Executive Education

July 09, 2024 •

5 min reading

Executive education: What happens when leaders stop learning?

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With days filled with back-to-back meetings and their sights trained firmly on the organization’s short-term and long-term goals, leaders often forget to make time for their personal development and learning.

Externally and at every level of the business, everything is changing and evolving, and without investing time in your learning, you risk being left behind. In the last few years alone, we’ve seen a significant shift in the must-have executive skills, with many of the crucial soft skills taking time and training to master.

That’s why executive education programs and management upskilling courses are so valuable. They help you develop new skills, stay at the forefront of innovation, and set an example of lifelong learning that your teams can follow.

In this article, we discuss the importance of ongoing training for business leaders, how executive education helps them succeed, and what happens when they stop learning.


What is executive education?

Executive education programs, also known as ExEd or exec-ed courses, are training and development programs designed specifically for managers, executives, business leaders, and professionals seeking those roles.

Executive education programs are typically short-term, non-degree courses that develop the knowledge and skills individuals need to become well-rounded leaders. Unlike management degrees like MBA programs or a master's in management, executive education programs usually focus on specific niches, such as revenue growth, strategy, negotiation, or people management to provide a comprehensive grounding in topics leaders may not have formal training in. Executive MBAs often cover high-level strategic business topics, while offering a flexible online learning format for busy professionals.


How executive education helps leaders succeed

Whether it’s online or in person, executive education and other forms of management training open leaders up to new experiences and insights and provide constructive criticism of their current working methods - something that’s often lacking at the leadership level.

Depending on the needs of the individual or the organization, these programs can help you:

  • Engage employees
  • Identify your employees’ natural talents
  • Communicate more effectively
  • Make better decisions
  • Drive organizational outcomes
  • Develop emotional intelligence
  • Manage change
  • Build better relationships
  • Foster innovation
  • Manage crises
  • Think strategically
  • etc.

Executive management courses are a good fit for working professionals because they tend to be more flexible and less time-intensive and structured than classic MBA programs.

There are many benefits associated with leadership training, both for the leaders themselves and the organizations they work for. They include:

  • Practical knowledge - You’ll learn new skills and knowledge to help you overcome the challenges you face in your professional life and gain expertise in specific operational areas.
  • Team management skills - With people skills now more important than ever, you can develop traits such as empathy and learn how to communicate, coordinate, and engage your teams effectively.
  • Fresh perspectives - You can leverage ideas and insights from external sources and use those fresh perspectives to add tremendous value to the organization.
  • Industry trends - Executive education gives you insights into industry trends and up-to-date ideas, which can be highly valuable in rapidly evolving fields such as technology, business analytics, and operations management.
  • Career development - Leaders looking for a promotion or wanting to take their next step with a new employer can benefit from additional learning that helps them stand out from the competition.

What happens to leaders who stop learning?

Not all executives or senior leaders are aware of the benefits of ongoing education. Some think they know and have seen it all, while others understand the importance of investing in their teams’ development but forget about their own. And when you learn nothing new, your professional progression slows, and your career stagnates on a plateau.

Regardless of your level, lifelong learning is a commitment, and once you stop it, you can quickly get left behind.

Fall behind on innovation

Given the rapid progress in technology and artificial intelligence and its impact on the workplace, taking your eye off the ball is a dangerous approach.

However, it’s not just those notoriously fast-paced fields where learning can help. There are new processes and developments in every sector and field. Ongoing learning enables you to take more calculated risks and puts you in a position to identify and embrace the innovations that can help you grow.

Lose the ability to change

The world is constantly changing, so business leaders must maintain their agility and capacity to manage change and uncertainty. Humans can change how they think, react to situations, and relate to others throughout their adult lives. Without continuing education courses, business leaders leave their development to chance.

Develop bad habits

Over the years, leaders can get stuck in particular patterns of working, thinking, and approaching situations that may be less than optimal. Unfortunately, forming these bad habits is easy but breaking them is hard.

Formal management upskilling courses can reset your thinking by helping you identify bad practices, eliminate them from your behaviors, and develop new ways of working.

Set a bad example

A leader who is stuck in their ways, resistant to change, and who believes there is nothing new they need to know will contribute to a more passive workforce. They may also unknowingly enable a toxic leadership culture or a toxic workplace environment that leads to high turnover.

On the other hand, leaders who are passionate about learning and actively demonstrate it through their actions show employees how important it is to keep improving. That creates a sense of optimism and possibility that runs through the team and influences their approach to personal development.

Lose your curiosity

The best leaders are curious and they have a sponge mentality about learning. They relentlessly gather new ideas and test working methods to find ways to do the job better. If you stop learning, you risk losing the sense of curiosity that’s at the heart of personal and professional growth.

In addition to coursework and lectures, executive education opens you up to the insights and realities of other leadership professionals. Through social learning, you can revive your curiosity about what others are doing right, and what’s going on in their field.


If you stop learning, you stop leading

Maintaining purposeful, continuous learning is one of the core traits of a truly effective leader. The CEOs of the future are the executive education students of today, but regardless of your age, experience, or job title, recognizing where you can improve and taking the necessary steps to get there will help you lead from the front and stay ahead of the pack.