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Leadership Lab - Greater Impact in the Business World

August 25, 2019

Professional MBA with new feature as of fall 2019

For years, MBA programs have been criticized for their focus on facts and knowledge and failing to equip managers with the skills needed for responsible leadership, conscious of their actions’ impact. Starting in fall 2019, the Leadership Lab of the WU Executive Academy, which has been specifically designed for the

Professional MBA program, will address this topic: Participants will be taught a structured approach to fully utilize the MBA program for themselves while simultaneously reflecting on which (positive) effects their leadership style can have on the performance of others – particularly beyond individual career goals. This experience will surely be enriching and instill a sense of purpose in life.

symbolic depiction of the leadership lab
The Leadership Lab enables MBA students to get the best out of their studies for their own practice.

An instructor lecturing by delivering a monologue at the front of the classroom – this teaching style is a thing of the past. The brain needs more stimulation: learning by doing, incorporating emotions and inputs students can physically touch. For this reason, the WU Executive Academy joined forces with Christof Miska, Assistant Professor at the Institute for International Business, and Milda Zilinskaite, Senior Scientist at WU’s Competence Center for Sustainability Transformation and Responsibility, and devised the Leadership Lab, which will kick off in fall 2019. This unique concept addresses the topic of self-management for managers and executives, showing them how to identify the most important learnings throughout the MBA program and putting them to use in practice in a structured way. This way, the MBA program fosters the development of not only the individual but also his or her organizational surroundings and society at large.

In addition to the Professional MBA program’s Business Core modules (= general management), participants reflect on and solidify knowledge gained in fields such as financial reporting, marketing management, or data analysis and decision making. In the Leadership Lab, they particularly reflect on how they, as individuals, can make contributions to the various spheres of their (professional) life through their participation in the MBA program.

Gaining More for Oneself and Others

“In developing the Leadership Lab, we particularly addressed the question of how participants can get the most out of the MBA program while simultaneously consolidating their individual career plans with broader objectives in order to have a positive impact on their company, network, or society at large,” says Astrid Kleinhanns-Rollé, Managing Director of the WU Executive Academy. “We strive to achieve a real and sustainable change in managing styles and thinking patterns through our Leadership Lab.”

What does impactful learning entail? Students can study only in order to graduate – or to also generate a positive impact on their company, their personal surroundings, or on society. Impactful learning assumes that newly acquired knowledge is put into a greater context.

Portrait Christof Miska

Christof Miska

  • Assistant Professor at the WU Institute for International Business

We want to encourage participants to think beyond aspects of their personal development, asking themselves, for instance: what is the effect of my leadership in my network? And how and what can I contribute to the company or society by leading this way? What can I do within my sphere of influence to tackle social problems such as poverty or climate change?

How the Leadership Lab Works

The Leadership Lab is not about conveying expert knowledge in a traditional sense but has a clear focus on reflection, creativity, and a holistic mindset. “The Leadership Lab is truly unique: a mostly virtual module spanning the entire first year of the Business Core, comprising various online reflection assignments called ‘interventions’,” Milda Zilinskaite explains. The various activities and tasks participants engage in on the digital learning platform and outside of the lecture hall span a broad range: from self-reflection exercises to creative ways of implementing acquired knowledge using photography and graphic design. A face-to-face briefing and personal exchange of experiences are scheduled for the beginning and the end of the Business Core. “We seek to actively challenge participants, so that they look beyond what they already know and are motivated to seize the opportunity to make the most out of their studies,” says Milda Zilinskaite. In one of the interventions, for instance, participants learn how to use the knowledge they have acquired in a specific module to address the topic of poverty, one of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and develop actions that would have a real impact on reducing poverty.

Leadership Lab as horizon widener - pic of a skyline
The Leadership Lab inspires you to think outside the box - and to recognize the overall picture. Photo © CC0 Licence

The Leadership Lab’s main objective is to sustainably anchor learning experiences made during the studies: “Whenever we learn something, we are prone to quickly forget it if we do not get an opportunity to transfer the content into reality and see how something works in practice. Moreover, MBA programs are intense with regard to both content and time. This is why the Leadership Lab was designed to offer different impulses throughout the year that encourage participants to engage with new inputs in practical ways,” Christof Miska says.

From Cognitive Understanding to Practical Implementation

The Leadership Lab is based on the approach of three-dimensional learning: participants process and reflect on contents on a cognitive, affective, and behavioral level. Our brain has an easier time remembering something when we have actively seen and understood it. In the Learning Lab, this is achieved through creative tasks. Students are, for instance, asked to artistically depict a learning experience within the MBA they found particularly useful.

“Especially executives are prone to stick to cognitive thinking. But many find that once they get used to it, they really enjoy using their creative potential. What is most important is that participants try out and develop new ways of strategically solving problems,” says Christof Miska. As a result, participants learn more about and apply themselves and their strengths, a process in which they consciously leave their comfort zones. This is, for instance, the case in the online intervention called “Empowering others to succeed,” for which the various MBA program cohorts are divided into virtual peer groups. They are then asked to find a colleague within their group they wish to motivate and support in his or her executive role. To this end, participants must adopt this person’s perspective: what produced the greatest learning effect in the respective MBA module? Which contents acquired so far were helpful in getting closer to professional goals? They then have to encourage the person they selected by sending them a personal message via email, providing constructive feedback on their performance as a manager.

In the end, participants complete the intervention feeling stronger and having gained valuable insights about their own skills and who they are as a person.

For more information about the Professional MBA, please click here.

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