As organizations focus on keeping high-performing leaders in-house, they’ll need to develop them, not only with the skills they need for their role, but also the soft skills needed to manage their teams. The leader-employee relationship is critical to organizational success, especially as people leave managers, not companies. To this end, many organizations target leaders for development in emotional intelligence, situational leadership, communication and collaboration. With nearly every industry facing disruption, leaders will also need innovation skills to push their organizations forward.

Develop soft skills

Executive education programs give students the tools and skills they need so their jobs are done better and more efficiently, rather than learning for learning’s sake. Many organizational challenges are addressed by giving leaders the soft skills they need to connect with their employees.

“Leaders need a program that can deliver values from others with similar interests and challenges.”

Audrey Witters, managing director for online and entrepreneurship programs at Stanford Graduate Business School, says “Skepticism about the efficacy of teaching negotiation or leadership skills online was often due to the lack of effective social learning experiences. To truly learn skills such as corporate innovation, you need to experience it, try it out and come back and reflect with other people. You can’t accomplish that with a typical online program.”

Put in the time

To succeed in high-touch online executive education students need to rethink what they know about online learning. While shorter online courses might quickly introduce skills, true knowledge transfer requires a more iterative learning process. “With our format, participants can go deeper into the material,” Witters says. “They first learn the concepts, then try the concept out at their jobs. Finally, they come back and discuss how that went with their peers and faculty and afterward go try again. Time spent on the course is time students will eventually get back in increased productivity.”

Make connections

Why choose a high-touch executive education program over a shorter option, like a MOOC or other e-learning course? Witters says the strengths lie in the connections students make. “MOOCs are excellent for accessibility, but what they lack is community curation,” Witters says. “Leaders need a program that can deliver values from others with similar interests and challenges. Community in a program also creates accountability in a way we haven’t seen in other online education courses.” This accountability contributes to course participation and completion — key performance indicators of success.

The value executive education brings to the organization is well established. Today’s leaders need a high degree of emotional intelligence as well as business acumen to connect with their employees and contribute to organizational strategic goals. Enrolling in high-touch online education program offers real-world examples and solutions, giving leaders the knowledge to succeed.