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How An EMBA Can Help You Become A Better Leader

Magali Reyes Henkel is using her EMBA to bolster her leadership skills in a new job at an environmental nonprofit


By  Thomas Nugent

Tue May 28 2019

A couple of months ago Magali Reyes Henkel was leading a meeting with her team at environmental nonprofit Bioversity International, where she is director of finance. In the room she was asking them to reflect on why they do what they do, why they joined the team, and what drives them to wake up every morning and get ready for work.

Magali remembers the first NGO she worked for, World Vision, in Mexico. She once visited a development project the organization was working on and saw the abject poverty that cripples parts of society worldwide. That confirmed her commitment to a career in nonprofits.

It’s what drives her work at Bioversity, a nonprofit with the mission of safeguarding agricultural biodiversity to achieve sustainable global food and nutrition security.

She always knew at some point in her career an MBA would factor in. She had planned to do one at 25 and had been attending MBA fairs from the age of 23. But, her commitment to her career—which included a period at Greenpeace where she worked all around the world—meant she never had the time.

Now, after accruing enough work experience to qualify for the Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) at Copenhagen Business School, she’s seeing how an EMBA can help you become a better a leader.

The value of the EMBA classroom


The GEMBA program is made up of 15 students, all with diverse backgrounds.

“Every university always talks of diversity,” says Magali (pictured), “and I always thought that was in the sense of nationalities and cultural background.

I’m actually impressed with the cohort, we have people from very different personal backgrounds—we have a lawyer, a molecular biologist, people from NGOs, and pharmaceuticals.”

She adds that the group is coherent and tight, and that they hang out after classes and engage in smart discussions about their respective industries.

When your classmates are CEOs and vice presidents at companies, and have spent their careers overcoming challenges in a multitude of industries, learning from each other goes in lockstep with developing as a better leader.

“I think it really helps to have that high-level profile,” Magali says.  

The Global Executive MBA is already helping Magali in her new leadership role at Bioversity International. The actual courses on leadership, she explains, have been invaluable.

“It has provided me with a lot of different theoretical approaches,” she says, “some that I knew because of my background, but with the others it has been helpful to take that and put it into practice in my job.”

On top of her already strong international experience, the GEMBA program is taking Magali around the world too. Students study their 11 one-week modules on four continents, studying in London and Copenhagen, Shanghai, Chicago, and Kampala.

Understanding the way business is conducted in different cultures around the world has an intrinsic link to developing as a better leader; the more you understand about diversity, the easier it is to meander cultural differences.

Why Copenhagen Business School?

Magali’s career has taken her all over the world. For Greenpeace she worked in Mexico, the Netherlands, Japan, and South Korea.

When it came to decide where to do an MBA, Magali was in her post in the Netherlands, in Amsterdam. She admits she considered going to Rotterdam School of Management, but when she visited and spoke to the recruitment team at Copenhagen Business School, the obvious choice prevailed.

“I thought RSM was predominantly Dutch, and I had already experienced that culture. I wanted something new,” she explains.

“The program for RSM I had to be away from work for 15 weeks, but CBS was only 11 weeks.”

It was at the time she was preparing to move to Italy to take up her position with Bioversity International, and the flexibility offered by Copenhagen Business School meant that was the clear choice for her.

That international experience is benefitting Magali in the GEMBA classroom. “It’s something my cohort is appreciating,” Magali explains. “I’m in a place where I’m able to contribute more.

“I can integrate more easily with the group and the teachers because I’m used to so many years of exposure and working with many cultures all over the world.”

The real-life business projects on the GEMBA program are also directly applicable to each student’s organization, having a tangible impact on the way they lead at work.

How the Global Executive MBA will help your career

Initially, Magali thought the main end goal of the program would be the credentials, the matter of having it on her resumé.

“I think at this moment in time I have come to the realization that it’s much more than that,” she says. “It’s a journey, and there are lots of opportunities for self-reflection, and to reassess your career and leadership style.”

She can see already the increased level of confidence and experience she has impacting her career. Magali’s goal is to become an executive director of an NGO, whether on a global or national level.

“The EMBA is going to help in that process for sure,” she says.

But, she warns incoming GEMBA students to make sure they have enough time for relaxation, and down time outside the classroom.

Magali herself is a keen basketball player and follows the NBA closely. She also does yoga, travels, and is an avid scuba diver.

“Being there, in a different atmosphere, helps to clear the mind and that’s fundamental,” she concludes. “Without that it’d be chaos.”

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