Global leadership skills and mindset provide executives with a competitive edge in today’s fast-paced business environment. It is one thing to be a manager in a familiar environment, but quite another to develop into a global leader. This is where a Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) could prove useful.

Over the years, EMBA programmes have been quick to evolve and very successful in adapting to the climate and requirements of global business. Indeed, the foray of US schools into Europe, and later on the reversal in the trend, is considered one of the major developments marking business education evolution over the past 20 years, according to the Financial Times (FT).

“The first decade of this century saw a growing confidence at European schools as they looked overseas to develop relationships rather than competing with their peers at home. Campuses in the Middle East and Asia sprang up, the most significant being INSEAD’s in Singapore. Joint degrees, particularly with Chinese universities, flourished,” reads FT’s overview of EMBA expansion.

The global business trekker

The Global EMBA (GEMBA) is the “heavyweight” incarnation of this trend, in which executives with global aspirations set out on a path to gain uncanny knowledge that can lead to business growth on a truly international scale. GEMBA programmes focus on creating global leaders with cross-border and cross-functional leadership as well as practical skills for international business management. GEMBA programmes offer the opportunity to receive first-hand experience of global business and obtain sophisticated knowledge about key world economies, while also providing practical insights into local policies.

GEMBA programmes are indeed global. While most of the programme is carried out in a single location, certain modules are conducted at partner schools abroad. In this way, students can take advantage of the faculty, campus, and learning and networking opportunities at reputable partner institutions. One such programme, Kellogg–WHU, named after the partnership between America’s Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and Germany’s WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management, was established nearly twenty years ago, with seven campuses scattered across North America, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.

GEMBA programmes are also optimised in order to offer maximum flexibility. They mix classroom training in Europe, the Americas, and Asia with distance learning, making sure that executives are able to fit the programme into their busy daily schedule. The length of the programme varies from school to school – the Global EMBA programme offered by SDA Bocconi, for example, takes twenty months to complete, with eight concentrated one-week modules and two nine-day modules which are carried out every other month. Bocconi is offers extremely diverse locations – Milan, Los Angeles, Copenhagen, Shanghai and Sao Paulo – channelling various industries in each of these locations. The INSEAD programme is one of the most intensive, stretching from 14 to 17 months and requiring 51-60 days away from the office. The programme at IESE Business School lasts for up to 14 weeks, or 70 business days of modules in the span of 16 months.

Read: The Executive MBA ROI and Benefits Portfolio

The immersive leader

The first year in a Global EMBA programme is focused on providing a strong foundation of essential business skills. The coursework then builds on this base with advanced topics, usually electives, which are selected by the student.

One of the top benefits of any EMBA programme lies in its multicultural nature and ability to provide students the opportunity to benefit from each other’s different perspectives. Global EMBA courses go one step further, allowing unparalleled and complete immersion in global markets and access to global study opportunities through local partnerships. Courses are taught in different locations by distinguished local experts or faculty members, establishing a strong foundation of business concepts. The modules provide core business knowledge as well as valuable insights into regional markets and geopolitical specifics. The Georgetown-ESADE programme, an alliance between Georgetown University and ESADE Business School, for example, takes place in the business and government centres of Spain, Brazil, the United States, China, Qatar, and India, and mirrors the complexity of the global business environment.

Global immersion does not stop at the classroom door. The networking events organised at each location introduce GEMBA participants to local alumni, business executives, and officials. The schools do not simply offer a joint degree, but allow access to their alumni networks which often span the globe. In the case of Kellogg-WHU, the alumni network includes almost 60,000 highly skilled professionals, and in the case of Georgetown-ESADE the number is over 200,000, including noted leaders such as former US President Bill Clinton, King Felipe VI of Spain, and former CIA director George Tenet.

Global EMBA education provides more than just general management knowledge. It offers a rich understanding of cultural specifics in international business and helps explain how geopolitics affect business decisions. But this knowledge does not come solely from taught material and professors. Global EMBA programmes do a great job of capitalising on the skillsets, experience, and background of their students, and actively implement them in the classroom. Some programmes, such as Georgetown-ESADE’s, go a step further, aligning the assigned projects with the skills and interests of the entire project team. This increases the value of the experience and brings greater confidence in solving complex organisational challenges across different functions. Participants are also able to extend their learning and utilise their professional experience through live consulting projects for companies operating in different markets.

Read: How to Negotiate a Corporate Sponsorship for Your EMBA

The shrewd investor

The Financial Times 2015 EMBA survey shows an average salary increase of 41% in three years after graduation. Unsurprisingly, the two best-ranked programmes are Global EMBAs offered by INSEAD and Tsinghua University (Tiemba). Their graduates reported a whopping 80% salary increase in a pay segment that already includes many “top one percent” earners. Indeed, Global EMBA programmes occupy the top five spots in the relevant rankings. Yet, salary comes only third in importance as a criterion for enrolling in a GEMBA programme. Alumni have cited learning about management as their top objective, rated 9.1 out of 10, followed by networking opportunities. More than a quarter of the alumni started their own company during or after their studies, and over 75% confirm having fulfilled the goals and justified the reasons they had for enrolling in a GEMBA programme.

Leadership development and career coaching have also been major takeaways and critical success factors for GEMBA alumni. INSEAD students, for example, benefit from academic teaching, live fora and peer exchanges, 360-degree feedback, and group coaching, while London Business School alumni work with a dedicated Career Centre coach to align career plans and receive advice on CVs, networking, interviewing, and more.

Joining a Global EMBA programme grants access to a world-class network of leaders. GEMBA courses provide participants with outstanding resources for leadership and personal development training. Executives will learn how to be entrepreneurs and how to build and develop a business on a global scale. In fact, career advancement, networking and cross-cultural exposure are just the tip of the iceberg. The Global EMBA programme challenges its participants to re-evaluate their career and create a story for themselves by providing a rich environment for personal and professional growth.

In order to reach new heights and reconsider an executive’s value to business and society, that executive has to be prepared to switch tempos and environments. This is exactly at what GEMBA programmes excel: catapulting executives out of their comfort zone in order to awaken the leader in them.

This article is original content produced by Advent Group and included in the 2016-2017 annual Access MBA, EMBA and Masters Guide under the title “Switching Gears with a GEMBA”. The digital guide file will soon be available for download.