“You’ve Experienced the Rugged Landscape of Global Business”

Global Executive MBA Class of 2015 graduates

25/05/2015 Barcelona

Dr. Erwin Rauhe, BASF
“Responsible leadership means making business decisions that take all stakeholders’ interest into account,” Dr. Erwin Rauhe, Vice President of BASF / Photo: Jordi Estruch

On May 22 the graduation ceremony was held for the IESE Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) class of 2015, a year that also marks the milestone 50th anniversary of the IESE MBA.

The ceremony was the culmination of 19 months that took participants on a journey around the world, from Barcelona to Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Silicon Valley, New York and back.

This "truly global" dimension of the GEMBA was stressed by a number of speakers, including Vice President of BASF Group Europe South, Dr. Erwin Rauhe; IESE Dean, Professor Jordi Canals; Professor Sandra Sieber, academic director of the GEMBA program and Matthew Larkin, president of the graduating class of 2015.

"You have experienced over and over again the sensation that the world is definitely not flat, but an extremely rugged landscape. We have learned to move around in a world with so many different ways of perceiving business, work and society," Sieber told the graduates. "All these experiences have shown us that we should not forget to look at the world from many different angles, and not believe in just a single center of gravity."

What Does Responsible Leadership Look Like?

Rauhe also stressed that thinking about business globally means thinking about business holistically – and this implies a "basic approach of focusing on people as the primary driver of positive change and impact on business and society." This, he said, is a key element of the GEMBA program.

"The economic growth of an enterprise should not be an end in itself," said Rauhe. "It should favor the improvement of the quality of life of its employees and their families, local communities and society as a whole. By acting in such a way and respecting and developing its human capital, the enterprise acquires another major advantage: It gains the loyalty of those who work for it and thus avoids the risk of losing its identity and know-how."

Responsible leadership, he said, is about "making business decisions that not only take the shareholders’ interests into account, but also those of all the other stakeholders." These, he added, include the community at large, and future generations.

We are Defined by Values and Aspirations

GEMBA class president, Matthew Larkin, echoed this view: "IESE constantly challenged us to think differently," he said. "In tough business moments, we will remember to think about the person and not just our bottom line."

Dean Jordi Canals brought the graduation ceremony to a close, stressing the importance of upholding values – and above all the "principle of human dignity." He cited the examples former Czech president Václav Havel and former Polish president Lech Walesa, a recent guest at IESE (read news), who had "drawn sustenance in their fight for democracy from their commitment to human dignity."

Getting things done is important, said Canals. But not as important as "how you get things done."

"Throughout your 19 months you have learned complex management functions and business strategy; but more fundamentally, you have learned that the only way to be a good leader lies in respecting others," he told the graduates.

"In the end, we are defined by the values that we have and the aspirations that we foster."

One Cohort, Two Tracks: Four Continents

The IESE Global Executive MBA gives participants the option to begin their program in Europe or the Americas: on campus in Barcelona or in New York. This means that participants can take a specific focus on their selected region. As the GEMBA progresses, the two tracks merge to become one cohort – bringing together their collective experiences and insights to share.

The class of 2015 is the first graduating class to complete the course in its new format of two initial regional tracks that combine into one group as the course progresses.

The European track takes participants from Barcelona to New York, Shanghai, Silicon Valley, Sao Paulo and back to Barcelona for the final module and graduation. The Americas track kicks off in New York before heading to Barcelona, Shanghai, Silicon Valley, Sao Paulo and it too culminates in Barcelona.

"We are the proud representatives of the first GEMBA graduating class that includes both European and American tracks," said Matthew Larkin. "Only a couple years ago, IESE started in a small office in New York across the street from today’s campus we have come to know so well. Today, the former dance theater is home to a world-class campus."