After a 15-year stint as dean of IESE Business School, Jordi Canals today announced (March 30) that he will step down and return to his former position as a professor at the school. His decision, effective in August of this year, ends what is arguably one of the most successful deanships ever.
As a business school dean, Canals was cut from a slightly different cloth than most. His strongest belief, expressed with the kind of passion that makes him a crusader, was his notion that capitalism has drifted from its obligations and responsibilities to society. Too many companies and business leaders have become, in his view, dominated by short-term thinking and financial considerations. They need to rediscover their wider role in society, maintained Canals, and business schools need to help them find it.
That position–and his highly successful time as dean–helped to endear him to many in the business school community. “In a world in which leaders in all sectors are mostly concerned for themselves, Jordi Canals worked tirelessly and selflessly on behalf of the institution he was called to serve,” says Jeffrey Pfeffer. the highly prominent leadership guru at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Prefer got to know Canals by teaching in the school’s executive education programs. “His leadership of IESE and all of his speaking and writing was based on values and ethical principles that are desperately needed in a world in which it all too often just about the money and not much else.”
BIG IMPROVEMENTS IN EVERY ASPECT OF THE SCHOOL’S OPERATIONS
During Canals’ time in the job, the University of Navarra’s IESE emerged as one of the most prominent business schools in the world and in the handful of the very best European B-schools. When he became dean in 2001, IESE was largely a regional player. Some 60% of the students in the school’s full-time MBA program were from Spain. Despite controversy over a global strategy that would significantly diminish the number of Spaniards in the program, Canals forged ahead to globalize the school, aggressively recruiting both students and faculty from outside the country.
A lean, self-effacing administrator, Canals led the school’s global expansion with the opening of new campuses in New York (2010), Sao Paulo (2011) and Munich (2015), and the launch of new associated schools in Latin America and Africa, as well as an Africa Initiative (2009). IESE’s Executive MBA program is now taught from Barcelona, Sao Paulo and New York; the school’s Global Executive MBA started its New York track in 2014, and IESE´s executive education programs are being taught in four continents. Meantime, back home, Spanish enrollment in the MBA program fell to 15%, with 85% of the students hailing from outside Spain.
Canals, however, made significant improvements in every area of the school, from the faculty and curriculum to admissions and career services. The school’s success in the rankings largely tracked that progress. When he took over the deanship of the Barcelona-based school, its full-time MBA program was ranked 25th best in the world by The Financial Times. Canals brought the school as high as seventh last year, before its MBA program dropped nine places two months ago to a rank of 16th.