A deep dive into leadership

The 46 members of EMBA Class 45 spent a week eating, sleeping and breathing self-discovery. They learned the importance of emotional intelligence, altered their perceptions of power and influence, and reflected on their management strengths and weaknesses. By the end of the week, the students were committed to authentic leadership.

Their transformations came courtesy of Washington University’s Olin Business School and the Leadership Residency in Olin’s 20-month Executive MBA program.

“The residency opened my eyes to new ways of thinking about interpersonal dynamics and to new strategies for leading people and organizations,” says Patrick Ash, director of reservoir engineering and development at Ultra Petroleum.

A highlight of Olin’s Executive MBA program

Held midway through the program, the residency includes modules on formal and informal leadership; frontline theories; professional development measurements, assessments, and planning; and guest speakers such as Dave Peacock, former president of Anheuser-Busch.

“The residency is a curriculum highlight and one of the main reasons students are attracted to Olin’s EMBA program,” says Stuart Bunderson, associate dean and director of Executive Programs and George and Carol Bauer Professor of Organizational Ethics and Governance. “It’s an immersive experience that gives participants the competence and confidence to manage stakeholder relationships more effectively.”

“Students define and expand their personal leadership profile,” says Lee Konczak, academic director and senior lecturer in organizational behavior and leadership development. “So it’s critical to establish benchmarks they can revisit on a regular basis.”

“The residency provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to build my leadership qualities and to receive feedback and coaching from esteemed peers and professors,” says Kate Dawson Otto, senior manager of digital and online experience at AORN (Association of periOperative Registered Nurses), a Denver-based, nonprofit organization.

Besides remarks from Peacock, students listened to a talent-management panel composed of Steve Degnan, chief human resources officer at Nestlé Purina PetCare North America; Debbie Ryan, chief human resources and communications officer at Johns Manville; and Ray Kleeman, vice president of global talent management, HRIT, analytics, and benefits at Monsanto.

“Inspiring novel—and useful—ideas”

In the fall, Olin’s EMBA team will add a section on creativity to the residency.

“Creativity isn’t a mystical, indeterminable process,” Bunderson says. “Rather, it’s a science that can be leveraged. We teach students how to foster an environment where people from different backgrounds bump into and interact with each other, where random connections are made and entertained. The domain is structured to merge and recombine shared information. Inspiring novel—and useful—ideas is the objective.”   


Students, individually and in groups, will brainstorm concepts for new companies, products, and services in preparation for an innovation project. A capstone pitch competition will synthesize teachings and tools from all EMBA program areas. Executives, investors, and Olin faculty members will judge the team presentations.

“Our increased focus on creativity and innovation dovetails with Denver’s entrepreneurial spirit. The Mile High City’s business community needs professionals who can manage complexity and change and who can lead the area to an even brighter future,” Bunderson says.

Olin’s EMBA curriculum currently includes three required residencies: the GO! Week Residency, Leadership Residency, and Shanghai-based International Management Residency. A fourth residency, The Business of Policy: DC Immersion, will launch in March and will be the only EMBA residency delivered in partnership with the Brookings Institution. In addition, the International Management Residency will add four days in Beijing to its itinerary.

The Denver Executive MBA program format accommodates executive schedules. Classes meet monthly for three-day sessions (except for the residencies). First-year courses are taught at RubinBrown’s offices at 1900 16th St. in Denver. GO! Week, the Leadership Residency, and second-year courses are taught at the Charles F. Knight Executive Education & Conference Center on Washington University’s main campus.

(Editor’s note: This sponsored content was provided by Washington University’s Olin Business School.)

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