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‘Going Back To School’: The Need For Real-World Executive Education

Executive Education is the need of the hour, to cultivate effective leadership which is equipped with the knowledge and skills to address real-world global issues. What’s exceptionally important is a hands-on learning experience that is in sync with the aspirations of the participants and their competencies.

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In today’s fast-changing global environment, working professionals need new skills and tools to face new challenges like never before. The context in which businesses today operate is ever-changing, with advances in a particular sector or region causing a ripple effect across markets and industries. Change is the new Normal. It is therefore vital for businesses to adapt quickly and effectively to change and most importantly, innovate to evolve strategically. This requires empowering the ‘change-makers’ i.e. employees with the right kind of skills and competencies to drive this change and find innovative solutions to the challenges in the foreseeable future. Without the skills to stay relevant in this fast-paced world, workers suffer and fall behind ultimately leading to society falling apart. It is the duty of the organizations to help employees ‘learn while they earn’ to meet the need for new and constantly updated skills. 


Executive Education is the need of the hour, to cultivate effective leadership which is equipped with the knowledge and skills to address real-world global issues. What’s exceptionally important is a hands-on learning experience that is in sync with the aspirations of the participants and their competencies. Hence, customization is the key to the viability and practicality of executive education programmes. These programmes should not be designed with a one-size-fits-all approach. Rather, they should be tailored to meet the needs of the participants and prepare them to undertake critical leadership positions within their organizations. The industry can help by collaborating with educational institutions to design courses that are relevant. The pedagogy approach should be more interactive and experiential and not didactic in nature. Such customized programmes address the need for both the companies and working professionals to evolve with the world trends and remain viable in the global context.

The percentage of women in senior roles is declining globally. Women hold under a quarter (24%) of senior roles across the world in 2018, a decrease from 25% in 2017. One quarter (25%) of global businesses have no women in senior management roles. The so-called ‘glass ceiling’ is still faced by women managers in the contemporary world. As per a survey by Grant Thornton, India ranks third lowest in the proportion of business leadership roles held by women. Only 17 percent of senior roles are held by women in India. 

Diversity helps make companies profitable and innovative.  For example, EY reports that board with more women lead to more profitable companies. We need to get more women in leadership roles, not just for social justice but also to make organizations more diverse and inclusive, and hence more innovative and profitable. To create and foster a culture of gender inclusion in organizations, educational institutions need to curate leadership programmes exclusively for women. These programmes should aim at preparing women leaders for organizational change and development and enabling the creation of a leadership pipeline that is inclusive in nature. 

The world is going to be very socially oriented in the future, and we need to prepare our leaders for that.  The citizens today are more socially conscious and have social platforms to voice their opinion. The internet and social media have empowered the ‘common man’ with the freedom to exchange information and have fueled debate and dialogue across regions. The businesses are no longer disconnected from their responsibility towards society and the environment. It is imperative for organizations to understand how their actions impact the society. Companies will have to justify to all its stakeholders: employees, consumers, and shareholders that their practices and policies are environment-friendly and sustainable. Leaders will need to be more socially minded and much more global than they are today. For this, the curriculum for executive programs needs to be amended to provide up-to-date training that focusses on running businesses responsibly and sustainably.

What would leaders need to succeed? The truly successful managers and professionals of this century will be determined not just by what they already know but also by how fast they can learn new skills and techniques. This new generation of leaders needs to be socially responsible and demonstrate strategic focus and vision, coupled with the flexibility and adaptability in dealing with both technology and the people around them.


To end with, I would like to quote renowned scholar Warren Bennis, "Success in management requires learning as fast as the world is changing." 


This article was published in BW Businessworld issue dated '' with cover story titled 'BW Education Issue Nov-Dec 2018'

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house



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