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Why journey back to class includes CEOs

Thursday April 12 2012


By LYDIA WERE [email protected]

Why would someone like Mr Wilfred Ndolo, who, at 56 and having held top government jobs such as provincial commissioner and now serves as the director of administration at the Ministry of Nairobi Metropolitan Development, go back to class?

Moreover, with 33 years of work in the public service, he has invested his savings in a real estate business and in farming.

He has also been taking up additional responsibilities such as sitting on school and hospital boards in his home area.

Yet in 2010, he enrolled for an Executive MBA at Inoorero University.

He explains why: “I didn’t go back to school to boost my career, but because I wanted to acquire key business and leadership skills.”

He joined more than 30 other senior executives and business proprietors looking for that extra edge in leading their organisations, as corporate governance issues become an area of concern.

Questionable management decisions even in developed countries have seen senior managers lose their jobs or bring their companies down.

Locally, the corporate scene has been punctuated with poor governance issues, the latest being the CMC Motors boardroom fight emanating from questionable deals some directors had with the company, and which ended up costing the motor dealer billions of shillings.

In 2010, AccessKenya also battled corporate governance troubles that saw some directors quit.

Management experts say ethics and governance are part of effective business leadership, and there is more need to boost skills in that area.

Dr Leah Wanjama, the director of the Institute of Executive Education and Consultancy at Inoorero University says: “Business management and corporate governance practices need to be based on principles of transparency, accountability, diversity, and inclusiveness... These skills are needed to spur growth and take companies to the next level.”

The business environment has been changed by rising competition, new technologies, higher and demanding customer expectations and a more complex and knowledgeable generation of workers.

Previously, company executives were the sole custodians of knowledge through privileged access to information, which they doled out in small quantities to safeguard their superiority.

In the present information age, where the Internet gives access to all manner of knowledge, senior management personnel no longer enjoy privileged access to knowledge.

They have to therefore anchor their superiority on greater leadership qualities, much of it resident in soft skills.

“An Executive MBA combines management, leadership, entrepreneurship and governance,” says Prof Jude Mathooko of the Management University of Africa. “Many managers are weak on leadership part and that’s why some are dipping their fingers in company tills.”

From private to public sectors to the NGO world, executives find themselves with huge responsibilities that require more than management training or experience.

Be it in planning, executing strategy, managing people or taking business to a new level, there’s no shortage of disappointments in the current highly competitive business environment.

That’s why the executive MBA is catching on. CEOs, managing directors and middle managers, including even PhD holders like Prof Wangare Mwai, Ndolo’s classmate in the 2010/11 class, are going for it.

The Executive MBA programme, such as the one offered at Inoorero University, targets senior executives and business proprietors in both private and public sectors in Kenya and the wider East African region. It focuses on practical problem-solving and leadership skills necessary in the modern management environment.

“In a globalised world, African business leaders are increasingly expected to act proactively to create growth and job opportunities,” says Dr Wanjama.

“We are responding to challenges faced by managers by constantly developing and broadening leadership skills and execution of strategies.”

According to Dr Wanjama, the course provokes leaders to seek new ways of thinking. It offers interactive learning for executives based on experiential curricula, which uses practical team-based, problem-solving and consultancy models.

Participants get to work with real companies as they sort out real issues within them, thus learning from the experience and adding value to the study companies.

“The conventional MBAs are academic in nature and intended for young students who wish to continue with their academic studies to PhD level, while the Executive MBA is meant for company executives, to equip them with business and leadership skills to steer their companies to the next level,” explains Dr Wanjama.

Dr Edward Mungai, the dean of Strathmore Business School says the executive MBA looks at the person as a whole by appreciating that a person exists in many spheres of life, and not just the workplace.

And so it focuses on self-leadership even in one’s capacity as a spouse, a parent and role model.

Prof Wangare Mwai, the director of the Institute of Research, Science and Technology at Kenyatta University and a graduate of an Executive MBA testifies that the study has transformed her leadership skills.