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Why Soft Skills Are Key For MBA Career Success

On the top-ranked Lancaster MBA, the Core Capabilities module brings expert leadership consultants on-campus and soft skills center stage


Mon Mar 12 2018

“Soft skill development and practical teamwork are crucial in the development of leaders”, says Tim Kemp—public speaker, writer, leadership consultant with over 30 years’ experience, and an expert coach for students on Lancaster University Management School’s full-time MBA program.

The Lancaster MBA—ranked first in the world for corporate strategy and 10th for value for money by the Financial Times—has a strong emphasis on soft skills ingrained throughout its curriculum.

The MBA’s Core Capabilities module—which runs for the duration of the year-long program—brings high-profile leadership coaches and learning and development professionals, like Tim, on-campus to work with students on core soft skills like teamwork, communication, and emotional intelligence.

The Core Capabilities module focuses on three key areas: cognitive conduct (thinking critically, creatively, and holistically); collaborative conduct (engaging in teamwork and productive dialogue); and reflectivity (self-reflection to improve performance).

Tim (pictured right), also a key learning advisor for PwC’s Academy, works with Lancaster MBA students on their collaborative conduct; observing and feeding back on their communication skills during workshops and team-based projects.


“There is no doubt that the most effective people are the ones who have solid emotional intelligence,” he says, “those who can empathize with other human beings, inspire, and engage with them.

“Ensuring Lancaster MBA students are immersed in an environment that enables them to gain an understanding of how to lead, and how to get people to follow them, is what these sessions are all about.”

Designed as a platform for future business leaders, the Lancaster MBA class is deliberately diverse, made up of students of over 22 different nationalities. Students benefit from a multitude of different cultures and perspectives. The consistent teamwork ensures a culture of collaboration, with students learning how best to work together.

Two students who’ve learned to work together more closely than most are Josemar de la Lama and his wife Lorena Arrese. They decided to pursue the Lancaster MBA together. When Josemar was considering different business schools, the Lancaster MBA’s international dimension stood out.

“I’m South American and we tend to think differently to people from the Middle East or Europe, so sometimes you have to open your eyes to understand different points of view,” he explains.

Josemar found the Lancaster MBA’s Core Capabilities module—in particular, the workshops on cognitive conduct held by Charlie Atkinson, a leading organizational development consultant and CEO of consulting firm Human Factors International—especially helpful. “They really helped you recognize your weak arguments and learn how to build strong arguments,” he says.

A finance manager for Scotiabank in Peru before his MBA, Josemar hopes to take the soft skills he has gleaned into leadership positions, climbing the career ladder in the financial services industry.

His wife Lorena, a former digital activation manager for BBVA Continental Bank in Peru, has similar goals in mind. “I want to develop leadership and soft skills,” she says, “and collaboration is key.

“It’s hard at the beginning to question your own assumptions,” she continues, “but that’s how really creative outcomes occur.”

For Lorena, the chance for self-reflection offered by the Core Capabilities module at Lancaster University Management School is something she doesn’t think she’d get in the same way elsewhere.

Through practice-based workshops with expert coaches, the Lancaster MBA has helped Lorena develop her soft skills, and become a better business leader, in a way that few other schools do.

“You can’t learn that by studying,” she concludes, “you can only learn that by doing.”