American University of Beirut

Leveling Up in Business

Good to Great, the title of James Collins's famous business book, might well serve as a motto for the Suliman S. Olayan School of Business's Executive Education Program, which is designed to help firms and their leaders break through plateaus, expedite organizational growth, and sustain their leadership. 

Since its inception, the Executive Education Program has come to count some of the region's largest businesses as clients, such as Bank Audi, Hikma Pharmaceuticals, Janssen, Aramex, the National Bank of Kuwait, NBK Capital, and PACE, to name a few. “The region has a continuously growing desire for [executive education], and we're spending a lot of time developing and delivering on that front," says OSB Dean Steve Harvey. 

Most executives are sent by the companies they work for—from Lebanon, Kuwait, Qatar—and stay in nearby hotels on weekends for courses that can last anywhere from a few weeks to a year. “We work with large organizations as well as family businesses who want to train the next generation of entrepreneurs," Director of Executive Education Programs Fida Kanaan says.

Though instructors often tailor curricula to suit the needs of specific companies, there are common threads in all the programs. Every student is a manager of some kind. Most are in their late thirties or early forties. There is a focus on people skills and leadership development and instructors draw lessons from the latest trends in industry. “Our programs are aimed at mature management groups and focus on practical examples and real time issues, in addition to serving a networking function," Harvey says. One former student, Rana H. Karaki, head of customer relations and sales management at Bank Audi, recalled a harrowing yet immensely beneficial assignment that had her ask her manager, a direct report, a colleague, a friend, and a family member for feedback on her personal strengths and weaknesses. “It was tough," Karaki says. She put the answers in a time capsule with a self-addressed letter and returned to them two years later. “Some things I improved on, others I didn't." 

The program's future, according to Kanaan, can be summed up by the acronym RADICAL: Resilient, Agile, Daring, Impactful, Committed to Good, Anchored in the Community, and not lacking Legacy. As the program develops, she hopes to keep engaging with mid-level and senior managers, as well as CEOs, and to collaborate with other business schools to expand the program's reach and offerings. 

Karaki still waxes praiseful about her year-long course at OSB. “It was super enriching dealing with other team members at the bank," she says. “I learned how people in different departments operate and I learned how to talk to them." And what was her most critical takeaway from it all? “To empathize."

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