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Lancaster Teams Up With Ex-Saatchi & Saatchi CEO To Boost MBAs' Creative Leadership Skills

Kevin Roberts – CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi for 17 years – just hosted a series of leadership coaching sessions for students on the Lancaster MBA

Have you ever felt that the business world today is a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous place? With unpredictable politics and developments in technology changing our personal and professional lives, it’s easy to see why you might.

Lancaster University Management School has teamed up with global business leader Kevin Roberts – CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi for 17 years – to prepare MBA students for today’s VUCA business environment.

This year, Kevin has hosted three leadership coaching sessions at the school, working with MBA students to share his wealth of experience and prepare them for the unpredictable.

In the private sector, Kevin’s executive coaching sessions cost participants over $50,000. Students on Lancaster’s full-time MBA – ranked among the top-50 MBA programs in the world by the Financial Times – get them included for free.

“We live in a VUCA world; a world of disruption,” says Kevin. “To lead, we need new techniques and skills, and a hunger to grow, attack and change,” he continues.

“[I hope to] help Lancaster’s MBA cohort become inspirational leaders, equipped to win in our crazy world.”

A Lancaster native, Kevin's career has seen success follow him into all of his roles, from senior marketing executive for Gillette and Procter & Gamble, to CEO of Pepsi Canada. After leaving his global CEO role at Saatchi & Saatchi, he founded his own coaching business Red Rose Consulting.

While he didn’t get an MBA himself, he sees the Lancaster MBA’s unique Mindful Manager Module – where MBA students pause for reflection and look to develop their critical thinking skills throughout the MBA curriculum – as the perfect context for his leadership coaching sessions.

“The Lancaster MBA provides candidates with the knowledge and skills they need to be competitive,” he says. “To this, I hope to add a cultural toolbox that will help develop a winning attitude."

What is the key to success in business today? “We live in the age of ideas,” Kevin continues. “Winning companies will create cultures of creativity and innovation or whither on the vine.

“Creativity is an art, grounded in science. We are all born creative – look at any three-year-old playing – but it’s systematically squeezed and drained out of us. We can rediscover it through learning, practice and confidence.”

During his tenure at Saatchi & Saatchi, Kevin promoted a ground-breaking marketing concept lovemarks, intended to replace the notion of brands. Saatchi & Saatchi won a $430 million contract with a leading US department store chain on the back of the idea – that emotion is what can inspire businesses and brands to deliver sustainable value.

In Kevin’s intense coaching sessions, he says it's important for students to embrace a fail-fast, learn-fast and fix-fast mentality, vital to navigating complexity and uncertainty in business today. He also wants students to make “happy choices” that they believe in.

Coaching MBA students at Lancaster, it's obvious that he practices what he preaches. “I love it, or I wouldn’t be doing it!” he says. “I love the students’ diversity, hunger, ambition, wit and approach to life.”

As Kevin empowers students with his approach to leadership and lessons he's learned, he says it's incredibly satisfying to see Lancaster MBA students start to figure out just how good they can be.