MBA for Executives

Executive MBA Faculty Interview: Lynn A. Isabella


Lynn A. Isabella

Associate Professor
Business Administration
Darden MBA for Executives

Associate Professor of Business Administration Lynn A. Isabella teaches courses in organizational behavior, leadership and change. As a management consultant, she has extensive international experience with companies worldwide, helping them develop their global leadership talent and organizational effectiveness.

You’re an expert in the field of leadership, a discipline that nearly every business school embraces, but one that has an exceptionally concrete and rigorous application at Darden.

For the student evaluating graduate business programs, what advice could you offer to help them choose a program that will materially impact their own ability to lead? Are there more and less valid ways to think about leadership in the global business world?

People get MBAs for different reasons. Why do you want to get an MBA? If you want to increase your business acumen or round out your functional skills, most MBA programs will provide you with that knowledge. However, Darden’s program is designed for those of you who have at least 7 years of experience under your belt, who have managed people, projects or budgets, and wish to focus as much on yourself as a leader as your business knowledge.

In terms of leadership, Darden does not offer you a leadership template. We offer you the latest leadership ideas mixed with classic principles of managing others and invite you personalize your leadership development. We ask you to explore your values as an ethical and principled leader as well.

How would you describe the experience of teaching the students in the MBA for Executives program?

Teaching in the MBA for Executives program is a high point in my Darden teaching experience. What I love most is the depth and breadth of experience that the students collectively bring into the classroom, especially around issues of management and leadership. In every class, there are students who honestly state “this could have been me,” or “I am experiencing this issue right now.”

Knowing that students are taking ideas and concepts and applying them immediately is just so rewarding and energizing. Not only am I helping students learn new things, but I am helping them be better managers and leaders right away.

Why is team-based learning so important?

Team-based learning is important for two reasons: First, everything about business today involves working with others. In that sense, our program prepares you for the collaborative environment of the future. Learning how to work with others and how to bring out the best in others in team settings are leadership qualities for today and tomorrow. Second, team-based learning is what Darden is built upon. We at Darden strongly believe and have since our founding that working with others in a collaborative environment.

You’ve traveled with our students to China. Why is the International Residency an important component of an EMBA program, and what goes into Darden’s process as this experience is designed?

Having an international experience as part of our program design is required — required because of the global nature of business today. Reading about other ways to conduct business or the impact of culture on business practices is like watching a classic film in black and white. You can get the basic ideas, but not the richness, subtleties and nuances.

We spend months working with our partner schools to craft an international experience that blends the fun and excitement of tourism with the rigors of academic learning. We incorporate cultural sites with visits to actual businesses with discussions from high-level executives with classroom discussions and lectures by resident faculty at our international location and group projects that demand our students experience a portion of the local economy or business. These residences are carefully orchestrated experiences with specific learning goals that change how students see the world and their role in it.

Your teaching and consulting work provides perspective on numerous institutions and organizations around the globe. What really defines the Darden community and experience?

Darden is truly a community that builds relationships for life. It’s not hype or words on a page. It is Darden’s defining mantra and I am honored to have been a part of this community for the last 19 years. Our faculty members are teaching masters who research and consult, so what you learn in their classrooms is masterfully presented, current and from faculty who know what executives struggle with.

What advice would you offer to a practicing manager who is comparing Executive MBA programs?

Pick the program that will support how you learn or wish to learn. Darden is your choice if you wish to engage as part of a learning community: learning new things yourself, but also helping your fellow students increase their learning as well.

We believe that adults learn best when they are guided, not told. Our faculty members are your guides, but you have to do the work. We make the learning accessible, but not necessarily easy. Our faculty members are master teachers who are committed to your learning and development.

Our program will provide you with the MBA basics, but it will also push you to examine yourself and your personal leadership strengths and opportunities. You have to be ready to have your mind and your heart engaged.

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