Executive students in Chicago DBA classroom

Three Things We’re Looking for in Our Executive Doctoral Students

Jim Ludema Article, Doctoral Program, Values-Driven Leaders

Executive students in Chicago DBA classroom

Not long ago, a prospective doctoral student asked me a question. The answer is something our team at the Center for Values-Driven Leadership thinks about quite often, but we’ve never answered it online. The question was:

What is Benedictine University’s Ph.D./D.B.A Program in Values-Driven Leadership looking for in its executive doctoral students?

In other words, what are the ideal characteristics for an executive who wants to pursue their Ph.D. or D.B.A. in our program? We are looking for three important characteristics:

We are looking for senior leaders who want to change the world through business, leaders with track records of success and a desire to build profitable, sustainable, high-integrity companies with excellence. This is based on the idea that business is currently the most powerful institution on the planet, and the institution with the greatest potential to influence positive change. We are looking for people who share this conviction, and especially for CEOs, chief officers and their direct reports, presidents and vice presidents, heads of business groups, and others who want to be a part of a learning community that will help them advance their life and their careers by changing the way business is done from a values-driven perspective.

We are looking for leaders who love learning and want to become scholar-practitioners, leaders who want to dig deeper to understand the theories and research that support, explain, and enhance what they do in practice. In this program, you are not just a consumer of knowledge the way you would be in a master’s program. You become a creator of new knowledge. This means you bring your experience and best thinking into the classroom and combine them with the experience and best thinking of other students, faculty, and Distinguished Visiting Scholars to build new theory, do new research, and test them in the world of practice. This also means that while in the program and afterwards, you are active in sharing and refining your ideas by presenting them at domestic and international conferences and by writing them up for publication as a way of advancing the state-of-the-art of the field.

This may make some prospective students anxious, especially if it’s been years, or even decades, since you’ve been a classroom. That’s not a problem. We will come alongside you, coach you, and provide you with tools and resources as you make this transition to being a scholar-practitioner.

We are looking for authentic leaders, people who are comfortable in their own skin and who want to collaborate with others to learn, grow, develop, and make a positive contribution through their life and their work. Our program is different from any other doctoral program, whether it’s a traditional program, an executive program, or an online program. It is designed to help you grow as a leader, as a scholar, and as a person.

This came to mind recently as one of our current students, Dan O’Connor, a retired military officer director of research for C5T Corporation, told us about his experience of personal transformation in the program. (Dan is pictured on the right.)

Dan said, “Entering the program has definitely given me an opportunity to move forward more quickly [in terms of personal development]. I think that comes from feeling like I can be part of a community of people with similar perspectives…that I can have meaningful conversations with and from which I get a sense of belonging that doesn’t exist elsewhere.”

How does this happen? We provide a safe and inviting space in which you can find your edges, push your edges, and open yourself to personal and professional transformation. This requires humility, curiosity, persistence, and a passion for collaborating with others. We have found that the students who thrive most in our program are those who open themselves to the world of ideas; jump in with both feet; explore as many theories, models, perspectives, and experiences as possible; and engage in deep and meaningful dialogue with others.

Are you that type of leader?

If that description fits you, then we invite you to learn more about our doctoral program in values-driven leadership, designed for senior executives. Then take some time this week to explore our website for more information about the program. You can start with these resources.


Jim Ludema, Ph.D., is the director of the Center for Values-Driven Leadership and a professor of global leadership at Benedictine University.

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