The Leadership Masterclass
03 Aug 2009
A reinvention of the traditional MBA, the Faculty's first Global Executive MBA aims to provide gifted executives with the leadership skills they need to scale the heights of success in business.
It is the dawn of a new era in management education. Not so long ago, the traditional, full-time MBA was widely considered the executive's best passport to a successful corporate career. But in recent years, there has been an increasing recognition by the business community that mainstream MBAs are too vague and not relevant enough to the realities of modern business. That has triggered universities around the world - including business schools at Stanford and Yale - to devise new and more innovative forms of management education.
Enter the Faculty's new Global Executive MBA (EMBA) program, an innovative 18-month degree in business leadership that will commence in 2010. It had its genesis in July 2006 when a taskforce led by Professor David Hensher was charged with planning a completely new management education offering for the Faculty. In early 2007, the group handed down its report and appointed marketing scholar Professor Chris Styles to develop the curriculum of the flagship degree, assisted by the newly formed Management Education Office and a handpicked team of Faculty scholars. "We all agreed that if the Faculty was going to create an MBA, it was going to be something very distinctive that business really needed," says Professor Styles.
The result of that process is a management degree with a number of features that separates it from a traditional MBA. It is integrated in its approach to leadership: rather than treating disciplines such as marketing and finance separately, students are required to solve problems holistically as they would in business. The degree also emphasises the real-life context of business problems rather then exploring them in isolation and maintains a global focus throughout the course.
Another factor that sets the program apart is who it is targeted at: "It is definitely not for everyone," says Professor Styles. "We work in partnership with companies to identify future leaders with the most potential who would get the most benefit out of an accelerated leadership program. We expect they will have around 10 years of executive experience."
Students undertaking the Global Executive MBA first complete online modules to fill any knowledge gaps before embarking on a hands-on learning experience in all the various disciplines of management. They go on to explore the idea of leadership using a range of different lenses from military and philosophical to dramatic and musical perspectives, accessing the knowledge of experts across the entire University. For example, they gain insights into creativity in leadership by improvising jazz melodies at the Conservatorium, while learning how to structure a logical argument from scholars in the Department of Philosophy.
Next, students proceed to three key modules organised around the business phases of identifying new opportunities, growing opportunities, and business renewal. "We chose this way of organising the course because different skills and knowledge is used depending on your point in the business life-cycle," says Professor Styles. "The skills you need to build a new team at the start of a project are very different from those you need if you have to fire people when turning around a business."
For each of these themes, students fly to a different location around the globe, exploring new opportunities in the Indian city of Bangalore, growth in Silicon Valley and renewal in France's tradition-bound wine industry. At each location they are thrown in the deep end, tasked with co-ordinating a real-life local business project which provides an opportunity to explore the theme of that module. Meanwhile, they strengthen their expertise in that area by attending related seminars taught by members of the Faculty as well as highly-regarded local experts.
"We hothouse the students, accelerating their exposure to a wide range of strategic problems across different countries that might take you years to experience if you were a manager," Professor Styles explains. "But rather than just teaching how to do business in India, we get participants to actually experience doing business in India, giving them a true business context." As they undertake the degree, students also get the opportunity to apply what they learn to real life by completing a major strategic initiative for their own company that is developed in collaboration with their employer and the course director.
For Professor Styles, the most exciting and distinctive aspect of the Global Executive MBA is not its content but the way the course itself was developed. Creating the program in consultation with the business community, he says, has resulted in a degree tailor-made for what business wants. "We took a build-and-test approach, working out a new part of the course then getting the feedback and support of a range of senior businesspeople before moving on to the next part," says Professor Styles, himself a former business executive with Procter & Gamble and high-level corporate trainer. "We also benefited from the invaluable support of the Faculty's Board of Advice."
That long period of consultation with business has now paid off, with major companies of the calibre of Citigroup, HSBC and NAB giving the program an extremely enthusiastic response. "We are all incredibly passionate about this course and my personal belief is it will change people's lives," adds Professor Styles.
Limited opportunities exist for companies to sponsor places for their managers in the Global Executive MBA program, commencing in 2010. For more information or to register now for a first look visit the Global Executive MBA site.