Are great leaders born, or made? Dr Annick Darioly Carroz has focused much of her academic life on researching and lecturing the topic of leadership. So who better to introduce us to the Personal Development and Leadership Skills course that is taught in the first semester of our MBA in Global Hospitality Management?
An MBA is a transformational experience. Especially for students lucky enough to have the opportunity to study full time, on campus.
At Les Roches, a big part of that transformation is focused on the students’ soft skills – and in particular the personal qualities and behaviors that are essential to becoming an effective leader.
These qualities develop as a natural by-product of being part of a multinational student cohort, working closely together on projects and learning first-hand the different cultural nuances and working styles that leaders – particularly in a global industry like hospitality – have to be familiar with.
And the concept of personal transformation also forms the core of the Personal Development and Leadership Skills course, which is part of the first semester MBA studies.
“When we’re in class, one of the things I ask the students to do is write out the good and bad traits of managers they’ve had in their working lives. And what you see time and again relates to soft skills. How you gauge your boss, and what you remember about them, is not their technical competency but their communication skills, emotional awareness and empathy,” says Dr Annick Darioly Carroz, who teaches the course.
It’s a view backed by swathes of academic research, including some conducted by Annick herself. “We all come back to the same result, which is that if you want to be an effective leader it’s not about hard skills, it’s about being socially and emotionally competent. Because the higher you climb up the hierarchical ladder, the more you need to be emotionally aware, and the less hinges on your technical competency,” she says.
Finding an academic home at Les Roches
Annick completed her PhD in Work and Organizational Psychology at Switzerland’s University of Neuchâtel before becoming a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the prestigious Kravis Leadership Institute in Los Angeles, USA.
After returning to Switzerland she sought a position close to her roots in the Valais region – and an initial eight-week posting at Les Roches has now turned into seven unbroken years on Crans-Montana campus!
“This is me returning to my passion, which is the topic of leadership,” she explains. “Being in a graduate school environment means I can continue my research while also teaching the subject to our MBA students.”
Annick splits her course into three main elements:
- Knowing yourself – focused on leadership styles and ethical factors; as well as the personality traits needed to be a successful leader in hospitality. “We also cover effective communication – both verbal and non-verbal – which always provokes plenty of discussion in class,” Annick says.
- Knowing the context – in particular situational leadership and the ‘triangle’ between the leader, the follower and the situation – looking at how the relationship between leader and follower can sometimes make a situation toxic.
- Knowing your team – which is focused on how a leader provides motivation and deals with diversity, while also covering techniques for leaders to build greater engagement and commitment within their teams.
“What connects all three of these areas is self-awareness; and that’s why I highlight this aspect so strongly,” Annick explains. “While I can’t teach self-awareness as if it was a pure academic subject, I can push the students to become more self-aware through assignments and case studies. Plus I get them to reflect on their own work experience prior to joining the program: how they used to lead, be led and behave with others. It’s this process of reflection that makes them more self-aware.”
‘Lightbulb moments’ in class
Annick notes that in many cases her course is the first chance many students have had to think seriously about the topic of leadership. It’s a ‘lightbulb moment’ for some; but she adds that she learns from students as well.
“Even though they are full time on campus, some are still managing their hotel or other business while they are with us. Often they will come to class with a real world issue from their business, which we can discuss and try to develop a solution for. It gives them an early taste of the MBA Consultancy Project and it helps us to keep this course grounded in the real world.
“At the end of the day, good leadership is all about communication. How to give constructive feedback, how to be an active listener, to understand non-verbal behavior. And of course developing the self-awareness to reflect and the willingness to learn from it.
“This is what has made our MBA so successful over the past 16 years, and it’s why I continually get emails from graduates who explain how what they learned in class has been useful in their professional lives.”
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