What Dermot O'Gorman gained from his EMBA
It's not enough for charity CEOs to want to do good; to have maximum impact, they also have to know how to
lead. That's one of the reasons why Dermot O'Gorman, the CEO of WWF Australia, part of the global conservation
organization, enrolled in the Executive MBA at IMD.
"I have qualifications in conservation, environment science, environmental economics, and the social context
surrounding sustainability, but when I took on my first management role I realized that I needed something else,"
Dermot said. "A big part job of my job was about managing teams in an increasingly global setting, and I wanted to
do that better. The environmental challenge is so big, we will only succeed by working together, locally,
regionally and globally."
His employers were very happy to support his decision to enroll on the program.
"WWF has always been very encouraging about me doing the course," Dermot said. "The NGO sector as a whole is
professionalizing, and with that has come the realization that we need to develop our leaders. That's one of the
reasons I chose IMD; some EMBAs are basically just about finance, but this program was much more rounded, and much
more interested in ethics and other aspects of building leaders."
It also one of the reasons why Dermot, who joined WWF in 1998, is using some of the tools he mastered on the
EMBA to help develop the next generation of leaders at his organization. "I am now using some of the skills that I
learnt at IMD to help train, mentor and coach other WWF staff in our network," he said.
While Dermot was the only non-profit manager on his course - "I think I might have been one of the first people
ever from my sector to do an EMBA at IMD" - he was surprised to discover just how much importance other
participants placed on sustainability. "We had a lot of discussions about the opportunities that it was providing
in their businesses," he said. "These conversations have formed the basis of much of my thinking since, and have
helped me when going into partnerships with other organizations. This wasn't something that I expected from the
program, but it has proved very useful."
The EMBA has also improved his understanding of how the commercial sector operates. "An important aspect of my
work is engaging with senior business leaders about how they can incorporate conservation and sustainability into
their business models, which means that I have to understand how those models work. As I have never worked in the
private sector it was important to me to get a broad-based understanding of the administration of business and how
they are run now. The daily interaction with my exceptional classmates was fundamental to my learning."
The Discovery Expeditions were a particularly interesting way of doing this, he said. "They allowed us to talk
to real leaders in real companies who were doing the things that we were discussing in class. It was fascinating
to see how they made decisions about opportunities to develop their businesses in different sectors around the
world. Gaining this real-world global insight was priceless."