Bernardo M. Villegas
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How To Be A CEO (Part 4)

             As mentioned in the last article, the IESE Business School in Barcelona is the paragon of an educational institution that makes available to practicing managers and executives a wide variety of courses, seminars and workshops which will enable them to retool, reskill and upskill themselves in the new areas of knowledge and competencies to which they were not exposed even in some of the most rigorous MBA programs that some of them completed in the past.  Such topics as sustainable development and climate change, good governance, digitalization, remote learning, data science and data analytics, leadership, restructuring linked to the epidemic COVID and diversity and inclusion were most probably not included in the curricula of even the most rigorous MBA programs in the past.  These are some of the areas that are contained in the typical executive education curriculum of the leading business schools today.  These programs are either customized to the needs of individual corporations or are open to the public.

            Last May 2023, the Financial Times came out with an issue on Executive Education. It ranked business schools in Europe and the US in the quality of their executive education programs. Once again, IESE Business School was No. 1 in the Open Executive Education category and No. 4 in the Custom category. Duke Corporate Education of the U.S. was No. 1 in the Custom category.  European business schools dominate the FT’s 2023 rankings of executive education programs.  Among the top six are IESE, HEC Paris, Esade Business School, INSEAD, University of Oxford: Said, and London Business School.  According to Andrew Jack, the global education editor of FT, competition in the field of executive education is intense. While there is significant common ground between degrees such as MBAs and Masters in Management, the format of executive education varies much more wildly within and between schools.  As expected, executive education offered by the business schools faces competition from a multiplicity of non-academic institutions providing training—from individual mentoring or coaching, consultancies to corporate universities.  A very good example in the Philippines is the Institute for Corporate Directors (ICD) which offers some of the best workshops and short courses on good governance (both for public and private institutions) that have been long around even before the leading universities started to offer similar programs on governance.  These non-academic institutions can offer greater flexibility and a greater focus on applied skills than theory as compared to the more traditional approaches found in universities.  Those who have participated in some of these continuing executive education programs were interviewed by   FT.  According to them they benefited from their courses, including honing soft skills such as listening; developing leadership capacity; thinking strategically; brainstorming effectively with colleagues; and keeping up to date with digital trends.

            The fields in which there is high demand for upskilling opportunities are sustainability and climate change.  Predictably, there were topical dilemmas for classroom discussion in the latest “instant case study” which focuses on how to divest from Russia following the launch of its war against Ukraine.  Then there is the omnipresent issue of rapid technical change, which is transforming both business and business education itself.  Today, it is impossible not to hear requests for enlightenment on such topics as the effects of ChatGPT and generative artificial intelligence.  And as in the case of the leading retooling and upskilling program of the School of Economics of the University of Asia and the Pacific, even the graduates of the best business schools here or abroad have a great need for understanding better the language used by the Governor of the Central Bank, the Secretary of Finance and other members of the Cabinet of the President as they propound on solutions to hyper inflation,  rising fiscal imbalance, unsustainable balance of payments deficits, increasing agricultural productivity  and other complex macroeconomic problems. The Strategic Business Economics Program (SBEP) is an executive education course that has catered to CEOs and other members of top management of the leading Philippine firms for the last forty years.  More than 1,000 top executives and manager from business, the military, government agencies (including the present President himself), legislators, and  NGO heads reskilled and upskilled themselves in understanding complex global, regional and economic issues that impact on their respective businesses.

            In a survey conducted by researcher Lisa Sira of the Business School of UA&P, all over the world the topic of leadership seems to be a strong executive development need, given current trends, the challenges faced by Human Resource Development globally and how leaders across the world perceive their own leadership skills.  Among the four Philippine universities surveyed (Ateneo, De La Salle-CSB, Mapua and UA&P), the most common topics covered in executive education programs (whether customized or open) are leadership and management; financial management and accounting; human capital development/HRM and education/training; marketing management; diplomacy and governance; data analytics; and sustainability management.

            Each of the universities has some programs unique to it.  For example, Mapua had engineering (construction, design, and safety); IT Networking and software courses; and IT project management.  De La Salle-CSB has food, restaurant and hotel management; design, arts, and fashion; blockchain technology; and mental health and well-being.  Ateneo has sales management, quality management; health management; retail management, business continuity management; family business; and the ADMU-BAP Institute of Banking and Family Business.  UA&P has business economics (SBEP), brand analytics, bond investing, family life education, data privacy, sustainability reporting, and agribusiness.

            It is notable that continuing or professional education among the universities surveyed is dominated by short programs in keeping with the deemphasis on degree-granting programs and the greater importance given to providing knowledge and skills in the shortest time possible so that the participants can immediately apply what they learn to their work and responsibilities at hand.  Customized, corporate-wide programs are a minority among Philippine business schools.    UA&P has the most number of such types.  Leadership and Management, Financial Management and Accounting, Human Capital Management, and HRM and Education Training are the most common areas of offering among the universities surveyed.  Diplomacy and governance and Sustainable Management are the least common areas among the universities surveyed.

            In the issue of FT Business Education of May 2023, there is a list of the most frequently taught business school topics om the Executive Education curriculum of the leading business schools in the world, most of them located in Europe.  These topics could serve as a guide to Philippine business schools who should devote more of their resources to upskilling and reskilling Filipino managers as the Philippines moves from upper-middle income category to high-income in the next twenty years.  These topics (descending degree of importance) are leadership, strategy, finance, innovation, sustainability, change management, digital transformation, negotiation, decision making, marketing, entrepreneurship, diversity and inclusion, human resources, resilience, digital skills, operations, analytics/data science, wellbeing, remote/online collaboration, AI machine learning and organizational restructuring linked to COVID.  Philippine business schools and other non-academic training institutes should take a cue from the above-mentioned list.  There should be less emphasis on degree-giving courses (especially the MBA) and more efforts to upgrade the knowledge and skills of existing managers who are the ones who will take the Philippine economy to the next level of development. 

            As a parting comment, let me say that one does not have to be a corporate person to aim at becoming a CEO.  There are those who become CEOs by starting their own businesses such as the famous self-built entrepreneurs in Philippine business history as Henry Sy, Jose Y. Campos, John Gokongwei, Manny Villar, Andrew Gotianun and David Consunji, among many others.  Forty years ago, the CRC College of Arts and Sciences (now the University of Asia and the Pacific) started the B.S. in Entrepreneurial Management (EM) addressed to high school graduates who manifested entrepreneurial talents.  From the very first year of college, they were guided to choose a “New Business Venture” which they progressively developed into a successful small business enterprise throughout their four years of the undergraduate program under the tutelage of a group of professors with a great deal of business experience.  This program has produced hundreds of owners of SMEs.  Others decided to join the corporate world.  Among those who continued to be their own employers, some are now CEOs of leading big enterprises like North Star Meat, one of the largest meat retailing companies today.  Anthony Ng is the founder of this business that is about to issue an IPO.  Another is Summa Water Resources that was started by Jose (Che) Soler as his New Business Venture project as a college student. It was so successful in the water business in the Philippines that the company has ventured into investing in an African country, Sierra Leone.  A third example is Leechiu Property Consultants, a top property consultant and real estate company, headed by one of our EM graduates, David Leechiu.  For comments, my email address is