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A Different Angle: How Columbia Business School Takes a Fresh Approach to Executive Education

September 29, 2022

Martin Apsel-von zur Gathen, Head of Operations Planning & Steering at Swiss International Air Lines, has a history of growth in leadership. While enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program in aviation management, he worked in a junior management training program at Lufthansa Group. After graduation, he moved from one position to another in the airline industry, each more senior than the last. In 2018, Apsel-von zur Gathen received a promotion and became Head of Product Management Customer Service at Lufthansa Group.

The company recognized not only Apsel-von zur Gathen’s abilities but also his potential. He was selected to participate in an exclusive training pathway for potential future executives, and as a part of the program, he attended the Advanced Management Program at Columbia Business School Executive Education. We spoke with Apsel-von zur Gathen to learn about his experience in the program.

How Did the Advanced Management Program Prepare You for Your Work?

It gave me opportunities to train to become a stronger leader in the executive field. There were many skills, such as communication, that I had learned by doing specific trainings in the past, and the program gave me a chance to focus on developing those further. Some elements of the program were surprising. Mindfulness in leadership is one example. It was something I had heard about in my current field, but it wasn’t part of most standard leadership training programs or executive development programs. I was able to focus on that during my time in the Advanced Management Program. Diversity is something else that I got a very different view of during my time at Columbia.

Were There Memorable Projects, Activities, or Professors from the Program that Stood Out?

What has stuck with me the most is the people. The faculty and my fellow program participants made all the difference in my experience. Paul Ingram, the program director, was very influential. So were most professors I had a pleasure to meet during the program. I could have read their books or papers and studied on my own, but working with other participants and learning through collaboration is, I think, a large part of what makes this program unique.

How Did the Global Body of Participants Contribute to Your Experience?

Usually in my work, I spend a lot of time with people from my own industry. The chance to work with people from so many different professional and personal backgrounds is something that was really unique and valuable. I was able to get different perspectives from participants from multiple industries and from other cultures. I learned alongside people facing similar challenges, even as they worked in another part of the globe or in a totally different industry. I remember exchanging ideas with my fellow participants and getting their views on problems that we all faced.

What are the Key Ways this Program Helped You Grow as a Leader?

Columbia’s Advanced Management Program is for professionals who want to develop their executive leadership skills, but I learned much more than how to lead. The program doesn’t just train you from a functional perspective. It approaches leadership development from many angles, and that makes a bigger impact. I learned how to manage an organization through changeidentify the strengths of my organization, and see what my organization is capable of in a changing business landscape in new ways.

What Advice Would You Give to Someone Thinking About Enrolling in the Program?

I would recommend the experience to everyone because it is very unique. However, one crucial thing to consider is that you get out of the program what you put into it. You must utilize your time in the program well. When you do something, really focus on it. Compartmentalize. Put away all the challenges that you are facing in your work environment. Finding time for an executive education program can be difficult, but that is the key to success.

Columbia Business School Executive Education’s Advanced Management Program is a high-impact professional development pathway for promising leaders. Participants become more present and influential through one-of-a-kind learning experiences, personalized executive coachingpeer support, and networking. They exit the program prepared to think strategically and provide authentic leadership in their organizations.

Connect with an enrollment advisor to determine if you meet the Advanced Management Program admissions requirements or start your application today.

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