Executive MBA reloaded

November 29, 2017

Back from the future

Successful for over 45 years, constantly updated and as of fall 2018 more innovative than ever before: Following a substantial relaunch, the WU Executive Academy's German-speaking Executive MBA program strikes out in new directions with a view to making executives fit for the future, placing special emphasis on helping them develop their leadership personalities as well as their understanding of leadership outside the comfort zone and of strategic management in times of disruption and digital transformation.

The future has caught up with us: Today's world is complex and highly volatile. Business models that were used successfully for a long time are all of a sudden no longer working. New, unexpected competitors are emerging, and in many markets the business environment is more unpredictable than it has ever been. All this calls for new structures, strategic management and leadership of lasting value.

Prof. Barbara Stöttinger

  • Dean of the WU Executive Academy

For executives this means that they need to be courageous, willing to embrace change and able to initiate and bring to fruition, in a clear and flexible manner, change processes in the face of complex challenges. Consistent self-leadership, strategic management and innovative tools that enable them to effectively promote digital transformation in their organizations are indispensable in this context.

New skills, new curriculum

Portrait Helmut Kasper

“Management research shows that the core skills that executives need to bring to the job are constantly changing. As a result of the ever increasing pace of digitalization, there are novel leadership and management demands that have not previously existed in this form. Responding to them in the right manner, that is what the completely overhauled program will be all about,” says management researcher Prof. Helmut Kasper, Academic Director of the Executive MBA. “In relaunching our MBA program, we have made a conscious commitment to pursuing new approaches to executive education and organizational management.”

Prof. Wolfgang Mayrhofer, Head of the Department of Management and Academic Director of the Executive MBA: “Top managers are expected to know everything and be able to do everything. However, given the speed at which markets change, that is simply impossible. Therefore, they are required to bring three basic skills to the job: They have to be courageous when it comes to trying new things; they must be confident that their actions will bear fruit, and they need to be willing to regard constant change as an opportunity, not a threat.”

A woman is presenting something
New demands in leadership and management cause core skills of executives to change constantly

Many modules of the redesigned curriculum are about developing exactly these skills, with special emphasis on helping participants enhance their ability to self-reflect. As the Executive MBA is a part-time program with weekend and multi-day modules, students can discuss together in class issues facing them in their organizations. Moreover, they have the opportunity to immediately put their newly acquired tools and skills to the test in the workplace—and to reflect on the experience during subsequent modules.

The 3 pillars of executive excellence

There are three pillars that run as a common thread through all modules of the curriculum so as to achieve executive excellence at all levels:

  1. “Business essentials”

    This pillar serves a dual purpose: It helps participants deepen their understanding of business essentials and provides them with a comprehensive update. They get to explore a wide variety of topics, including not only strategic management tools, marketing and e-business but also performance management and new challenges such as the significance of big data.

  2. Strategic management

    The second pillar is designed to provide participants with an opportunity to develop an in-depth understanding of leadership skills: To this end, they explore leadership styles, leadership roles and new approaches to leadership such as holacracy. Moreover, they reflect on topics like businesses as learning organizations, managing complexity and dealing with the “dark side of power”.

  3. Executive lab

    The content of the third pillar, the executive lab, is flexibly adjusted to reflect current issues facing participants in the course of everyday executive practice. Additionally, the lab is to cover current developments such as macroeconomic trends or challenges encountered in the context of digitalization. The topics are constantly adjusted, with fresh input being provided by distinguished guest speakers from the business community.

“ChampionSHIP”—providing leadership outside the comfort zone

As far as the three dimensions of “leading oneself”, “leading others” and “leading the organization” are concerned, participants acquire not only a wealth of theoretical knowledge but also invaluable practical experience: The first module, “ChampionSHIP”, takes them aboard sailing boats off Majorca, where, under the expert guidance of Academic Director Prof. Wolfgang Mayrhofer and Mag. Hans Spitzauer, they put their leadership styles to the test, courageously step out of their comfort zones and improve their leadership and interpersonal skills in a team setting. Being a seasoned sailor and among other things an Olympic silver medalist, Prof. Mayrhofer has a lot of theoretical input to offer. Experienced management coach, five-time Olympian, world champion and multiple European champion Mag. Hans Spitzauer highlights the parallels between leading high-performance teams in sailing and leading organizations.

Picture of a sailing boat
Theoretical knowledge turns into practical experience: the new set of skills are used on the sailing boat.

The master's thesis—the capstone of the Executive MBA

Special emphasis is also put on the master's thesis, the capstone of the Executive MBA: In writing their theses, participants demonstrate that they are capable of strategic management—both in theory and in practice. At the beginning of the program, every student is asked to choose a topic or a problem that is of interest to him or her in everyday executive practice. This will be the centerpiece of the student's thesis. Throughout the Executive MBA, participants work on their topics or problems in the course of workshops and peer-group sessions. The resulting insights often also lead to changes in their organizations and their approaches to leadership.

Target group

The 16-month, part-time Executive MBA program is intended for experienced executives from the private and public sectors as well as for entrepreneurs seeking to take their businesses forward into a successful future.

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