Carlson Executive Education Blog

Next stop, C-Suite: How the Carlson Executive Leadership Program is shaping tomorrow’s leaders

Posted by Larry Nordhagen on Aug 22, 2017 9:57:31 AM

Larry Nordhagen, Leadership Development Practice Director - Executive Education at Carlson School of Management

The jump from manager to C-Suite executive can be a challenging one. After working exclusively in a functional area, managers who move upward are expected to demonstrate a new set of skills. Many high-performing organizations are realizing that this learning curve can be accelerated. They are progressing beyond the days of “trial by fire” and looking for ways to groom and develop future leaders before they step into senior leadership roles.

For the most part, high-level leadership development has been within the reach of only large corporations. But the Carlson School has created a robust applied-learning opportunity, The Carlson Executive Leadership Program (CELP), which expands the elite experience to those in small- and mid-size organizations.

 Developed with real-world input

Unlike a course developed purely by academicians, this program was co-developed in partnership with two leading Twin Cities-based companies, Sleep Number Corp. and Apogee Enterprises, Inc. Representatives from those firms advised our developers on the topics and skill sets most relevant for them and other small- and mid-sized firms. As Warren Planitzer, Vice President, Human Resources at Apogee said, “Our need for more experienced leadership at higher levels continues to grow. This course allows our managers a way to experience something bigger than their current job, and to learn how to lead across the enterprise.”

In designing this program, we spent considerable time listening to experienced business professionals who shared their wisdom about what it takes to make a successful transition to the C-Suite. That partnership makes this program unique, and our team is very proud of the result. As Warren told me, “In creating the Carlson Executive Leadership Program, the University has developed an offering that competes against those at the top five business schools in the country.”

Modules cover contemporary topics such as digital disruption, strategic thinking and strategic agility, working with emotional intelligence, aligning financial targets with enterprise-level strategy, building strategic relationships, strategic decision making and judgment, effective teaming and collaboration and extracting value from business analytics and artificial intelligence.

Applied learning for skill building

The session, runs from October to February, includes three weeks of active classroom time interspersed over time to allow for non-classroom activities, including participation in 360-degree personal assessments and the development of individual action learning projects within attendees’ own companies.

Why is this program different? Its applied-learning focus means that participants will be developing skill sets that are relevant not just for future roles, but for the work they are doing now. They’ll be creating competencies for leading themselves, leading the business, and leading and influencing others. To lead this effort, we’ve gathered nearly 20 of our top faculty in areas including Strategic Management & Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Work and Organizations, Finance, and Information and Decision Sciences. They’ll guide participants though work that challenges them with action learning activities that can have an immediate impact on their businesses.

And while we’ll be relying on our esteemed professors’ hard science and research, every exercise includes a “so what” factor that highlights how this knowledge can be applied to do work faster, easier and with better results for the leader and his or her company.

If you’d like to learn more, feel free to contact me directly at and we can talk about how your future leaders can get a jump start to the C-Suite at the Carlson School.