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Aspiring CEOs commit to lifelong learning

Progressing into the realms of executive leadership is not as easy as it used to be. Those who want to reach the top quickly are blending their professional lives with a keen and consistent approach to academia

In a fast-evolving business landscape, ambitious professionals are realising that being good at their jobs is not necessarily enough to get them to the top. Business conditions are changing quicker than ever and the concept of leadership continues to develop. The key to fast progression is committing to lifelong learning.

The thought of busy professionals undertaking a degree programme on top of their usual workload may be daunting to many. But today’s flexible working environments are opening the door to a new generation of employees who want to develop their ability to lead.

Business schools around the world compete for the opportunity to educate the leaders of tomorrow. And in today’s digital age, teaching senior leaders how to develop their organisations and people requires a thorough embrace of modern technology.

IE Business School is leveraging its early commitment to blended learning, which combines technology-based education with traditional classroom methods, to allow current professionals to develop their leadership attributes alongside business commitments.

The Madrid-based graduate school works with institutions such as the Ivy League Brown University, Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, Pritzker School of Law at Northwestern University and Singapore Management University to offer its programmes to striving leaders who don’t want to step out of work.

Blended learning 

Joël McConnell joined IE’s prestigious Global MBA programme in 2006 when the blended approach was in its infancy. He has since taken advantage of the school’s training methodology and global nature to complete many of its other programmes.

“My intake travelled both east and west, making stops in Dubai, Mumbai and Shanghai, as well as Moscow, New York and Mexico City,” says Mr McConnell, who is now IE’s director for Europe and Central Asia. IE attracts students from 90 countries.

These trips allow Mr McConnell and his colleagues to apply the management theory and leadership approaches they were learning in very different cultural, political and business contexts. “It’s a highly valuable experience for the aspiring global leader,” he says.

Between these residential modules, IE uses technology such as videoconferencing and blackboard software to continue discussions in real time as students return and apply learnings to their respective contexts.

After graduating from the 18-month MBA programme, Mr McConnell was hired to manage IE’s endowments, scholarships programmes, lending agreements and various funding partnerships, including its long-standing relationship with the Fulbright Foundation.

This is when the blended approach really came in handy, allowing him to complete IE’s Master’s degree in finance, executive development programme in luxury management and three of the three to five-day programmes offered by its executive education area.

As Mr McConnell progressed through IE, leading its Asia-Pacific team and then its Europe team, he completed a certificate programme at Cambridge Judge Business School and is now pursuing a postgraduate degree at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School.

“My career has demonstrated lifelong learning in practice,” he says. “And throughout this I’ve been able to apply my programmes of study to the day-to-day requirements of the leadership roles I’ve held.”

Reinventing leaders

Businesses today operate in an increasingly complex and competitive environment. With new technologies and digital innovations causing major upheaval, companies are being forced regularly to evaluate their commercial models and transform the ways they do business.

To survive and succeed among these evolving business realities, companies need access to leaders who are able to reinvent themselves and adapt their approaches to leadership. The best way to gain this access is to nurture the talent currently available to them.

Mixing IE’s academic expertise and blended approach with premium market insights will deliver a new era of executive leaders who understand the fast-moving nature of business today

In part, this is achieved by supplementing employees’ professional activities with consistent exposure to degree programmes and targeted training courses. Many top organisations are working with leading business schools on programmes designed for staff members they consider to be high-potential future leaders.

To differentiate itself in the hunt for the most globally competitive leadership talent, IE sought to expand its capabilities beyond mastering an effective mix of technology and management training. Two years ago, it partnered with the Financial Times to develop a custom programme that includes real-time market insights from leading business journalists, and the latest research from statisticians and experts in pedagogy.

The joint venture between IE and the FT resulted in the Corporate Learning Alliance (CLA), offering custom executive training that can be delivered in five different languages and either entirely onsite or using the blended methodology.

The CLA partners with other world-renowned business schools, including Yale School of Management, Imperial College London and Renmin Business School in China, to design and deliver tailored programmes.

Mr McConnell believes this type of learning, mixing IE’s academic expertise and blended approach with premium market insights, will deliver a new era of executive leaders who understand the fast-moving nature of business today.

“Companies need tangible results from their investments in executive training and education,” he says. “IE’s tailored programmes meet the changing needs of executives and draw on extensive local and international expertise provided by both our academics and our global academic partners.”

Chief executives require a diverse range of skills, from creativity to execution and the ability to organise and motivate people. Reaching the top is best achieved by delivering consistently high results, enabled through constant access to quality information.

Complementing professional activities with formal training is a fast-track approach to reaching the leadership position which future chief executives aspire to. By focusing energy on scenarios far broader than their current job description, professionals can continually develop the business acumen and wide skillsets that leaders need.

“Combining battlefield experience with insights from experts and highly qualified colleagues, as part of the continuous learning process, is particularly important,” says Mr McConnell. “And while the ideal case is that your organisation has developed a custom programme to address their specific leadership needs, you can create your own learning opportunities by taking advantage of top-quality degree programmes and executive courses.”

For more information please visit www.ie.edu/business-school

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