Global MBA's prepare leaders for the challenges they will face in the workplace and provide them with an understanding of how effective leadership makes the difference for companies of all sizes. In the latest MBA Showcase, Matthew Bellotti speaks to experts from business schools around the Asia-Pacific region to explore the challenges and rewards on offer for today's business leaders.
'Manages manage; Leaders inspire'.
So says conventional wisdom. And with good cause. A strong leader can have enormous positive impact on companies large and small. The ability to problem-solve and understand in theory what should make organizations successful are assets necessary to any middle manager, however, for those who are looking to go the extra yard, they also need to be able to inspire and to impress those around them. In other words, they need to lead.
But is being a leader an innate personality function, or can it be taught? The answer to that is; yes, and yes. Of course some people just are not cut out for leading a group, no matter how small, but by the same token, there are skills that can be harnessed and developed to help mould leaders and point them in the right direction. Just look at MBA programs, where they do exactly that.
"The ability to deliver such 'inspiration' within an organization develops from a deep understanding and clear respect for the views and beliefs of others." Explains Dr. Philip Sugai of The International University of Japan, which provides an environment to achieve exactly this by accepting 300 students from over 50 countries, and forcing all students (even Japanese) to communicate in a non-native tongue.
"It is impossible for IUJ MBA students to live and study within such an environment and not develop a deep understanding and clear respect for the views and beliefs of others. And it is because of this that we strongly believe that the IUJ MBA delivers not only the technical skills and practical knowledge to become a successful business manager, but also the cultural sensitivity and global awareness required to be inspirational leaders."
Mr Bret Slade, Masters Program Director at La Trobe University, shares the view that MBA students gain the most valuable insight into leadership through interaction and engagement, whether it be with an audience, followers or peers.
Mr Slade also gave an insight into how it is possible to teach, or at least direct, students towards improving their leadership skills.
"The LTU Graduate School of Management (GSM) MBA program offers a combination of innovative simulation activities, critical analysis and theory, to teach people how to recognize and emulate leadership styles that will enable them to succeed in the corporate headquarters role."
The balance between theory and practical work differs from institution to institution. Applicants must be sure to make sure that the course they are applying to stresses whichever one of these is most likely to assist them in their chosen field.
MBA programs also make excellent use of 'experts' and genuine industry figures that share their experiences and advice in the classroom. Many students claim this is the most valuable part of their studies.
So, what is it that makes an effective leader?
"Effective leaders are those who have the skills to gain a clear (and correct) perspective of the issues facing their organization,can create strategic, principle-based solutions to these issues, and have the will to implement such strategies within the ever-changing competitive landscape."
Dr. Philip Sugai from The International University of Japan says that "Effective leaders are those who have the skills to gain a clear (and correct) perspective of the issues facing their organization,can create strategic, principle-based solutions to these issues, and have the will to implement such strategies within the ever-changing competitive landscape."
MBA programs help shape this type of leader in a number of ways. Dr. Sugai explains that at IUJ, "The MBA provides a core 'toolkit' that equips all of our students with the skills needed to be effective leaders within their first year. And then through our unique 'REP" (Research and Education Platform) program, which creates a forum for 'living' case studies, our students then have the opportunity to hone these skills while addressing some of the most challenging business issues facing leaders today. Also, the IUJ MBA stresses the importance of larger issues related to International governance, development and trade, through cross-registration in IUJ's MA courses in International Relations and International Development."
IUJ, like selected other graduate schools, have also demonstrated their commitment to producing effective leaders by adding a required course called "Essentials of Leadership" to various electives in leadership training.
The Australian School of Business at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia is also dedicated to providing the very finest caliber of leaders. Director of AGSM MBA Programs, Ms Sharyn Roberts explains that they have a very strong focus on leadership.
"We actually look for evidence of the leadership capabilities of an individual in the application process. Individuals who have held leadership positions in the final years of school; at university or within the community tend to display great leadership qualities within the workplace as well. So more often than not, students have solid leadership credentials when they start."
"What our MBA programs do is provide students with the opportunity to reflect on their leadership profiles and capabilities and examine whether they would seek to change what they do or how they do it."
"We have formal and informal methods of shaping leadership capabilities ranging from self-reflective exercise; communication skills workshops; case studies; formal classes e.g. Managerial skills; leadership; concepts and skills; role plays; leading CEO's and notable alumni as guest speakers and leadership roles within the student cohort at AGSM and broader communities."
Ms Roberts went on to explain how an MBA teaches students how to lead and 'inspire', although she stressed that at AGSM, they strongly believe that vision and inspiration is generated within an individual and then externally manifested.
