Beyond Business: Value-based leadership

Written on August 8, 2013 by Vani Nadarajah in News

Nearly four months into the IE Brown Executive MBA, current student Alexis reflects on her student experience a few weeks after her second residential period, which took place in Madrid. She highlights the value of perspective that her classmates bring to the program, as well as the beyond business philosophy of the program. Read on for an exclusive peek into life as a student of the IE Brown EMBA.


Arriving in Madrid in advance of our second face-to-face period (F2F) brought the final exam for the Leading People in Organisations course.  I sat it late at night, still adjusting to both jet lag from the 24 hour flight and the timing of the Madrid dinner hour.  The set case study examined, among other things, the concepts of leadership we had explored during the course and I did my best to get it all down in my paper.

As we closed the F2F session the week later, the world’s news outlets were reporting on a multiplicity of political leaders and leadership.  We were confronted with the sad but inevitable news of Nelson Mandela’s illness and reflected on his lasting influence in South Africa; the seeming paralysis of President Dilma Rousseff to respond quickly to mass riots in Brazil demanding more public services and less public corruption; the steadfast immobility of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad contrasted to the fallibility of the democratically elected President Morsi in Egypt.  In my own country, the farcical game of musical Prime Ministerial chairs between alternating leaders Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard was trite in comparison to the issues of leadership around the globe.

It is now a few weeks later and the grades are in for the Leading People in Organisations course.  It reminds me to reflect again on leadership in the current times.  In the course, we debated transformational versus transactional leadership, studied Margaret Thatcher’s sources of power, critiqued Kotter and assessed our own LMX scores.

Reflecting on this theory, and on the reporting of political leaders in the press, I come to think that being mindful of our own values is at the heart of understanding the type of leader we each are and want to be.

I have been motivated by the virtual interactions on the forum of my cohort in these past few months.  Just some of many examples: Isabelle questioning the environmental impact of over-production to drive demand in Operations & Supply Chain Management; Sabiene raising the negative externalities of increased airline traffic fuelled by low-cost carriers in Strategy; Brennan bringing attention to the morality of data collection and analytics in Marketing Management. Being a values-based leader is easier in principle than practice.   Just like the gorilla with the basketball, when attention is consumed by the technical detail, it is difficult to see the multiple alternative perspectives.

My learning experience has been enriched my classmates who, in addition to solid technical analysis, also step back to consider ethics-based positions.  They expand my thinking and prompt me to examine my own principles.  As we move through the second term and towards Madrid again next June, I urge my cohortians and Professors to continue this exploration and to develop it further.  It is what makes this EMBA Beyond Business.


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