Insights from Julia Marsh, Executive Director for the Leadership Programmes Portfolio at London Business School

Written by Linden Selby



Julia Marsh is Executive Director for the Leadership Programmes Portfolio at London Business School – for experienced executives, professionals and entrepreneurs. Her own experience is in business education in top ranked schools and programmes, coupled with management consulting, and she holds an MBA from London Business School. 

We caught up with Julia after the Christmas break, bringing in January classes of the Executive MBA, and the Sloan MSc in Leadership and Strategy, and looking ahead to the next cohort of the EMBA-Global in May – so we asked her a few questions…


The EMBA-Global Americas and Europe and the sister cohort in Asia have been running for some years – can you tell me a little about the programmes’ background?

It seems impossible to believe that the EMBA-Global Americas and Europe had their first cohort 15 years ago. This partnership between London Business School and Columbia Business School was created to meet the career aspirations of the trans-national executive, for whom living and working with teams across regions was fast becoming the norm.  We wanted a programme that combined the best and complementary business school thinking in two world leading business locations.

The decision to add Asia to the global “mix” was a natural extension of wanting to see our students prepared for careers in any region, and the first cohort entered in 2009.

These globally focused executives have gone from strength to strength, we’ve seen the consistent performance in the FT rankings – always in the top 5 when other programmes come and go. Their career paths are accelerated, and for some of the class the EMBA-Global has led to successful entrepreneurial ventures.

Leading on from that, what makes the teaching stand out?

The faculty – drawn from the partner schools – have enormous enthusiasm and engagement with the classes.  They contribute different perspectives in core courses, bring knowledge, connections and speakers to their classes. They advise and discuss their subjects and the issues of the day.  It is a powerful edge in the programme design that the faculty travel with the classes across the locations. The teaching style is highly interactive, designed to draw out our students’ experience as well as the subject knowledge.  The case based methodology and the faculty’s research connections across the worlds of business, government and NGOs ensures that the learning is fresh and relevant.

The students benefit from the different teaching styles and perspectives – European and US– this is where the Americas & Europe students really earn the right to have two MBAs from LBS and CBS.

And what do you think is the value in the learning experience for the students?

Our students place enormous value on the quality and international dimension of the class, scrutinizing this as much as the rankings and reputation.  This will be their network, and they must be able to contribute to the class learning as well as the faculty.

We are also passionate about development of the softer skill sets – the curriculum is just one facet of the learning experience – we want to develop people who can work effectively with others as well as lead, and much of this takes the form of executive coaching as well as practical skills development.

And what do the students get from the structure? Balancing class weeks and different locations combined with high pressure jobs isn’t easy.

You are exactly right – this is a demanding programme.  But we think that the structure is one that optimises learning and creates close bonds through the class week “immersion” once a month. There is time to absorb the ideas and work on assignments between sessions – and the locations of London and New York – as well as Hong Kong give the students exposure to three world class financial hubs.

When students start elective courses they can choose from the three schools’ offerings and multiple formats from intensive block weeks to weekend or cross term classes.

I do have to say that it is not just about work – we have social reps for each city to ensure that the class gets the maximum out of their time there, and most classes will set up side trips – to wine producers, skiing trips, sailing, and Tim Kopra – who has been in the news recently on his mission to the international space station –  took his classmates to NASA!

Julia, what type of student do you look for when recruiting for the programme?

We take the composition of the class very seriously – we are creating a cohort who will become the unofficial “family” for 20 months and beyond.  Our students need to be smart, curious and be able to apply the learning in their current roles – it goes without saying that they are open and adaptable, they love to travel and share new perspectives, most have international responsibilities or aspire to an international career path.

The application process is designed to make a case for their candidacy, highlight their experience and achievements (as well as set-backs) and with a smaller cohort we can look at each individual. They must have management experience – which we define as managing processes, resources and projects – not everyone has the opportunity to practice line management.  We expect them to contribute in class, so they will need to be proactive and be able to push themselves.  The recommendations, our interactions with the candidates, and the interview all help to build a rounded picture of the candidate.

Thanks Julia – good luck with your next intakes.