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Leadership and management education injects life into your career. It provides a new context and environment, and helps you access depths of leadership with professional coaching and guidance. It is a critical complement to your on-the-job learning, helping you learn more from every experience.
A leadership program may only be one element in the developmental edifice, but it is a cornerstone for reflecting on the capabilities, mindsets and behaviors that have proved effective and those that need modifying.
Shlomo Ben-Hur, IMD Professor of Leadership, Talent Management and Corporate Learning
“The most common way that companies prepare executives for leadership is to give them accelerated experience across different domains, by rotating them through a series of projects, functions, lines of business or geographies,” says Shlomo Ben-Hur, Professor of Leadership, Talent Management and Corporate Learning at IMD business school in Lausanne, Switzerland and Singapore. “The danger… is that people become experts at only one thing – starting new initiatives. They never have to live with the consequences of their decisions or get a chance to draw the necessary conclusions.”
While he warns that “leadership training is no panacea”, Prof. Ben-Hur says that, “A leadership program may only be one element in the developmental edifice, but it is a cornerstone for reflecting on the capabilities, mindsets and behaviors that have proved effective and those that need modifying.”
IMD Business School has been training global leaders for more than 70 years and is considered one of the top business schools in the world, ranked first in open programs by the Financial Times six years in a row (2012-2017).
When you hear a story about someone who started working at age 12 in her father’s fresh produce business and went on to be named Africa’s most influential woman by CEO Magazine… well, you’d be normal to think, “Wow, that’s a natural leader!”
There’s no denying Sibongile Manganyi-Rath’s leadership, intelligence and ability to seize opportunity. At the age of 26, she founded Indigo Kulani Group, a South African construction industry business. So can leadership and management education really bring more to a person of such instinctive talent and drive? Her answer is a resounding yes.
We’ve built over 200 schools in South Africa but those aren’t just buildings. That means nearly 10,000 South Africans have been given the chance to get an education and improve their lives because of what we have done.
Sibongile Manganyi-Rath, Participant, IMD Foundations for Business Leadership program
She says it was important to balance out what she had learned on the job with formal management training. This brought her to IMD and the Foundations for Business Leadership (FBL) program. The 20-day program provides an accelerated learning platform to enable new general management leaders to solidify business fundamentals and integrate cross-functional skills into their daily operations.
Sibongile says she was impressed by how structured the science of business leadership and management is. According to a profile in IMD’s Impact stories, one of the biggest takeaways for her was the value of communicating the impact that your organization brings.
“We were very focused on the ‘products’ we provided but not what we contributed to South African society,” she explains. “We’ve built over 200 schools in South Africa but
those aren’t just buildings. That means nearly 10,000 South Africans have been given the chance to get an education and improve their lives because of what we have done.”
As for the direct impact on her leadership and management, she says that the program challenged her to evaluate her skills openly to grow her leadership: “As a CEO I am not used to getting feedback, but it was also very rewarding.”
Next steps for Sibongile? You probably won’t be surprised that this ambitious CEO didn’t stop her leadership and management learning at FBL. The experience inspired her to enroll in IMD’s Executive MBA program.
Leadership education isn’t just great for boosting your business management skills and knowledge. It’s also great for networking… which, by the way, is great for boosting your business management skills and knowledge.
Designed for young, high-potential talented leaders the program helps build capacity for larger and more important functional and inter-functional expertise. BOT is a blended program that combines online leadership training with – in the middle – two weeks split between IMD’s Lausanne campus and leadership exercises in a nearby mountain setting.
"My two weeks at IMD were a really great experience. I found myself in an environment where you can see all types of people from different industries,” says Xenia, who works as Commercial Director for the Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company, a Moscow-based commercial aircraft manufacturer. “This helps you to broaden your horizons and sometimes think a little bit outside of the box."
The international and inter-industry perspectives brought by this energetic group inspired Xenia to look within and explore where she wanted to take her own career. The BOT program explores business management fundamentals like finance and marketing, as well as less tangible, yet critical, aspects of leadership in today’s complex market – innovation, sustainability and digital agility.
BOT participants work on a real-life project during the program, and incorporate their learning on the job after the campus segment of the program. Xenia says that input from her classmates, as well as from professors, was an important factor in enabling her to take her project successfully to fruition.
