The classrooms of La Comercial that saw her raise her student voice a few decades ago smell her presence in the corners. Almudena Eizaguirre’s hand is noticeable at Deusto’s business school, which she has been running for just six months. This 55-year-old from Bilbao has clear ideas and extensive knowledge of the prestigious Basque private university, where she began as a professor in 1988 and has held executive positions since 2000 (as director of Teaching Innovation, vice-dean of strategy areas, teaching staff, studies, company relations, and as head of the Marketing and Economics department). It has a lot to say.
Their touch is already appreciated not only because the institution has changed the language to avoid gender biases and now labels the students as participants or the teachers of the teaching team or because in all the events it organizes it requires a female presence, since one of the The objectives that the general director of Deusto Business School has set is to “protect and give visibility to women”. It is not only that. The biggest change that has been incorporated into the school from which a good part of the Spanish financial elite has emerged is the leadership style. According to Eizaguirre, based on “setting the course looking to the right and left instead of just forward as men usually do.” Or, what is the same, to share the vision with his team, listen to him and delegate to the 44 professionals he is in charge of. “I believe a lot in giving people opportunities to grow and gain employability,” he says. And this model may not have been so installed before in a centuries-old, traditional institution accustomed to a masculinized environment where the “no’s” are “no’s” instead of “you’ve given it little thought,” as the executive likes to respond.
Two deadly sins
Nor is it very widespread in Spanish companies, where he believes that humanist leadership must permeate. That it is a management model that gives long-term results, he explains, while “listening to people takes time” and, meanwhile, “the short term is tempting”. Because Eizaguirre considers that it is necessary to lower the ego of Spanish executives and reduce the difference in salary they receive with respect to the staff they captains (today, that difference is 86 times in Ibex companies, according to a recent study prepared by Negocios) . They are the two great sins that he recognizes in the leaders. That is why Deusto wants to teach future executives that skipping steps in business management is not an option and prepare them to listen, negotiate and rectify. “To set the course and be open to modifying it.”
Contrary to the frequent risque voices, this Ph.D. in Economics and Marketing professor knows that she has had to deal with a difficult time. “After World War II, business schools reinvented themselves and the MBA is said to have arisen from that reinvention. Now it’s time for us to reinvent ourselves in this tough stage that we are experiencing and which many companies are not going to survive ”. The pandemic has caused a decrease in students of between 15% and 20% that has not been transferred to the same extent to income [pasaron de 19,6 a 19,4 millones de euros entre 2019 y 2020] thanks to the high demand for training from companies in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector. Because the rest of the companies have been more unemployed, he confesses, and they have preferred to wait to hire courses in company, which represent half of Deusto’s business.
Eizaguirre wants the bridge built between the school and the company to be narrowed, so that the institution (which has traditionally focused more on undergraduate students) grows in the area executive. Especially in Madrid, which is where growth is currently perceived. Its headquarters in the Basque Country (Bilbao and San Sebastián) move less, he explains. In fact, it has launched a business line of studies to offer companies on issues such as the gender gap or the operation of intergenerational teams, “with which I am very optimistic”, and is going to sign an agreement with Icade-IcaI (also belonging to the Society of Jesus) to develop programs in company.
The abrupt transition from the face-to-face world to the digital world caused by the covid-19 has caused companies to appreciate more the exit to the classrooms of their executives, where the almost forgotten is recovered networking, which is crucial in business, says Eizaguirre. “In autumn there will be a lot of movement,” he predicts. But they will go to school to carry out teamwork, while the theoretical contents will be taught remotely and will be recorded.
The director of Deusto also wants to promote changes in the teaching staff so that they become a facilitator of student learning and take a leap in research and innovation. Also renew your advice. The school just received AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) accreditation, “which has helped us see things and automate processes. And thanks to the mentor they give us, I have gained self-esteem ”, he admits without hesitation.
Deusto Business School has changed the themes of its programs after the outbreak of the coronavirus, reinforcing the content on fintech, blockchain, digital transformation, value chains and logistics, pharmacy and health, as these areas grew and were more useful for companies. “Before the portfolio of programs was very static, now we go to programs multiskilling to add new capabilities to people. We are moving from traditional thematic masters to others that mix hard and soft skills, such as the female leadership program that we are going to do with Vocento ”, he exemplifies.
The oldest business school in Spain, as Deusto likes to call itself, which was founded in 1916, has 1,644 undergraduate and 380 graduate students, and more than 560 business professionals participate in its executive education annually.