As organizations strive to remain competitive and innovative, the demand for effective leadership becomes more pronounced than ever. And, in today’s fast-changing business landscape, the role of a leader has transcended traditional boundaries to encompass a dynamic blend of strategic vision, adaptability and interpersonal finesse.
Executive education courses tailored for leadership not only cultivate these essential skills but also empower executives to navigate complexities, inspire teams and drive transformative change in their domains. There are a wide range of options available, from honing strategic acumen to fostering emotional intelligence, at leading business schools.
In Madrid, Spain’s IESE Business School puts on a wide range of leadership programs for individuals at various levels in their organizations -- including the Program for Management Development (PMD), the C-Suite Pathway Program and the Advanced Management Program. These offerings cater to people with more than five years of professional experience and come in adaptable formats and schedules that allow participants to integrate work commitments with their learning.
How leadership expectations are evolving
Yolanda Serra, IESE Business School’s Director of International Executive Programs, says the expectations placed on leaders have developed, necessitating them to focus on developing more enlightened management skills. “Recent events and worldwide trends -- such as the pandemic, the looming climate crisis or increasing polarization -- have had a profound effect on most people, but especially on the new generation of leaders, many of whom feel a greater sense of responsibility regarding the impact and purpose of their company,” she explains.
“These leaders are also discovering that younger generations of consumers are really demanding companies have a sense of purpose as well, and holding them to account, especially when it comes to sustainability or social issues. And, of course, there are huge implications for every type of business with the advance of AI.”
As a consequence, she says leaders will need to have more soft skills especially as technology advances. “Many hard skills will soon be done by machines or AI -- if they aren’t already,” says Serra. “So, the wisdom needed to analyze data and the judgment required to deal with other humans beings will be even more prioritized. This will be a dramatic change.”
In light of these transformations, IESE is adapting its executive education programs for leaders to ensure that participants are equipped to successfully meet these new and changing demands. “In terms of content, topics like AI and ESG -- and especially their implications for the business models of companies -- are being incorporated into our general leadership programs,” Serra says.
Leadership skills for success beyond profit
Big changes to executive courses for leaders are also underway at INSEAD business school, to reflect how the role of leaders is shifting.
“Traditional measures of business success consider profits and revenue, but that has since evolved,” says Nathalie Nawrocki, Executive Director of Corporate Partnerships at INSEAD.
“Modern leaders are expected to lead successfully beyond financial performance and to manage the social and environmental impact of business operations. Employees, customers and investors expect today’s leaders to demonstrate a strong sense of purpose, aligning business strategies with employee and stakeholder interests, social and environmental values.”
In that context she believes that successful leaders for the future are those that will be agile, innovative and responsible. “Leaders need to take more complex decisions and more rapidly with an ever-increasing amount of data,” Nawrocki explains. “Leaders also will need to be increasingly empathetic, it’s a balance between trust and greater collaboration, in the context of less hierarchy.”
The importance of equity, diversity and inclusion
Additionally, she says effective leaders will need to engage in equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives to create a sustainable enterprise. “Greater leadership communication skills are also increasingly essential, communicating on the purpose and mission whilst being very clear on strategy will be key,” she adds.
For providers of executive education like INSEAD, that translates into an imperative to predict emerging needs and to develop solutions to address them ahead of time. An example at INSEAD is how the school is increasingly integrating sustainability in its teaching as well as offering the INSEAD Business Sustainability Program designed for senior executives who need to understand the business case for sustainability and how to implement new strategies across their organizations.
Lastly, Nawrocki says one of the newer emerging trends that leaders need to learn how to navigate is AI, which she believes is rapidly emerging as the most important and transformative technology of our time. “As the technology advances, leaders will need to embrace and leverage it to drive innovation as well as to consider its impact on the business and workforce including addressing potential ethical concerns and managing the human-machine collaboration effectively.” As such, executive education programs for leaders will only continue to rise in significance to organizations and their executives.