IMD’s Top Leader To Step Down Two Years Early

Jean-François Manzoni, président of IMD. Photo © eddy mottaz

Following announcements of earlier-than-expected resignations from major deanships, IMD President Jean-François Manzoni says he will step down two years early at the end of 2024. Manzoni’s decision to leave the top leadership job at a major European business school follows announcements by the deans of both London Business School and the University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business to step down before their terms end.

Less than a week earlier, LBS Dean François Ortalo-Magné said he would depart the deanship a year early at the end of the 2023-2024 academic year to return to the classroom. Last month, Gies College of Business Dean Jeffrey R. Brown announced that he would be stepping down a year early at the end of the academic year.

The reasons for the departures may differ but the decisions reflect the grueling and often all-consuming nature of the job.

‘IMD LEADER CITES ‘THE LEVEL OF ENERGY AND COMMITMENT’ AS A REASON FOR HIS EARLY DEPARTURE

“In the academic world, unlike the private sector,” said Manzoni in a statement, “leadership successions tend to be determined by the timing of (typically five-year) mandates. While this approach may well lead to acceptable outcomes on average, there is no reason to believe that it always leads to optimal timing, as optimal timing should take into account dimensions like the level of energy and commitment of the current leader, the evolution of the competencies/capabilities required by the job and the level of readiness of potential successors. In our case, I proposed to the Board to bring the transition forward by two years to enable me to move back to a faculty role and to enable IMD to name a younger, more technology-savvy leader who will have a 10-year runway to lead IMD to new heights.”

Manzoni, who became president of the Institute for Management Development (IMD) in January of 2017 and had to navigate the school through the pandemic, initially renewed his commitment for five years in 2020. At that time, according to IMD, he signed his new contract, which would end in 2026, with an understanding that if circumstances enabled it, an early transition might be considered. “While it is fair to say that the Supervisory Board would have been delighted for Jean-François to complete his mandate, we understand his reasons and, very importantly, we agree that the circumstances are indeed supportive of a late 2024 transition at the helm of IMD,” explained IMD Supervisory Board Chairman Michel Demaré.

In getting the job in the first place, Manzoni was plucked from the INSEAD faculty where he served as the Shell Chair for Human Resources and Organizational Development in Singapore. A French and Canadian citizen, he received his doctorate from Harvard Business School and was a professor of leadership and organizational development at IMD from 2004 to 2011. The onset of COVID posed the single biggest challenge to the school and its president. To manage cash, Manzoni cut 10% of the school’s staff and asked IMD professors to take a cut in pay. The faculty overwhelmingly agreed in a 44-to-one vote to give back part of their compensation. But the most difficult challenge was to rethink and ultimately redesign its executive education programs. By year-end, IMD had gone into the red by a significant amount of money as revenues crashed by million Swiss francs to 90 million from 130 million.

The board and a faculty representative on IMD’s  Foundation Board will lead the search process over the next few months, with the goal of identifying the new president by next summer.  Following a few months of transition with his future successor, Manzoni would then leave the job.

‘LAST TEST OF A LEADER: PASSING THE BATON TO THE NEXT GENERATION’

“The last test of a leader is how they pass the baton to the next generation of leaders,” said Manzoni. “I look forward to being succeeded by a great leader and a great team, who will bring to the job the right capabilities for the future and a 10-year time horizon ahead of them.  We will work together to ensure a great transition that will help the new team to hit the ground running and take us to new heights. I will then return to the professorial ranks, supporting our new leadership team and continuing to contribute – as a faculty member – to IMD’s mission and success. There will be time then for me to look back on eight years at the helm of IMD and to give detailed thanks to a great many individuals. That will be then.  In the meantime, there is a lot of work to be done over the coming 15 months. I know I can count on the support of all components of the IMD community including alumni, faculty and staff, to keep doing our very best, individually and collectively, to continue to challenge what is and inspire what could be to develop leaders and organizations that contribute to a more prosperous, sustainable and inclusive world.”

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