Doing business today is like dealing with a multidimensional puzzle. The old rules don’t apply anymore. Trade is fast erasing national borders. Economic and political developments in one country or region can have far-reaching implications across the globe. Business leaders who are hungry for success must adapt to varying and often volatile environments, drawing lessons and insight from many different disciplines. This necessitates a well-rounded education that goes beyond traditional business fields such as accounting and marketing. So what makes an effective international business leader these days?
First, a familiarity with computer science and information systems. Information technology has radically transformed the business landscape across the globe. Today, it’s almost mandatory for every company to have a website, or at least a Facebook or Twitter account. This is not just a way for consumers to obtain information about a business, but a medium of interaction by which they can purchase products and services, send feedback, and more. It makes the consumer experience far more personal and eliminates middlepersons, making transactions far more efficient and less costly. Naturally, business leaders must be able to design, manage, and grow these information systems.
Data gained from these consumer interactions may be unwieldly, but are incredibly valuable and represent massive opportunities for a business. If you can gain an impression of your customers – by reviewing their demographics and personal preferences – you can design effective loyalty programs, promotions, and marketing campaigns that cater specifically to them. This conveniently brings us to the second attribute that contemporary business leaders should have – they must be comfortable with mathematics, statistics, and economics.
After all, it’s pointless to collect data if you’re unable to collate, analyse, and synthesise them into something meaningful to the business’ bottom line. Numerical figures affect every aspect of a business – for example, they would help you determine which demographics you should target with a marketing campaign and with how many resources. Being able to speak confidently about numbers also builds trust and credibility with superiors, clients, shareholders, and more. It’s downright crucial when it comes to drawing up a budget, funding requests, and projecting revenue and profit, allowing you to set realistic targets and expectations.
Having a firm and accurate grasp of the realities in business also means understanding the fundamentals of economics. For example, an economic downturn or even crisis in China could have catastrophic consequences across the world. A hike in commodity prices may affect the cost of manufacturing a certain line of products. Today’s business leaders often have to make or evaluate economic forecasts, taking action to prepare for the good times and bad. Not everything is within your control, but if you can mitigate the risks and exploit opportunities in the external environment, you are destined to succeed.
That’s where management comes in – setting policies and processes that bring positive results in the face of internal and external challenges. Today’s business leaders have to think about managing personnel as well as different teams, departments, branches, subsidiaries, and more. They need to decide, for example, when to call for meetings and how often – too many meetings can be distracting, reduce productivity, and cause resentment. Leadership extends to considering which tasks to delegate, when, and how much. All of this requires organisational skills and a great deal of sensitivity to your employees.
Motivating those you’re supervising requires insight from the field of psychology. Every manager wants to increase productivity levels; but the question is how. Will cash incentives work? Or will the promise of shares do the trick? What about giving them a fully-paid vacation somewhere? Psychology also provides a window into the minds and behaviour of consumers, clients, and other industry stakeholders. Knowing what makes them tick allows you to wage a more effective campaign of persuasion.
International business leadership isn’t about understanding one thing, nor is it one insular field of knowledge. It’s about having knowledge and skills from a variety of disciplines and combining them into a coherent whole. Today’s challenges in business can’t be easily pigeonholed, and it’s the same for business education. That’s why so many universities have overhauled their business curriculum to make it as broad-based as possible.
Birkbeck, University of London is an outstanding example of this: its School of Business, Economics, and Informatics groups the study of business, information technology, mathematics and statistics, economics, management, and organizational psychology under one roof. Students at Birkbeck benefit from this interdisciplinary outlook and approach, gaining a versatility that gives them the advantage in any environment.
Additionally, what makes Birkbeck so exceptionally unique is its evening education model. All courses are taught between 6pm and 9pm during the week, giving students the opportunity to work, intern, volunteer, or study during the day. This flexibility allows students to gain real-world work experience and progress in their careers even as they pursue their studies – there’s nothing more well-rounded than that. With that sort of competitive advantage, it’s no wonder that 95 percent of Birkbeck’s students are in work or further study within six months after graduating.
But this refreshing educational model is far from Birkbeck’s only strength. Established in 1823, it is among the most prestigious universities in the U.K. and the world. Thanks in part to its location in central London, students are instructed by academic staff who have wide experience in their field and maintain superb relations with industry.
Birkbeck was ranked among the top 250 universities in the world in the Times Higher Education (THE) 2015-16 World University Rankings. It was also ranked joint 35th out of 78 U.K. institutions in the list and 8th in London. Birkbeck is also renowned for its world-class research which informs public policy, shifts industry trends, and makes positive contributions to society. The 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) results show that 73 percent of the university’s research is rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’.
Birkbeck’s academic rigour is matched by its commitment to help its students find exciting work and internships with London’s top employees. As one of the world’s financial and cultural capitals, London is the perfect place to pursue on-the-job training or even a long-term career, as a stint here is bound to impress any future employer.
International students can work up to 20 hours a week during term and are encouraged to take advantage of the university’s in-house recruitment and employability service, Birkbeck Talent. Utilising Birkbeck’s excellent relations with industry, the service links students and graduates with employers. The school also offers a wide array of workshops and events that are intended to prepare students for the workplace.
In other words, from their first day at Birkbeck, the school is fully dedicated to get its students to work. The school believes that the formula for creating successful international business leaders consists of work experience, interdisciplinary education, and flexible study. So far, the formula has been right on the money.
The article was sponsored by Birkbeck, University of London. Established in 1836, it is the third oldest university in England and part of the prestigious and world-renowned University of London. Birkbeck is recognised as an elite institution of learning, having been ranked among the top 250 universities in the world in the Times Higher Education (THE) 2015-16 World University Rankings. Its unique educational model based on evening learning encourages students to pursue work experience and advance their career at the same time, giving them a competitive advantage. Birkbeck is particularly well-regarded for its School of Business, Economics and Informatics which takes an interdisciplinary approach to teaching, thanks to its four distinctive academic departments.