"Our programs provide students with a very solid 'theoretical' understanding of leadership and leadership competencies but more so outstanding opportunities to discuss first hand the challenges and rewards of effective leadership with business leaders. The contact with individuals who are currently leading successful organizations is incredibly inspiring in and of itself and the students are motivated to move forward with conviction about the type of leader they wish to be. They then have many opportunities through the program to 'practice' and fine tune their competencies."
With kind thanks to Ms Sharyn Roberts, Director AGSM MBA Programs, Australian School of Business, UNSW, Sydney, Australia; Mr Bret Slade, Masters Program Director (MBA & MIB), Graduate School of Management, La Trobe University, and Dr. Philip Sugai, Associate Dean of the graduate School of International Management at IUJ and Ms Gretchen Shinoda, Career Counsellor at The International University of Japan.
CASE STUDIES - MBA LEADERS IN THE WORKPLACE
General Manager - Alliance Group
Graduated from the Graduate School of Management at La Trobe University
The skills I gained while studying the MBA assisted in presenting myself as a confident individual, being able to skilfully approach and answer questions at interview assisted me in getting the position I was looking for. Tailoring the MBA to suit the area of business management I was interested in has certainly paid off. Corporate Strategy and Human Resource Management were of particular interest to me.
Over the past 12 months I have re-branded the company, purchased 50% through a Management Buy Out (MBO) and set up a national expansion plan, previously the company only operated in Victoria.
I am sure that I would not have achieved all of this without the MBA!
National Australia Bank
Graduated from the Graduate School of Management at La Trobe University
I commenced the MBA in June 2006 and should complete by December 2007. In December 1997 I completed my first degree, Bachelor of Agricultural Science, and in February 1998 and commenced work with the National Australia Bank in their Graduate Program.
After 8 years in the National Bank across a number of roles I needed a change, my role was no longer fulfilling and I was not enjoying the daily routine. Around this time the MBA program became available through the Bendigo Campus of La Trobe University. I was able to take up the opportunity of a career break at the bank which was a 12 month scheduled absence from my role at the bank, enabling me the opportunity to undertake the MBA as a full time student.
I have undertaken some of my units through the GSM at Bundoora where I have had the opportunity to meet a number of students from really diverse backgrounds. This has been enlightening, giving me the opportunity to learn more about the different cultures and to interact with students from many countries in a learning environment. Working in diverse groups is often challenging, however, it also offers some of the greatest opportunities to learn how to manage a group such as this which is often encounter in the workplace.
I have since returned to the bank in the area of Portfolio Management and Design. This is a large departure from the Business Banking role I was previously engaged in. I think it is very accurate to say that this opportunity would not have become available if I had not studied the MBA. There is considerable competition for the type of role I currently hold and the MBA definitely gave me an advantage in my ability to utilise the skills that I have acquired to the benefit of the bank.
I will soon be travelling to India to complete the final phase of an offshoring initiative that we have been pursuing. Opportunities such as these would never have been available to me previously. The work is very challenging but also extremely rewarding, we are constantly seeking ways to operate more efficiently and pursue business improvement initiatives. There is no question in my mind that the skills I have acquired through the MBA program have equipped me well for this new role and the added responsibility that it entails.
Brent Sinclair from Canada and Milly Ng from Hong Kong
Microsoft, Asia Pacific
Two alumni in MBA Class of 2001, International University of Japan
Brett and Milly run a significant part of the CRM strategy globally and in the Asia Pacific for Microsoft.
After IUJ, Brent started a consulting job in Tokyo with ABeam as a Senior Consultant in their CRM practice. Milly also started her post-IUJ career in the same division of the same company as a Senior Consultant. When they were assigned to the same client, they worked together for the client's deployment in Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore, truly utilizing the cross-cultural collaboration skills they learned in IUJ.
Brent's career with ABeam took him to Seattle Washington in 2004, to work as a Manager at Deloitte Consulting. But the lure of Microsoft was calling. Milly, after 3 successful years with ABeam in Tokyo, was seconded to Shanghai for ABeam to build a team for a new service offering there for 2 busy years.
In November 2005, Brent landed a position as the Global CRM Manager for Microsoft. One of his first assignments was to strengthen his global team. "The best contribution I have made as a Microsoft employee is to hire Milly." Milly was still in Shanghai, but took the offer from Brent to join Microsoft as the Program Manager for the Asia Pacific region, and relocated to Hong Kong in May 2006.
Today, Brent and Milly collaborate closely on a day-to-day basis. Brent oversees the CRM strategy for MSN on the global level in Seattle while Milly executes regional deployment in Asia.