Explore the world of MBA education in France with Dr. Léon Laulusa, Dean of ESCP Business School. Gain insights into ESCP’s rich heritage, innovative initiatives, and valuable advice for aspiring MBAs. Discover the transformative opportunities awaiting you in European business education.


In the vibrant landscape of global education, Europe has emerged as a magnet for international students seeking quality, heritage-rich learning experiences along with unparalleled career prospects. At the forefront of this educational renaissance stands France, its allure growing steadily as a premier destination. Among the luminaries illuminating this educational beacon is ESCP Business School, a trailblazer in the dynamic nexus of tradition and innovation within academia.

Guiding ESCP’s transformative journey is Dr. Léon Laulusa, an esteemed academic whose multifaceted odyssey encapsulates the school’s visionary ethos. Since assuming the mantle of Executive President and Dean in June 2023, Dr. Laulusa’s stewardship has heralded an era of unparalleled academic excellence and institutional advancement.

Founded in 1819, ESCP Business School boasts a legacy steeped in pioneering education, a tradition seamlessly upheld under Dr. Laulusa’s strategic leadership as Senior Executive Vice-President and Dean for Academic Affairs and International Relations. With campuses spanning Paris, Warsaw, and Dubai, his commitment to fostering a global community of scholars and practitioners reverberates profoundly.

ESCP’s commitment to excellence is underscored by its multiple accreditations and national recognitions, solidifying its position as a paragon of business education. Dr. Laulusa’s scholarly endeavors, spanning financial reporting to the intricate dynamics of national culture on leadership, epitomize ESCP’s interdisciplinary ethos, bridging theory and practice seamlessly.

As ESCP Business School evolves, Dr. Laulusa’s leadership remains pivotal in propelling transformative change. Through innovative curriculum enhancements and a steadfast commitment to inclusivity, ESCP continues to shape the next generation of business leaders. In this exclusive interview, we delve into Dr. Laulusa’s vision for ESCP Business School and the evolving role of MBA education in navigating today’s rapidly changing world. Join us as we explore how ESCP is leading the charge in shaping the next generation of business innovators and disruptors.

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Q1: With over 30+ years of experience in various roles—ranging from professor, advisor to director and having served as the Dean for Academic Affairs and International Relations, as well as the Dean of Paris, Dean of the Warsaw campus, and overseeing the Dubai Branch campus and currently Executive President and Dean (Director) at ESCP Business School—could you share with us your story of what inspired you to take the path of academia? 

Ans: Yes, I believe throughout my professional journey, a guiding principle has been my love of learning. This was evident even when I was a tennis instructor for teenagers. I strived to instill not just tennis skills but also a passion for the game itself. This love of learning led me to pursue further education. After completing my master’s studies in financial accounting and obtaining an MBA from a university in Paris, I began my career in the private sector. For 15 years, I  worked for a major international auditing firm and a consulting firm. During this time, I developed a strong passion for the field and significant expertise. 

However, I eventually felt a lack of intellectual fulfilment. This prompted me to take a step back from practice and pursue a PhD. It was during this time, as a PhD student, that my supervisor at HEC Paris invited me to become a part-time lecturer in cost accounting.

Q2: What ultimately led you to pursue a PhD,  particularly following your accomplished career in the private sector and attainment of an MBA?

Ans: After my MBA, complemented by the chartered accountant diploma, I had a successful career, but I felt something was missing. As a curious person, I thrive on challenges and improvement. This quickly led to a sense of restlessness. That’s why I felt the need for a more academic foundation. A PhD provides a framework for understanding, analysing and interpreting information, offering a valuable new perspective. It equips you with another layer of expertise beyond practical experience. They say sometimes academia chooses you, and sometimes you choose it. 

In my case, I found education to be a very noble pursuit. My PhD supervisor offered me the incredible opportunity to teach at a top European business school. This resonated deeply with my core principles of learning, listening, and transmitting knowledge and expertise. I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to share my experience. Consequently, I transitioned into a part-time assistant professorship at ESCP.

Once I was involved, I was struck by the wonderful community. The students were brilliant yet humble, and the professors were equally brilliant and grounded. This strong sense of community solidified my decision. With my wife’s support, I left the consulting firm as a Partner to embrace the assistant professorship fully. As you rightly assume, professors often have the opportunity to consult with companies, allowing me to combine both academic and practical pursuits.

Q3: Given your extensive experience, it’s clear you’re passionate about a variety of areas. What strategies do you employ to manage your time effectively and ensure success across your diverse roles as a professor,  advisor, consultant, and dean? 

Ans: My schedule is certainly packed, and managing everything requires a holistic approach. While my curiosity hasn’t diminished, certain things have shifted to accommodate my time constraints. 

I continue to serve as an advisor for prestigious schools, international firms,  and even government entities. However, I prioritise my teaching role. Understanding student expectations and sharing not just knowledge but also skills, competencies, professional behaviour and attitude remains crucial to me. It’s a way to connect my experience and expertise with the next generation.

