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Teamwork, communication skills and ethics are qualities that up-and-coming leaders in the business world must possess. It is not enough to be intelligent, ambitious and charismatic; to be successful in a quickly changing global marketplace, you must also be able to communicate and work well with others from diverse backgrounds. The standards for business leadership skills are evolving for a new generation, and they have the potential to shape the world in a positive way.

Last month, we wrote about the growing trend in top medical schools to screen candidates for their people skills. Applicants to medical school programs at universities including Virginia Tech, Stanford and the University of California, Los Angeles are now required to complete a series of nine short interviews that test their communication and critical thinking skills, as well as how they work in teams.

Respected business schools, including the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Business School, are also seeing the benefits of building emotional intelligence in their students. Several B-schools are restructuring their curriculum to emphasize business leadership skills, teamwork abilities and global cooperation.

Nitin Nohria, the new dean of Harvard Business School, said in a New York Times interview:

We have introduced to our first-year curriculum a course that will encourage students to work on a series of tasks in teams of six or eight people. They’ll focus on the basics of leadership, of what it means to be effective in the context of a small team, and to really cultivate their emotional intelligence and learn how others perceive them. All of our students will go abroad, too, to some emerging market and think about a new product or service that a company can introduce in that emerging market. And we’re going to ask them to create, very quickly, a small startup to test an idea that they have…

You can’t transform a person to become a leader by the end of two years. Our goal is to give students a concentrated opportunity to think about the challenges of leadership in a wide variety of ways. We hope to give people a starter kit for thinking about decision-making and the complexity of decision-making, and that students will learn a lot about what makes an effective team and how other people relate to them.

In the Harvard Business School program, business leadership skills are not just theoretical concepts learned from a textbook; students must put them into practice by testing them in real-world situations. By building their emotional intelligence in an action-based, hands-on environment, students are able to work their way through leadership challenges they may encounter later in their career.

What do you think about the growing emphasis on communication skills and teamwork in B-school programs? What else do you think business school students should be learning to prepare them for the real world?

A Growing Trend: Teaching Business Leadership Skills 

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