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Executive Education

The modern, socially-intelligent executive

By Peter Walker for CNN
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(CNN) -- You have an I.Q. off the scale, a brain crammed with the latest in management theory and a clear strategy for success. So, you're the complete executive?

Not yet.

An increasingly popular concept among those educating aspiring managers is 'social intelligence,' distinct from academic-based abstract intelligence in that it governs how well people mix with, motivate and inspire their fellow humans.

It is a set of skills taken so seriously by Columbia Business School that the elite US institution has decided to place them at the heart of its business learning.

The new Program on Social Intelligence (PSI) aims to arm Columbia students with all the necessary techniques and guidelines for effectively managing individual co-workers and teams in the modern business world.

The program, to be integrated in every aspect of teaching from initial orientation to alumni reunions, is a step beyond traditional business school lectures on leadership, said Professor Michael Morris of the school's Management Division, who is leading it.

"Twenty-first century careers will involve different challenges than 20th century careers," he said. "The structure of business and of organizations is changing."

"The leaders of Generation Y will be the people good at understanding, influencing, and empowering diverse colleagues across the globe.

"The social judgment and social facility that this requires can be taught, but it can't be taught through lectures and case discussions. Students can develop in this area through methods that are more active and more personalized."

Beyond the biography

The idea is to integrate PSI activities into the whole learning process, giving students a continued process of experienced-based learning, coaching and individual assessment.

Based on empirical research in psychology and other fields, the teaching differs from more traditional leadership studies in which classes pore over the lives of historical greats and the speeches of modern day CEOs, the so-called "biographies and war stories" approach.

The school has a first class pedigree in the subject. The concept of social intelligence was itself first defined by Columbia University psychologist Edward Thorndike in 1920, while the business school has renowned expertise in psychology and similar social sciences.

The program does not, however, mean that raw Columbia management students tend to be socially inept, or lacking in leadership. Instead, Morris said, it is intended to send them back out into the business world with a whole new armory of valuable skills.

"Most definitely it is an 'extra' program designed to give Columbia Business School students an edge," he said.

"Our students tend to go into fields like investment banking that are relationship-based and international in scope, so it is relevant to them."

As well as Columbia's expertise in psychology, the program takes advantage of its New York City location, in close proximity to scores of multi-talented alumni, Morris added.

"We also have access to many kinds of talent that we are involving in the program: executive coaches, theater coaches, improv performers, business journalists, and so forth," he explained.


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All together now: social intelligence can help organizations work efficiently.

FACT BOX

FT's Executive MBA Rankings
1. Wharton, U.S.
2. Hong Kong UST, China
3. London Business School, UK
4. Instituto de Empresa, Spain
5. Fuqua, Duke, U.S.
6. Chicago GSB, U.S.
7. Columbia, U.S.
8. Kellogg, U.S.
9. Stern, NY, U.S.
10. Cass, City University, UK
Source: Financial Times 2006

FACT BOX

EMBA SNAPSHOT

Executives taking the top EMBA courses in the U.S., Europe and Asia have average salaries of around $130,000 to $200,000.

A typical EMBA student is likely to be aged in the early 30s, with 6-10 years of working experience.

A top EMBA course can cost $100,000. Customized courses start at a few thousand dollars.

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