Fresh look for the Lancaster Executive MBA
Published 30 May 2012
In October 2012 entrants to the Lancaster Executive MBA (EMBA) will embark on a substantially revised programme. It’s also a new departure for Dr Marian Iszatt-White, who took over as Programme Director in August 2011 and whose own leadership research has helped to inform the new programme design.
So what’s behind the new design – and what will await the new recruits?
On the one hand, explains Iszatt-White, the redesign represents part of a vital ongoing process of review which ensures that programmes remain up-to-date and continues to meet the needs of students and employers. But it also reflects the recent expansion of the Lancaster MBA, as it continues to reach new audiences:
“Because we now have a suite of MBA programmes, with a Global MBA running alongside our long-established Full-time and Executive programmes, we want to ensure that the suite is integrated, with various elements common to all three modes. It’s one MBA programme, three modes of delivery. At the same time we also recognise that there are some things that should be unique in order to fit our individual target audiences.”
Preparing future strategic leaders
Marian Iszatt-White describes the main features of the redesigned EMBA programme in this short video.
This is something Iszatt-White knows and cares about personally, not just at the academic level. Before she joined LUMS in 2006, her own career had taken her to the senior echelons of management. After graduating she went into commercial banking and financial risk management in the City, then moved into corporate treasury where she spent several years as group treasurer of an oil company before pursuing her growing interest in management development.
Moving up to Cumbria she was sponsored by her new employer, Brathay Hall, to do an MSc in Organisational Behaviour which, she says, “left me with more questions than it answered.” The result was a PhD at Lancaster, focused on understanding leadership as emotional labour – a concept that goes far beyond the original notion of ‘service with a smile’.
“The work that I’m doing recognises that as leaders we have to manage our emotions – not just to appear professional but to use them as a tool for managing and leading other people. It’s not just about the niceties: you have to be able to engage with people emotionally to motivate them, reward them and to make them feel part of what’s going on. It can also be stressful. What do you do, for example, when there’s a dissonance between what you believe and what you are being asked to do. How do you deal with that?”
Insights from her research are shortly to be published in a new book, Leadership as Emotional Labour, which is due from Routledge in August this year. Together with her other interests in strategy, they also inform the teaching that she does on the Executive MBA, where she leads the Practice of Leadership module.
Personal development focus
With an emphasis on leadership style and personal development being very much central to the Executive MBA, the new programme design also incorporate elements that have already proved highly successful on the Full-time MBA, such as the Mindful Manager. This important module, together with another new module on Responsible Management for a Global Society, runs as an integrating thread throughout the two years. With a strong reflective element, it encourages students to examine all aspects of their own behaviour, attitudes and processes of interaction – and the impact that it has on others they lead or influence.
It’s a powerful learning tool, Iszatt-White explains, since the focus is very much on ‘learning to learn’ and on taking a meta-perspective on one’s own learning.
“People are effectively building up a portfolio of personal development materials throughout the programme, including their insights and reflections over that period. That then becomes a resource for the assessment at the end, but that habit of reflection is also something that they take with them, into other areas of life and business.”
Additional learning opportunities
Other signature features of the new design include additional ‘Challenges' which take participants into client organisations and test their abilities to suggest solutions to practical business issues, using their acquired knowledge and skills. The existing Consultancy Challenge is joined by a Business Development Challenge. Both team-based, these modules give students exposure to the issues faced by different types of organisations. The third Challenge – the Applied Research Challenge – is a sustained piece of individual in-house consultancy, where students work on a specific issue for their own organisation.
Work-based assignments still form the major part of the assessment for the EMBA, enabling employers to benefit from the new learning and skills that participants acquire as they progress through the programme.
“Learning through action has always been a strong and important part of the Executive MBA," says Iszatt-White, "but the new design gives more opportunities to do that and also brings it earlier in the programme.
“By working on live projects EMBA students can produce solutions and knowledge for their organisations. That’s particularly important for those who are sponsored because the organisations understandably want to see immediate value for money in return.”