Leading Through a Crisis with an EMBA

Here are five ways the degree helps experienced executives navigate turbulent times.   

Leading Through a Crisis with an EMBA

What do business leaders do when faced with troubling times? They come up with different strategies? They enter crisis management mode? Or maybe, in addition, they enrol in an Executive MBA (EMBA) programme? Leading through a crisis is a big challenge and an EMBA may be one of the best options they have to prepare for it.

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Here are five ways the degree helps experienced executives navigate turbulent times.   

Upskill or be left behind

The need for upskilling was obvious even before the 2020 pandemic. Economists, business leaders and labour representatives have warned for years that a coming wave of automation will force nearly everyone to develop new skills. In 2017, McKinsey estimated that as many as 375 million workers—or 14% of the global workforce—would have to switch occupations or acquire new skills by 2030 because of automation and artificial intelligence. Another survey by McKinsey showed that 87% of executives were experiencing skill gaps in the workforce or expected them within a few years.

Thanks to the Covid-19 outbreak, upskilling is no longer a recommendation but an urgency. The working world must figure out how it can adapt to rapidly changing conditions. The task for executives is even more difficult. On the one hand, they have to upskill themselves. On the other hand, it is their responsibility to reskill and match employees to new roles and activities.

Keeping up with the times

MBA and Executive MBA degrees are an elegant solution to the upskilling problem. For instance, EMBA programmes enable participants to study part-time while maintaining their careers. That is an important factor given the dizzying pace of change in many industries. Taking a two-year break from work could mean missing key changes within the sector.

At the same time, participants will learn about new business practices and be able to immediately apply the new lessons to their jobs. Through case studies, company visits, lectures and networking, EMBA students can learn about what challenges other companies are facing and how they are overcoming them.

Read: 3 Reasons to Get an Executive MBA

Crisis management skills in the spotlight

EMBA programmes are famously able to adjust themselves to the learning needs of business professionals. When the pandemic hit, many business schools moved the subject of crisis management from the academic fringe towards the core curriculum.

Mauro Guillén, a professor of international management Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (US), has developed a course about the business impact of the pandemic. After enrolling 2,400 students from across the University of Pennsylvania, it will be repeated in the autumn. The pandemic, he told the Financial Times, is an opportunity for business schools to demonstrate fresh practical relevance.

But the EMBA gives participants a training in crisis management beyond specific courses. Daniel Haeussermann, CEO of construction engineering company BAM Deutschland and an EMBA degree holder from Mannheim Business School, says: “Managing extreme workloads and getting through tough times with night shifts during the EMBA after arduous days clearly prepared me for times of crisis like the current one.” He points out that in a crisis situation companies need leaders with good general management skills, people who are genuine and empathic. “To help your company, you will need to be able to deal with a lot of different issues, for example safeguarding liquidity, reducing costs without destroying the company, but also reassuring the anxieties of your workforce, and winning back clients.”

A network to fall back on

The EMBA is also famous for enabling participants to build lasting relationships that can be really valuable to their careers. A vast, quality network is always useful, but especially so when the times get tough.

EMBAs support networking from the beginning of the programme until the end, and even beyond. Participants connect during orientation when they first meet each other and begin to form teams. Throughout the programme, students are encouraged to bond in the classroom, but also outside of it. As a result, strong connections are forged that professionals can continue to tap throughout their careers.

Beyond darkness, there is light

Despite its value for turbulent times, the EMBA is above all a long-term investment that will keep paying off even when the crisis is over. EMBA graduates are more complete leaders, having plugged their gaps in knowledge and skills. And, best of all, when a new crisis strikes, they will be able to tap into their EMBA experience and the diverse network they will have acquired.