“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”
35th President of the United States John F. Kennedy may not have been talking about business education, but he hit the nail on the head of one of the most important factors in today’s business world—the importance of learning to be a leader.
Alina Iager, a new student on MIP Politecnico di Milano‘s International Flex-EMBA, discovered just that at the program’s recent kick-off event.
“We were challenged on the notion of what is management and what is leadership,” she says. “The professor explained to us from a neurological point of view what it takes to be a manager, and what it takes to be a leader—it’s very difficult to be both.”
Whereas managers work objectively in line with company objectives, leaders act outside the box—companies are artificial environments, explains Alina, thus the emotional behavior of leaders can often cause conflict within a company by clashing with the objective goals of management.
“For me, being a leader is having the capacity to inspire other people that are working with you or near you,” Alina says, “but it’s not a job you’re specifically hired for.
“Natural born leaders will arise, even if a job description does not require them to. Being a leader is to be a visionary, to have an idea, to pursue it.”
The 20-month International Flex EMBA at MIP is a distance-learning executive program that prepares students to combine the soft emotional skills of leadership with the essential technical knowledge to be a good manager.
The program’s personal development pathway involves face-to-face interaction with other students during the kick-off event and international week—held at Imperial College, London—as well as constant learning opportunities via the program’s smart learning platform, which was ranked in 2016 as one of the six most innovative MBA formats in the world by a commission of experts from the Association of MBAs (AMBA).
Paved with lessons in negotiation, public speaking, and leadership, as well as an element of quick-fire communication over 30 seconds, the personal development pathway consolidates students’ knowledge so they can circumvent complex issues together.
MIP’s corporate network is also at the heart of its leadership development—the digital head of Vodafone Italy spoke at the kick-off event about the challenges of digitization and how to overcome obstacles in the rapidly changing world of technology.
“It’s not often you get to hear from these sorts of people,” says Alina. “They have already faced the challenges we [MBA students] face. They set out their vision, their objectives, and the lessons they learned from overcoming these issues, which was incredibly helpful.”
For Alina, the appeal of the program’s flexibility also played a major role in her decision to pursue an education at MIP. After her and her husband began working in different cities—she in Lisbon, him in Rome—traveling every weekend and maintaining two homes became nonsensical.
She asked for a sabbatical year from her senior project manager role at computer software company SAP, and moved to Italy.
“I’d reached a level in my development where I’d plateaued,” she explains. “But I couldn’t see myself studying in a traditional way anymore. Spending time going to classes every day at my age of maturity wasn’t what I was looking for, so it was a lot more practical for the course to be online.”
The International Flex EMBA at MIP can be pursued from anywhere, at any time, from any interactive device—and it gives you the same education as the traditional, classroom-oriented Executive MBA program.
The online accessibility means it brings together students from all over the world—students reap the benefits of international cooperation without the need to physically be on campus.
“We exchange opinions from South Africa to Switzerland,” says Alina. “Sharing those experiences is tremendous and it’s something that can help you grow a lot.
“We have two younger colleagues, who are only in their 20s,” she continues, “and that gives you a completely different perspective of the world—they see things in a different way.”