Climbing to the top of the tree

THE role of leadership in major business organisations is under increased scrutiny following recent worldwide corporate collapses and the ever-present need for returns on investment.

Those who are looking for a role at the top of the tree often seek to enhance their extensive work history with some form of management qualification.

While a masters of business administration (MBA) is highly regarded for teaching the mechanics of running an organisation, a post-graduate qualification focusing on leadership rather than management is becoming a popular choice for those climbing the corporate ladder.

Curtin University is one of few institutions to offer a masters in leadership management (MLM), which is a course that places an emphasis on personal development.

Contemporary thinking is similar to what theorist Daniel Goleman outlined as ‘emotional intelligence’ in 1995. EI essentially is the ability to manage our relationships and ourselves effectively using fundamental capabilities such as self awareness and social awareness.

Mr Goleman believes that someone with a high level of EI will make a better leader, and his re-search is gaining weight with those in the recruitment industry.

While Curtin’s program is by no means only about emotional intelligence it is a course that revolves around personal development, according to Professor Margaret Nowak, director of the Curtin University Graduate School of Business.

“It is very much about the individual’s own personal development. The development of themselves, the development of teams and the development of organisations,” she said.

Professor Nowak said the majority of course participants were those already in a leadership role, usually senior management, who were looking to further develop themselves and their careers.

One such graduate is the Fire and Emergency Services Authority of WA executive director of community safety, Barry Hamilton.

The MLM was the first study Mr Hamilton had undertaken in 20 years and represented a commitment to gaining a more senior position.

“One of the real problems I had with any form of study prior to this was being able to see the real relevance in it; how was it going to apply to me,” he said.

“The analogy I like to use is this. If I want to lay bricks I don’t need to learn about the history of architecture first. When the MLM program came up it provided me with relevance and raised my curiosity so that I did want to learn about the history of architecture.”

At the time Mr Hamilton spoke to his boss about how to get further ahead with his career he was the executive director of emergency management, which had a small team of seven people.

“He said if you don’t have post-graduate qualifications it will be difficult for you to go further. I made it clear that I wanted to end up in a CEO position,” Mr Hamilton said.

During his study he took his current position as executive director of community safety, whereby he has responsibility for 30 people.

Auditor General’s Office associate director of audit Rochelle Bradley has already secured several qualifications but said choosing to study the MLM was a choice to make herself more marketable.

“I’m hopeful that the next step up would be a more senior management role. Some people can see auditing as specialised and once you reach a certain level they only see you as an auditor. Something like this says ‘I am more than that’,” she said.

“An MBA was along the lines of what I had already done and I was looking for something with a bit of an edge, something a bit different and gave me a different perspective.”

Mr Hamilton said the MLM would benefit his current role as well as help in his aspirations to lead an organisation.

“Embracing diversity would be the first thing to point out. It’s not a bad thing and we should embrace organisational, cultural, and personal diversity,” he said.

“When you do that, in my opinion, you can understand the concept of leadership and management.

“People also need to recognise the need for support. You shouldn’t do it on your own and should look to draw on other people’s strengths.”

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