Campbell Brown shares some insights into how the IMD MBA program develops executive presence and leadership for our candidates.

When I speak to my fellow IMD candidates, leadership and the further development of executive presence are two topics that are the main drawcards of the IMD MBA program. As both are a little difficult to explain, I thought I’d share a bit on how they integrate into the program.

Executive Presence

Executive presence is ubiquitous in this environment. The professors themselves are impeccable. Each class is a delight. And executive presence is especially real when you are joined in the lecture halls by impressive guest speakers. Examples so far include: a CEO fresh from multi-year acquisitions; a successful unicorn founder; and a passionate CEO who builds sustainability into his company at every level. Submitting your responses to cases directly related to these people, who have just outlined their passion for their work, is humbling. But there is something about successful people. You can feel that they want others to be successful too, and you can feel the gravitas that comes from them being their true selves.

In a week full of executive highlights, I particularly enjoyed a presentation by alumnus Arjen Iwema. Arjen focused on how to manage building your personal means of connecting with people. Communicating effectively who you are and sharing what has shaped you is a tricky road to navigate. But as he demonstrates, when you do it effectively, it ensures you connect with people on an interesting, intelligent, and perhaps provocative level.


In contrast to the tangible executive presence, the leadership course that underpins our journey through the MBA remains a little more mysterious.

Quantitative research and its views on how leadership really works is taught to us in traditional classroom format by Professor Jennifer Jordan, who also facilitates the entire leadership program. Personal leadership journaling is encouraged in your ‘blue bible’ and each of us is assigned an executive coach to help us understand ourselves and how we relate to people.

But to address the more intangible nature of leadership, IMD provides MBA candidates twenty private psychoanalyst sessions. These help get to grips with how your unconscious drives your behaviour. In addition, there are experiential leadership events. A good deal of their value comes from firsthand experience – and rumours from alumni on their content are scarce. To begin to prepare for these experiences, already many of the class are organising their own adventures in the great outdoors of Switzerland.

Going forward

What we can and cannot share of the leadership program remains to be seen. Hopefully it is something Canay and myself can get back to you on in July. This is to be our last blog until we get to circle back to you later in the year. From my side it has been an absolute pleasure getting to share with you.

Another candidate and friend, Frances, will be taking on the blog for February. I will let her introduce herself to you all next week!

And if you haven’t already seen it, you might want to follow my classmates Marly Levent and Yasuhito Maruyama through their MBA Journey video series. Here is their first episode:

Thanks again for letting us share a little of what we have experienced on campus this first month.



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