Think an online leadership and management course can’t have a big impact on your professional skills development? Think again.
Alexander (Sascha) Majarek chose to take IMD’s Strategic Thinking program, part of the Global Leadership in the Cloud series, to help sharpen his strategic skills following a promotion. Sascha was no novice: he had two MBAs and eight years’ experience as CIO at TUI Group, the world’s largest travel and tourism company, when he was promoted to Commercial & Service Integration Director for Infrastructure Management and Service Delivery at the TUI headquarters in Hanover.
Sascha wanted to make an impact in his new role - he wanted to drive innovation strategically. Strategic Thinking was just the kind of program he was looking for. The 8-week online program helps you develop your strategic thinking skills by taking you through a strategic diagnosis – personalized to your real-life situation – helping you evaluate the internal and external forces that affect your business strategies. You design a strategic roadmap and 60-day action-plan to apply to leverage opportunities for your business.
Sascha appreciated that while he didn’t have to travel or take time off his job to take the program, there were plenty of live sessions, team assignments with classmates around the world and opportunities for peer discussion.
The leadership course, according to Sascha is about gaining a “clearer understanding of how strategy development works (i.e. if done properly) based on facts and figures. It's not just some "magic" that you need to have a special talent for. Once you break it down to its parts, it's much easier to find and do the right things.”
Who do you meet when you’re at work? Mostly it’s colleagues, customers, suppliers and competitors. Their areas of expertise and the things they care about are often very aligned with yours. This is great, except when you’d love a really different perspective. And you’re not likely to chitchat about daily trials with someone in a parallel position at a competing company. One thing that leadership and management programs do is bring together groups of managers who come from extremely diverse industries and geographies, but who share many of the same challenges.
IMD’s Strategies for Leadership (SL) program is designed especially for women executives and the unique challenges they face. Participants learn from each other and develop a sense of solidarity that helps them open up and explore their personal leadership style. They learn to draw out the leader within themselves and confidently leverage their own strengths.
By moving outside of my comfort zone, I learned about trust and also that how you lead depends on the energy you bring.
Megan Rock, Participant, IMD Strategies for Leadership program
Let’s look at this through the eyes of Megan Rock, an executive with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who participated in the program in 2015. A promotion that would challenge her leadership skills – when she had previously counted on strong function skills – brought her to the program. “"Suddenly I was managing and leading teams of people who, the previous morning, were my direct colleagues," she says, explaining the challenge.
She didn’t particularly seek out a program for women leaders, but it turned out to be the perfect environment for what she calls her “amazing leadership journey”. The program put her among a group of women leaders – the fact that most came from the private sector led to reflection on what leadership means for women in general and for herself.
In just four days together, the group bonded into a trusted community where they could safely share challenges and learnings. "I felt that something very courageous and very real happened there," she says. The programs leadership exercises brought a leadership breakthrough for Megan: “By moving outside of my comfort zone, I learned about trust and also that how you lead depends on the energy you bring.”
Leadership coaching is important in the program, which is also complemented by a post-program coaching session. Megan says the program and coaching inspired her to take other leadership courses and learnings, and to become a career coach within the ICRC herself – something she describes as a calling.
When someone describes a leadership and management course as life-changing, you might assume they really “just” mean career-changing. But more can happen at a leadership program if it really takes you beyond the tactics and into the realm of understanding yourself. When Agnaldo Santos says the Advanced High Performance Leadership (AHPL) at IMD was life-changing, he means: Life. Changing.
Now I think about what my purpose in life is every morning.
Agnaldo Santos, Participant, IMD Advanced High Performance Leadership program
Let’s back up a bit. Agnaldo, who is Head of Research and Development at the Brazilian office of elevator manufacturer Schindler, had previously attended the pre-requisite program High Performance Leadership (HPL). This program had a huge impact on his leadership and on his department’s success.
Of HPL, Agnaldo says, “I was expecting a very traditional course that would just outline the latest practices.” Instead, he found a program that led him to a deep understanding of himself and his leadership style. Back on the job after the program, he reorganized his department with vigour and since, the group has consistently come out on top when benchmarked internally.
