Kristina Talailo didn’t have that much leadership experience before her business master's. She joined Hanken School of Economics' MSc in Economics and Business Administration shortly after completing her Business Administration undergraduate degree in Finland.
Yet since graduating, she's used her new business acumen and leadership abilities to co-found a management consulting firm, StrategyCo.Global, where she's head of operations. The firm helps companies fast-track their strategic projects and aims to improve graduate employability through coaching and industry experience. The firm's clients range from the energy industry to healthcare to manufacturing.
Here's how her business master's helped her become a better leader.
Adapting your leadership style
One of the most important lessons a business master's can impart is helping you to grow your own leadership style. At Hanken, this is achieved in part by exposing students to several diverse teams over the course of the program.
“At Hanken, we’re big on teamwork and putting students in different groups throughout the program,” explains professor Mats Ehrnrooth, who teaches in Hanken’s Department of Management and Organization.
Kristina recalls how almost all her courses at Hanken included project work, where students worked with teams to solve case studies.
“In some instances, we had to learn how to handle conflict,” she says. “This type of practical, hands-on experience was one of the best things about the program.”
When working with others, students are forced to navigate their way through different team dynamics and adapt their own leadership style. By learning to work with different cultures and colleagues with different personalities, you develop your ability to pull the best out of the individual members of the team.
Students have the option during the program to specialize in certain business areas. Specializations include Business and Management, Financial Analysis and Business Development, Economics, and Intellectual Property Law. Kristina chose to specialize in Business and Management.
During her specialization she was asked as part of a team to prepare a presentation and engage an audience without a PowerPoint. “The teamwork was really fruitful, as we were all quite driven,” she explains. “It was a very healthy, competitive environment. Even though you wanted to excel in the project, you looked forward to seeing what other groups achieved.”
Kristina was also one of the youngest members of her cohort. She was able to network with more experienced classmates and receive their industry knowledge, which helped her to develop valuable insights into developing her leadership style across sectors and functions.
Alongside the program, Hanken’s Master’s Committee (MC) also provides prospective students with mentoring from current students before they begin their studies. This enables students to integrate effortlessly into the program and understand how they can best make use of their time at Hanken.
Understanding ethical leadership
Another important leadership lesson Kristina learned during her business master's was how to lead ethically. Mats explains how socially responsible leadership is tied into all aspects of the degree. He notes how people are growing dissatisfied with hierarchical position-based leadership, preferring a more empowering leader who supports employee performance.
“In leadership teaching, we look at how a leader makes sure that their employees don’t burn out and how to achieve a sustainable workforce,” he says.
Kristina focused closely on sustainability by pursuing the MSc in Economics and Business Administration's International Strategy and Sustainability Track. Three other program Tracks include Humanitarian Logistics, Marketing, and Marketing and Management (located on the Vaasa campus).
She says a highlight of her track was a gender studies elective, which taught her about workplace biases and the barriers that women face in the working world.
“I resist talking about female leadership,” she reflects. “I’d like to be seen as a founder rather than a female founder. My gender shouldn’t define my position as head of operations.”
Other modules she studied during the track include Strategic and Sustainable Organizations, Supply Chain Risk and Resilience, and Corporate Responsibility Across Business Studies.
By focusing on ethical leadership, Kristina says she's now able to ensure that operations at StrategyCo.Global are both sustainable and successful. Her company has helped businesses improve their safety measures, increase interaction between older and new teams, and accelerate team progress.
Broad business knowledge for leaders
Kristina explains that her business master's encouraged her to understand how an organization is run, and the stakeholders involved. This broad oversight is crucial for effective leadership, allowing managers to understand how their decisions might impact the wider organization.
By understanding different organizational settings, students learn how good leadership can look different depending on context.
“There are thousands of various ideas about what a good leader is,” explains Mats. “But the more challenging question is what prevents people from becoming good leaders.”
Developing this understanding helps students like Kristina reflect on what barriers they might face in their leadership journey, and how to overcome them early on in their careers. It gave Kristina the skills to become a better leader and develop the confidence to co-found StrategyCo.global.
After her business master's, Kristina feels well-equipped to continue steering her organization and create and implement sustainable solutions for future businesses. She puts this down to being able to view a business more holistically.
“The breadth of thinking that you experience throughout the master's is really useful,” she asserts. "A business master’s helps you experience different functions and have a broader understanding of the organization and the world around it."