Executive Master of Leadership Blog

The Value of Leadership Development: Students Share their Experience

[fa icon="calendar'] May 17, 2019 11:56:43 AM / by Susan Gautsch

Although going back to school can seem like a hassle, once students start the Executive Master of Leadership (EML) program, they find immense value. By working on themselves, investing in others, and integrating new perspectives, they become invaluable assets to their organization.

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The Value of Leadership Development

 Here are the top three reasons, according to our current students and recently graduated alumni.


1. Leadership Training Helps us Grow as Individuals

We’ve all heard countless flight attendants tell us that in the event of an emergency, we should help ourselves before helping others. Although this advice is often lost in the ether as we wait impatiently for the plane to take off, in reality, it has profound implications.

Through regular self-reflection, Romeo Paragas realized that “You're no good to anyone unless you are whole. You're unable to help if you're not healthy.” Learning to take charge of himself and lead by example has since been an invaluable lesson for Romeo.

Another EML student, David Gevorkyan, reached a similar revelation. Through the process of journaling his daily experience, he found that “It became easier to navigate the direction that my life is going and the projects that I want to work on or the things that I want to achieve in life.” It was through this practice of self-reflection that he was able to dive deeper into his subconscious to discover his recurring thoughts, emotions, and inspirations, which helped him find this direction.

“Leadership is not a subject confined to the workplace, but myself as a person on the path of self-improvement.”

Stone James
, Director of Economic Development for the City of Cathedral City, found that the program “enabled the students to think about where we are as individuals, where we want to go, where we came from, and then to know that we have a number of bright, similarly-minded people who care about us and want us to succeed.” Among the safe environment created for introspective discussion and reflection, Stone was able to develop a better sense of what is important to him to find more clarity in his career.

Another student, John Thomas, Chief of the USC Department of Public Safety, discovered that “Leadership is not a subject confined to the workplace, but myself as a person on the path of self-improvement.” By becoming a more mindful individual, he has since been able to improve both his personal and professional relationships, which brings us to another significant benefit of the EML curriculum:

2. Executive Leadership Teaches us the Importance of Investing in Others

As Romeo engaged in self-reflection, he learned more about his responsibilities to others and how to achieve them. Romeo used to think that good leadership meant encouraging revenue-driven behavior. However, what he learned during his experience at USC was that being a hard negotiator doesn't automatically qualify you as a true leader, "A true leader must be able to empathize with their audience, empathize with their people, and ensure that what you're doing is the right thing [for everyone].”

Chief John Thomas talks about the value of leadership development. Romeo reached this understanding was through developing his empathetic listening skills, which helped him truly understand the needs of those around him and take action on their behalf.

Active listening also helped Chief John Thomas in both his personal and professional lives, “I now make it a priority to just sit in a room with personnel and listen. This allows me to hear how my decisions are impacting them, and discover what I can do to make their jobs more efficient and make them more engaged in the workplace.”

Through enhancing our listening ability, we not only gain the ability to take help them reach their goals, but we’re also able to learn and grow through their experiences vicariously. This brings us to our next benefit of the EML program, which is:

3. Leadership Experience Comes from Sharing Community Perspectives

The EML program allows us to learn from the experiences of others, helping us to cultivate greater wisdom and community engagement.

Reflecting on the program, Captain Nicholas Patitsas said that “It offers a new dynamic of education where you learn not only from the professor but your fellow students who come from other industries as well.”  He went on to say how this diversity gives us a better context for understanding ourselves and gives us a springboard to reach the next level.

Lt. Scot Williams Los Angeles Police Department Value of LeadershipFurthermore, Lt. Scot Williams from the LAPD found that the program allowed him to integrate essential lessons he learned from working in the community. Through one very transformational experience, he discovered that it was “my mission to help detectives and police officers understand the importance of the job that we do and our role in the community - not as saviors, but as collaborators and caretakers to help people heal. It's something I take very seriously.”

He continued, “I've used the lessons I learned from that incident with my family and the people that I work with here at USC. I can be a good partner, to understand my role, and help people become better by always trying to be the best person I can be. I try to live my life, and do my job that way.”

LAPD SWAT Officer, Jennifer Grasso says, “empathy goes a long way with the community, and it helps undo some of the damage that we've done over the years. I try to lead by example...if I make a mistake, I apologize. I ask for feedback. I want to know what I can do better next time whether it's a citizen or a partner or a supervisor.”

Stone James offered another perspective on this point as well, saying that his EML experience “has been amazing because it gives you an opportunity to extend to different people, and meet and develop friendships with people that you ordinarily wouldn't develop close friendships with.” Through these new networks, Stone made invaluable friendships that will last him a lifetime.

By learning from the community, we gain the trust and experience necessary to become a well-rounded asset to our organizations and elevate everybody’s performance across the board.


Taking it to the Next Level

The EML curriculum not only brings positive impacts to our students as leaders, but it greatly benefits the organizations they work for as well.

Organizations these days are in great need of strong leadership skills. In fact, according to the Brandon Hall Group’s 2016 Leadership Development Survey, 77% of organizations are currently experiencing a leadership gap as baby-boomers leave the workforce. On top of that, their successors largely aren’t given proper preparation, as 63% of millennials report that their leadership skills aren’t being fully developed.

With 10,000 baby boomers retiring each day, it’s clear that leadership development is more important than ever as millennials rise to take their place. Thankfully, by participating in the Executive Master of Leadership degree program, this next generation will be more than prepared to fill the big shoes left before them.


Download a brochure for USC's Executive Master of Leadership degree program.


Topics: Leadership Development

Susan Gautsch

Written by Susan Gautsch

Director of Online Learning at USC Price School of Public Policy

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