Working with a one-on-one coach, EMBA students build self-awareness, collect feedback, and identify strengths and opportunities to improve their leadership skills.
Samantha Stahl is the Associate Director of the McNulty Leadership Program at The Wharton School.

Leadership is an important aspect of Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives. In addition to core and elective classes on leadership, every EMBA student can participate in the Executive Coaching and Feedback Program (ECFP). Run by Wharton’s McNulty Leadership Program, the ECFP is modeled after executive coaching programs at leading corporations and is designed to help students develop their ability to lead.

“Our approach emphasizes knowing, doing, and developing. Leaders not only need to know what to do, but they need to know how to do it, when to do it, and when called upon, how to follow through. Great leaders are constantly trying to develop and refine their skills. We provide areas to practice and help students put that knowledge into action,” said Samantha Stahl, associate director of the McNulty Leadership Program.

Who Benefits From Coaching

“Coaching is the most personalized form of leadership development. Continuous attention to improvement can amplify and help leaders be the best they can be,” she noted.

While Wharton EMBA students are already high performers in their organizations, all leaders benefit from coaching. Samantha explained, “Look at a top athlete like Serena Williams. She is at the top of her game, but she still works with a coach because there is always room to develop skills and prepare for new competitors or challenges.”

“WEMBA students are particularly well-situated to benefit from executive coaching as they seek to implement what they are learning in the classroom within their roles in  their organizations. Executive coaching is a key resource to support students as they test new behaviors and seek feedback on their effectiveness,” said Jeff Klein, executive director of the McNulty Leadership Program.

How Coaching Works

During their second year, all EMBA students are invited to participate in the ECFP. Typically, 55 to 60 percent of students on both coasts enroll. The first step involves the Wharton Leadership 360 Assessment, which focuses on the seven competencies that students learn about in their core Foundations of Teamwork and Leadership course, such as influence, executive presence, emotional intelligence, and teamwork.

The students are then matched with an executive coach. “We work with more than 60 coaches on both coasts and we look at all of the students’ enrollment data to individually match each student with a coach,” said Samantha.

Coaches are ICF certified with a minimum of five years of executive coaching post coaching certification. Coaches have a deep knowledge of, and experience working with, evidence-based practices of leadership development and outcomes-oriented executive coaching. Many have their own consultancies or have coached entrepreneurs and senior executives throughout their careers.

Students receive seven executive coaching sessions over a six-month period. 

“Executive coaching focuses on the skills and competencies that contribute to interpersonal effectiveness. Students can expect to engage in targeted behavioral change,” said Samantha, noting that leadership coaching is included in tuition, but in the private sector could cost anywhere from $200 to over $600 per hour.

Why Executive Coaching Adds Value

Students’ coaching goals are derived from their 360 Assessment. “If they haven’t gone through this kind of assessment, it can be an eye-opening experience,” said Samantha. She pointed out that while coaching goals are unique to each student, there are several recurring themes:

To Gain More Confidence as a Leader

“Individuals may be ready for the next step in their career or have recently transitioned to a more senior role. As a high-potential employee, they are looking to gain the confidence needed for that next opportunity.” 

Leverage your Existing Strengths

“Leadership is essential to success. Tapping into the strengths of the individual can enable them to be more self-aware about the decisions they are making. Coaches can help individuals focus on performance.”

To Manage Stress and Ambiguity

 “Another goal, especially during the pandemic, is to understand how to support their company, team, and family when there are competing priorities. It’s helpful to talk to a coach, who has a holistic view, about the situations with which they are dealing. A coach can help guide them to solutions.”

Additional Leadership Development Opportunities

In addition to executive coaching, EMBA students can also participate in other leadership development programs through the McNulty Leadership Program, such as Leadership Workshops.

“We’ve seen a lot of interest in Workshops. In one day or less, students receive access to alternative leadership education methodologies or specific topics. Recent topics include leadership mindfulness, decision-making, achieving motivational balance, and business improvisation. We also held a workshop with an FBI hostage negotiator on gathering intelligence through conversation,” said Samantha.

A new leadership offering open to EMBA students, she noted, is called P3, which stands for Purpose, Passion, and Principles. In this six-week program, students gain a deeper understanding of their own success and happiness, and how they relate that to their personal and professional goals.

EMBA students also can participate in Leadership Intensives and Ventures. Leadership Ventures are experiences that facilitate self-discovery, leadership, and character development. Participants are able to step out of their comfort zone, exceed personal limitations, and experience leadership first-hand. 

All EMBA students have the opportunity to participate in an EMBA-only student Venture to Alaska. Click here to read more about that Venture.

In addition, students can attend a speaker series called Authors at Wharton, organized by Prof. Adam Grant. Authors are interviewed by Prof. Grant on a variety of topics like management, personal experiences, and current affairs.

“We create a lot of stretch experiences in our programming. What differentiates our programming is that we always try to provide an opportunity for students to reflect upon what they have done and provide a platform for taking that feedback, analyzing it, and developing themselves. So, the next time they are called upon as leaders, they have learned and are better prepared,” said Samantha.

— By Meghan Laska

Posted: February 24, 2021

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