MBA Faculty Spotlight

This series will shine a light on the faculty behind the Henley Executive MBA. The people teaching, leading and convening on each module bring experience not only from their academic experience and extensive research, but from real-world business too.

Dr Ana Graça is a Lecturer in Leadership, Module Convenor for the Research Skills/Management Research Challenge module in MBA, and the Programme Director for the Executive MBA – Global. Ana is also a member of the Henley Centre for Leadership, where she is involved in several research projects with industry and is the co-ordinator for the research visits. She also supervises dissertations at PhD, DBA, MBA and MSc levels across different countries and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. With a background as an organisational psychologist and experience in quality assessment in the public sector, her research focus is on team leadership dynamics in different organisations. Her work has been published in a number of academic journals and presented at conferences. 

Where did you study and work before coming to Henley? 

Since my teenage years, I have been interested in the field of Psychology. I was drawn to Organisational Psychology in particular, because it allowed me to not only work with individuals but also explore the complex interplay between them, their teams and organisations, at various levels. I completed a degree in Social and Organisational Psychology at the ISCTE – Lisbon University Institute in Portugal. During my undergraduate studies, I became increasingly interested in research and had the opportunity to work in a European-funded project, with the goal to improve the quality assessment of non-profit organisations. I then worked in the Central Government at the Ministry of Work and Social Care in team which was responsible for coordinating over 300 multidisciplinary teams located in councils throughout the country. I helped create new quality systems, leadership and team initiatives, and gained valuable experience working in an applied setting.  

After this, my Masters’ supervisor made me a suggestion I could not refuse: to pursue a PhD in the field of Organisational Psychology. As well as focusing on research across different organisations, including private sector, IT and SMEs, I started teaching in higher education as part of a pioneering project in the sector, aimed at providing students with transferable skills outside of their core subject areas to improve their employability.  

I moved to the UK after my PhD and started my Post Doc at Henley Business School. I taught on the MBA programmes and Executive Education, supervised end-of-programme projects and dissertations, and conducted research-led consultancy. After my maternity leave, I began working as a Lecturer and served as the module convenor for various modules. I am currently the Programme Director for the Executive MBA – Global. 

What areas of research do you focus on and why? 

I became fascinated with the dynamics of multidisciplinary teams and how team processes impact leaders, rather than focusing solely on the leader. This led me to focus my research on team leadership and its intersection between leadership as a process and team dynamics, as well as the various contextual factors that can influence them. My work has been published in several Leadership and Organisational Psychology Journals and conferences, exploring topics such as the role of team leadership, cognitive and affective team processes, adaptive team processes, and outcomes within dynamic and diverse organisational and hybrid contexts, taking a multilevel perspective and examining changes over time. 

What module do you teach and what do you hope the cohort take away from it? 

I have been actively involved in teaching across three areas: Leadership, Careers and Transferable Skills, as well as Academic and Research Methods. As the module convenor and tutor of the Management Research Challenge (MRC)/Research Skills module, I support learners on the techniques to undertake an applied project that serves as the culmination of the MBA programme. This project allows candidates to build on earlier applied learnings from different MBA modules, tackle relevant business and management issues of their choice, gather evidence, and provide actionable recommendations for implementation that can benefit their organisation or industry. It is a pivotal moment in their MBA journey, and I am grateful to be part of it and also work with our supervisors and teams during this process.  

I am also the module convenor for a Leadership for Change and Complexity module in the Senior Leader Apprenticeship (SLA) Programme, where learners develop the capability and awareness of leadership for both planned and emergent organisational change and increase the effectiveness and appropriateness of their complexity-informed change leadership interventions. 

As the Programme Director for the Executive MBA – Global, I work closely with various teams and stakeholders to ensure we provide high-quality opportunities and experiences for our candidates. 

So everything came full circle from previous research, teaching and experience and I continue to be excited for what the future holds. 

Why would you recommend doing an MBA at Henley? 

Both our Executive MBA programmes are triple-accredited and offer a truly transformative learning experience. They cover the fundamental elements of Business and Management, such as Financial Resources, Managing People, and Strategy. However, what makes us unique is our focus on Personal Development, which allows you to reflect on yourself, understand your personal goals , and enhance your leadership and professional skills. Our Executive MBA - Global programme runs across the UK, Denmark and Finland, with a strong Nordic element, and you will have the opportunity to connect and work together with candidates from different backgrounds and experiences. We also include two immersion trips to North America and South Africa, where you will be able to work on real-life consultancy projects in up-and-coming start-ups and purpose-driven interventions with NGOs. 

These experiences will mean different things to different people, and we are committed to supporting you throughout your journey to ensure that you make the most of the programme and become the best leader you can be. 

What do you think we should expect from the future of business and work? 

The future of business and work is a constantly evolving and exciting landscape. The way we approach leadership and teamwork will continue to shift and transform. We are already seeing the emergence of distributed leadership structures that rely on cross-functional collaboration. These new ways of working demand increased leadership adaptability and creativity, to navigate these complex environments successfully. We are also seeing a growing focus on championing sustainability and diversity. Organisations have to increasingly recognise the importance of embedding sustainability and diversity into their operations and taking real, measurable action to make a positive impact. As technology continues to advance, we can expect to see more and more companies leveraging artificial intelligence and other tools and it is important that leaders and teams use it in ways that align with their values and goals. 

If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be? 

If I could have dinner with anyone, it would be someone who is not necessarily in the spotlight, but rather the quieter person in the room who often goes unnoticed. I believe that everyone has a story to tell and a unique perspective to share, and I am always eager to learn from others. This person could be someone who has overcome great challenges or has a wealth of knowledge and experience in a field that I am interested in. I find it fascinating to learn about people's life journeys and the lessons they have learned along the way. I guess it all goes back to my Psychology roots! 

Interested in hearing more about the Henley Executive MBA? Book a free one-to-one consultation with our team to find out how Personal Development could help you achieve your career goals.