What makes a good leader? Leadership is a key skill sought-after by employers, but one that’s often difficult to deduce.
Plus, the art of leadership is changing. Changes in how we work require leaders to develop trust quickly and create cohesion within teams that might not be together for long. Developments in technology also mean leaders need to adapt their skills and utilize different communication channels effectively.
"The number one issue is that leadership is not taught enough throughout education," says Julia Milner, leadership professor and academic director of the Global MBA program at EDHEC Business School in France.
"Employees are promoted because of expertise, but once they're managers they realize that they have never been trained in how to be a leader—they face challenges and don't know what to do. They aren't provided the time to reflect upon their skills."
At EDHEC Business School, core modules, such as Managing Human Capital with Coaching, build the theoretical foundations of leadership for MBA students, while team assignments enable them to apply such frameworks in concrete settings.
Julia, throughout her published work, and throughout her teaching at EDHEC, emphasizes the importance of the coaching elements of leadership.
"Leaders have to realize that people are the most important part of the equation," Julia explains, "They have to make sure they create an environment where people can thrive, where people are motivated and want to engage.
"Coaching entails skills like listening, really being present. It also means asking questions. Instead of leaders telling people what to do and constantly micro-managing, they can ask those who execute tasks for suggestions. At the end of the day, what motivates many people is autonomy.
"Coaching is about goal-setting too,” she continues, “and leaders need to provide constructive feedback on past performance but also be able to look forward. Coaching also involves relatedness—leaders must understand individuals' different needs and know how to create a cohesive team. And coaches must have time to reflect on their performance."
Pranjali Apurva, a fashion designer and current MBA student at EDHEC Business School, says that Julia's coaching methodology nurtures self-worth and self-reliance within teams.
"Instead of making it a purely theoretical class, Julia gradually transformed our thinking process," Pranjali notes. "As leaders, the human quotient is very important—we need to inspire our people and not dictate, so as to create a sense of purpose and ownership. This leads to strong teams with low attrition rates and creates more meaningful professional relationships.
"Julia taught us the importance of always keeping a positive demeanour, because as leaders our energy affects our team."
EDHEC offers a leadership specialization track on the MBA program, which includes a week-long immersion trip to Singapore. EDHEC MBA, Nilo Quiroz, says the tour provided students with a global perspective while demonstrating how leadership is exercised effectively in differing contexts.
"We were exposed to different leadership styles, and shown how leadership in traditional, long-standing organizations compares to leadership at companies like Google or startups," Nilo explains, "It's also very interesting to see how a poor fishing nation progressed to become one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. That achievement is leadership in itself."
Nilo says that EDHEC Business School's leadership track expertly combined rigorous theoretical frameworks with opportunities for applying leadership knowledge and skills.
"In the first few weeks, we were taught the theory," Nilo explains, "We then saw leadership in practice in Singapore, and met inspiring entrepreneurs who had left their former lives behind to achieve their goals.
"Now, I am working for a real consulting project, where I have the opportunity to apply everything I've learned."