programmes, self-knowledge is a major element of the curriculum, either incorporated into a separate course or existing as a feature in different modules and initiatives. IESE, for instance, offers a self-management course where participants study different aspects of self-management, building on the foundation of self-awareness and self-regulation, and especially in the context of interpersonal relationships, character strength, and personal values and purpose.
Different business schools use different methods to help experienced business professionals discover their true nature as leaders. If you are on the lookout for the right EMBA programme, you can attend a Premier EMBA event to learn about the top 30 Executive MBA programmes directly from local alumni and admissions’ directors, and discuss your expectations with fellow executives. The next events in the Premier EMBA itinerary will take place in Oslo, Dublin, New York, Abu Dhabi, and Warsaw. If you would like to attend an event later in the year, you can choose from Amsterdam, Paris, Copenhagen, Moscow, Zurich, and Munich.
The right EMBA programme has the potential to turn you into the best version of yourself, both personally and professionally. It will definitely take a lot of effort and work, but it will be worth it. Are you ready for this challenge?