Dean Of The Year: Europe’s Business School Maverick

Santiago Iñiguez, the highly successful dean of IE Business School

For Santiago Iñiguez, the call to teach came early in his life. When he was little more than eight years old, he would gather his brother and two sisters and run impromptu classes in the living room of his parents’ home in Spain.

To his siblings, the boy who is now dean of IE Business School would read passages out of Sigmund Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams and Ludwig Wittgenstein’s philosophical writings. “They suffered me for a long time,” laughs Iñiguez. “Imagine asking little children about their dreams or the statements Wittgenstein made? But I realized then that I wanted to become an educator and it was reflected in my early years.”

Iñiguez has not merely achieved that dream. He has excelled at it, becoming Europe’s maverick ambassador of business education. The one-time teacher to children has helped to educate tens of thousands of students through IE Business School, the institution he has shaped, reinvented and led for the past 13 years. Iñiguez is stepping down from his deanship next month to assume a larger strategic role at IE University. But not before being named by Poets&Quants the Dean of the Year for his extraordinary leadership of IE.


He is only the sixth dean to have this honor, following in the footsteps of the leaders at some of the world’s most admired schools of business. The previous winners include Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria, Yale School of Management Dean Edward ‘Ted’ Snyder, University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management Dean Roger Martin, Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business Dean Paul Danos, and the University of Virginia Darden School Dean Robert Bruner. All have made lasting impacts not only on their own institutions but also on the field of management education. Santiago Iñiguez is no different.

As the first European to be named Dean of the Year, Santiago Iñiguez has completely transformed an institution and the many lives it impacts. Year after year, he has broken the boundaries of business school conventions, forging innovative partnerships with novel partners and making IE as responsive to the needs of the market as a highly ambitious commercial enterprise. More than any other dean in his generation, Iñiguez has made business school a real business.

The adjectives that current and former colleagues use to describe him are more common descriptors for an entrepreneur. “He has relentlessly focused on innovation, the embrace of technology and being close to the market,” says David Bach, a senior associate dean at Yale University’s School of Management, who had spent eight years at IE, ending up as dean of programs until leaving in 2012. “He has never been apologetic about the notion that the ultimate judge of how good a job a business school does is the market. He always had all of us focused on the market and how it was changing. IE is quick to innovate, quick to change, hungry and poised. It makes for a pretty intense work environment.”


In the process, Santiago Iñiguez has taken what had been a country-centric school in Spain that taught the vast majority of its programs in Spanish and reinvented into a global powerhouse, a school that draws students and faculty from every far-flung corner of the world. The numbers tell the astonishing story of IE Business School’s competitive and cultural transformation. Under Iñiguez, student enrollment in degree programs has exploded by 136% to 3,544; participants in executive education courses have grown by 140% to more than 1,200; the school’s annual revenues have more than tripled to over $150 million from just $42 million, and the size of the faculty has ballooned to 130 full-time professors and 50 full-time equivalent adjuncts from only 45 full timers and 100 associates. The school now boasts 52.300 alumni in more than 165 countries

What the statistics fail to show is the school’s rise in reputation and prestige on the world stage. Two years before Iñiguez walked into the dean’s office at IE, the school’s flagship MBA program was ranked 35th in the world by the Financial Times. This year, IE’s MBA placed 12th in the world and fourth best outside the U.S. Under his leadership, the school has ranked as high as sixth best in the world. Poets&Quants this month placed IE’s MBA fourth among the best international programs, only behind INSEAD, London Business School, and its Spanish rival IESE Business School.

The 54-year-old man behind these achievements is a deceptively soft-spoken leader with a calm and cool demeanor that belies an intense competitive nature. He is well read, revealing that among his favorite books is Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s A Hundred Years of Solitude for characters who “mix the real with the unreal, facts with fantasy, truth and truthfulness.” He boasts an unabashed passion for the arts, professing an affinity for Bach because of the Baroque composer’s “original, harmonic and varied” classics but also for Bossa Nova which he confesses makes “my heart jump.” His best-loved painting is Joachim Patinir’s Landscape with Charon Crossing the Styx, a 16th century painting that remains a vivid memory from a childhood visit to Madrid’s Prado Museum with his parents.


He is a man who habitually draws inspiration from an eclectic mix of high brow poems, philosophical treatises and scholarly essays, but also, surprisingly perhaps, pop song lyrics. In normal conversation, Santiago can reference with ease the Irish poet William Butler Yeats (“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire”) to songwriter Alan Jay Lerner from On A Clear Day (“Rise and look around you, and you’ll see who you are.”) to the late scholar Sumantra Ghoshal’s belief on how bad management theories destroy good management practices.

In other words, he is not your typical dean of a business school. “It’s not only about business with him,” believes Martin Boehm, a marketing professor at IE and dean of programs. “It’s much more of a global vision with multiple dimensions. He realizes the world outside of business is important, and he believes in developing not only the business person but the mind and the total person which is why the humanities is very important to him.”

Like an eclectic founder of a startup, he is always on the hunt for something new and fresh. “He is the kind of person who is always looking for ideas and opportunities,” says Karen Sibley, dean of professional studies at Brown University. Sibley got to know Iniguez when IE and Brown collaborated to create in 2011 an unusual executive MBA program that brings together business and the humanities. “I saw him right away as a person who looks for big visions but not unrealistic ones. He is a thoughtful visionary. He thinks really carefully about the quality of education and the student experience and what students will do with it.”

BY THE NUMBERS: The Transformation of IE Business School

IE Business School Before Iñiguez Today
Annual Revenues €40 million €126 Million
IE Offices Eight in seven countries 28 in 26 countries
Student Enrollment 1,500 3,544
Exec Ed Participants* 500 1,200
Size of Faculty 45 full-time, 100 associates 130 full-time, 50 FTE adjuncts
Degree Programs Five Eight
Programs In English 30% 75%
Blended Programs** Less than 10% 25%

Source: IE Business School Notes: * Only open executive education programs. ** Programs with more than 50% of the content delivered online

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