He says that after that positive experience at HPL, he was looking forward to AHPL, expecting it to be similarly impactful. It far surpassed his expectations. He says he came out of the program not only knowing what he wanted from his career but how to get there. But there’s more:
“I looked at my own abilities and career in further depth but I also explored myself as a person and learned how to improve my relationship with my family,” he says. “I had been neglecting my family to some extent and that was holding me back in my career and my life. I had built a castle with high walls and forgot about letting the sun come in.
“After recognizing that my family was my secure base, thanks to the program, I bought a small piece of jewellery in the shape of the sun to remind me, my wife and daughter that I needed to let the sun in. Now I think about what my purpose in life is every morning. It has been very emotional. My family has told me that they can really feel the change. It was a new start.”
Some people may question whether leadership and management education for CEOs and Senior Executives is necessary. Aren’t they already at the top of their game? Well, how many Olympic athletes do you see training and competing without coaches? Point made. But indeed, training the most senior skilled executives takes an extremely well-crafted program, led by top business minds.
So when a CEO describes a leadership learning program as “probably the most valuable two weeks of my career”, you take notice. This is how Stephan Strauss, CEO of Building, Industrial and Consumer Goods at DB Schenker, Europe's largest rail freight logistics operator, describes his experience at IMD’s Breakthrough Program for Senior Executives (BPSE) program.
The leadership course is designed to help top international management leaders break through to new levels of performance. It gives them the opportunity to re-energize ambitions, explore their own company’s position amidst external forces and formulate new responses to challenges, amidst a select group of peers.
In Stephan’s case, he attended the program in 2014 at a time when he was looking for inspiration to help him build momentum during a time of major transformations in terms of his €1 billion division’s business model, strategy, culture and leadership. “I was specifically looking for a business school and program that would help me look at my challenges from different perspectives, identify new opportunities for value creation, and build a personal agenda to achieve the step-change transformations I needed to make,” he says.
He says the program helped him succeed in his transformation challenge by becoming more innovative, effective and self-confident. “The combination of discussing similar challenges with such a diverse high-level group and, in parallel, working on my own breakthrough agenda, underpinned by the support of a personal coach, was extremely inspiring and effective.”
Gotchya! Our 7th person isn’t a person. Sometimes, a whole company or division can break through to new leadership and management successes through an executive education program. Many organizations partner with IMD Business School for tailor-made management programs. So let’s look at what happened with Hempel, when they came to IMD for a custom program called Strategy 2020 for its top leadership, beginning in 2014.
Hempel is a world-leading supplier of coatings for various uses – from marine to wind turbines to homes – to protect man-made structures from the elements. Their goal with Strategy 2020 was to optimize their strategy and make key decisions to optimize its global business.
The format of the program is a yearly 4-day “summer school” for the company’s top management as well as its next-generation leaders – about 25 executives. “For us it’s a real inspiration to have a close, 4-day summer school in Lausanne,” says Hempel CEO Henrik Andersen.
As a group of leaders we are on the same platform… [we] used this program to make certain quite significant decisions about our strategic priorities going forward.
Jesper Bodtkjer, Participant, IMD Custom Program for Hempel, Strategy 2020
Following the program for the top leaders at IMD, the company then passes the learning forward to the rest of the teams. Henrik Anderson explains: “In November we gather the next 150 [managers] somewhere around the world. So we actually cascade the messages and the decisions we made at the IMD summer school. It comes as a very natural part of our 2020 strategy.”
Klauss Moeller, Group Vice President, Protective, says the leadership summer schools provide new inspiration around numerous key topics of the moment and of the strategy. “It give sort of a bit of oxygen to the brain… we’ve been talking a lot about moving from products to solutions and the steps that are required as a company to get there. What needs we have in the marketplace as well as what needs to happen internally.”
In addition to providing clear-cut food for thought and strategy development, the leadership management summer school unifies the team and gets everyone on the same page. “I think it [has] a significant impact,” says Jesper Bodtkjer, Group Vice President, Europe. “Because as a group of leaders we are on the same platform – I mean, we’ve been through a program together – and not least, of course because we have also used this program to make certain quite significant decisions about our strategic priorities going forward.”