Data, decisions and leadership: Evolving MBA skills in 2023

  • October 27, 2023
  • By WashU Olin Business School
  • 4 minute read

Two distinct trends stand out in talent marketing for 2023: continued digital transformation and an increased emphasis on leaders who can act as human experts.

And these aren’t juxtaposed by chance. They’re driven by the recent leaps in artificial intelligence technology. New AI tools like ChatGPT, which launched in late 2022, are causing people to ask where technology like AI belongs in businesses and where the human aspects of business begin and end.

These trends show the evolving job market is looking for leaders with skills in data-driven decision-making in business. These are leaders who will be able to break down the complexity of data into understandable, actionable insights and make decisions informed by this data that consider the human factor. WashU Olin believes that the best decisions a leader makes are ones that balance what the data tells them with what is best for the company, its employees and even the community. This will become an increasingly important skill as digital transformation continues. As a result, Olin Business School’s MBA programs support and teach students to become leaders with these crucial skills.

Skills an MBA provides for a data-driven world

If making data-driven decisions is just one skill students can learn at WashU Olin, what other skills do students learn from an MBA? Olin’s career coaches are the most qualified people to answer this question.

“Students within our Specialized Master’s programs are cultivating knowledge in data analytics and taking classes in Python, data science, machine learning and AI,” WashU Olin career coach Karissa Rusu says. “When a student can share how they leveraged Python for data analysis, the results of their work and how they would apply their skills to the challenges the company faces, they will differentiate themselves from the rest.

Candidates that can shift the interview conversation from their skill set and past impact to the future impact they can make on an organization are sure to land the leadership roles they seek.

—Karissa Rusu

Olin’s MBA programs are designed to equip students with the skills leaders will need in future workplaces. These skills will enable them to navigate this data-driven business landscape confidently and prepare them to balance the art of human communication with the science of data analysis to lead businesses into the future. The following are just a few ways an MBA can make an impact on a student’s career development:

Data-driven curriculum

The MBA curricula are rooted in the power of data. Olin is passionate about training the next generation of leaders to master data, spot trends and identify strengths and weaknesses that will guide their decision-making process. The faculty, a diverse blend of experienced academics and industry veterans, cultivate an environment of learning and innovation through various courses and workshops that teach students to harness data and deliver accurate conclusions. This approach equips students with data-driven leadership skills that will be indispensable in the future of business.

Values-based leadership

Leadership isn’t just about technical ability; it’s equally about empathy and understanding. That’s why Olin promotes values-based leadership, emphasizing respect for diversity and the importance of compassionate interactions. Applying this leadership style ensures that students leverage the data available while prioritizing their principles and ideals when making the best decisions possible for their teams and organizations.

At Olin Business School, there are six business research centers. Each one helps to facilitate partnership and cooperation between academia and industry. These centers facilitate a crucial dialogue between the academic and corporate worlds. Through these centers, students can work on projects with real companies to address complex business problems.

One of these centers is the Bauer Leadership Center. The Bauer Leadership Center focuses on developing and coaching students through the Bauer Leadership Competency Model. This model operates on four pillars: drive results, lead people, values-based and data-driven. Together, these four pillars teach students to be leaders who can balance the needs of their teams, maintain the profits to keep a company going and make data-driven, values-based decisions.

Through centers like the Bauer Leadership Center, students don’t just learn how to run successful businesses; they learn how to be thoughtful, inclusive leaders. This balance of hard and soft skills is what distinguishes Olin graduates.

Putting theory into practice

At Olin, data-driven leadership is not just a theoretical concept. Students are given opportunities in the classroom to collaborate on a team and practice the skills they are learning to solve challenging business problems. They are practicing their technical skills while also developing their interpersonal skills, communicating with teammates, managing project timelines and presenting their work.

At Olin’s seventh annual Project of the Year Symposium hosted by the Boeing Center for Supply Chain Innovation, student teams from various Olin Business School programs shared their projects. Through this exhibition, students were able to present and reflect on the challenges they faced, the models they used, their creative solutions and how their work created a real impact on the companies with which they partnered.

The symposium is just one example that data-driven leadership isn’t just about understanding data; it’s about using that understanding to make strategic decisions and learn from them. Through Olin’s focus on data-driven and values-based decision-making, students are prepared to successfully steer their organizations in a rapidly evolving business landscape through real experience while in their MBA studies.

Prospective MBA students can look forward to gaining these skills and more at Olin Business School. Ready to get started? Join an upcoming information session to learn more, or contact the admissions team with any questions.

About the Author

Washington University in Saint Louis

WashU Olin Business School

Firmly established at the Gateway to the West, Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis stands as the gateway to something far grander in scale. The education we deliver prepares our students to thoughtfully make difficult decisions—the kind that can change the world.

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