Q4: How did you manage the transition from being a cherished professor to becoming a dean tasked with overseeing faculty welfare and the overall success of the school?

Ans: It all started with a part-time lectureship. As I progressed through the ranks to assistant professor, associate professor, and full professor, my responsibilities grew beyond teaching. Research and programme management became increasingly important. This led to opportunities in international relations, fostering collaborations in China, Asia, and globally. 

Eventually, my dean (Director) invited me to join the executive committee and oversee a large academic portfolio encompassing programs and student experience. 

These experiences highlight the importance of passion and collaboration. You have to be passionate about your work, listen to colleagues and the community,  and learn from them. Ultimately, it’s a collective effort. As a dean (Director), I manage a complex organisation. Implementing strategies, having a vision, aligning everyone in the same direction and delivering excellence collectively are all crucial aspects of the role.

Q5: How has your global perspective on leadership and cultural nuances impacted the school’s strategies for management, leadership, and fostering an inclusive organisational culture?

Ans: My dream, as reflected in my PhD focused on the impact of values on management in Asia, has always been to connect theory with practice. This led me to embrace a career as a consultant, allowing me to travel globally and gain invaluable experience with diverse companies and cultures. These combined experiences contribute to the unique journey I’ve built. As you mentioned, fostering dialogue with peers worldwide is crucial. This collaborative approach helps me understand future trends, common challenges, and student expectations. By staying informed about their needs, aspirations, and by anticipating future trends, I can effectively design and adapt curriculum across various programs, ensuring I deliver relevant and impactful educational offerings.

Q6: what sets ESCP apart from other programs in your view? What do you consider to be the primary strengths of the program’s distinctive global framework, and how do these strengths contribute to students’ benefit?

Ans: ESCP has two core strengths embedded in its DNA. The first is entrepreneurship.  The term ‘entrepreneur’ itself has historical roots at ESCP, even predating the concept at Princeton. Originally, it meant ‘to seduce a woman’ and later evolved to ‘to undertake’. Today, of course, it’s about attracting investors. This entrepreneurial spirit is a fundamental part of our identity. 

The second pillar of ESCP’s DNA is its international focus. As early as 1824, one-third of the student body came from abroad, representing 19 nationalities. This global perspective continues today at ESCP, being a pan-European business school that welcomes 65% international students coming from 134 nationalities. Beyond these core strengths, ESCP fosters a unique mindset that sets us apart. Seven years ago, I collaborated with colleagues to establish five key mindsets for our students. The first is the ESG (Environmental, Social, and  Governance) criteria mindset, emphasising ethics and sustainability. Second, we focus on ABCD technological literacy, encompassing areas like AI, Big data, blockchain, Cybersecurity, coding, and Digital transformation. 

The third and fourth mindsets are interconnected. The entrepreneurial mindset,  ingrained in our DNA, complements a multicultural mindset. This teaches students to collaborate effectively across cultures and nationalities. Finally, we emphasise the development of a multifaceted skillset, allowing students to become true experts with diverse competencies. This combination of core strengths and fostered mindsets is what truly differentiates ESCP from other business schools. 

Q7: Nurturing varied mindsets and skill sets, especially in intricate domains like AI, blockchain, and coding, poses a notable challenge. How does ESCP adeptly provide students with the essential tools and support to develop these attributes and successfully navigate through this wide-ranging knowledge?

Ans: Certainly, each of these mindsets is supported by dedicated courses, seminars,  and workshops. Additionally, some programmes incorporate consulting projects,  allowing students to gain practical experience. This multifaceted approach combines the expertise of both our professors and external guest lecturers. 

Agility is crucial, especially in rapidly evolving fields like AI. It’s not enough just to follow technology; students need to master it and be adaptable and embrace lifelong learning. This mindset equips them to acquire knowledge and develop strategic thinking and expertise.

Q8: Leading a 204-year-old institution carries the unique challenge of balancing rich heritage with adaptability in an ever-evolving educational landscape. Can you provide insights into how ESCP manages to leverage its extensive history while ensuring it remains responsive and flexible to the modern demands of education?

Ans: At ESCP, we embrace the paradox of being a 204-year-old  institution with a startup mindset. This allows us to be a leading force in education while remaining humble and open to learning from others. Our long history has offered valuable lessons through various challenges and triumphs. This perspective keeps us grounded and reminds us to constantly evolve. As I tell our students, they’re not just entering a top business school; they’re becoming part of a global institution with a rich past and a promising future. It’s with optimism and a constant learning spirit that we continue to write ESCP’s remarkable story.

Q9: Institutions often encounter the hurdle of gaining faculty support when implementing substantial changes. While students typically adjust quickly, professors, esteemed for their expertise, may be less inclined to adopt new methodologies. At ESCP, given your focus on a startup-like mentality, how do you successfully involve your faculty in the evolution process and ensure they feel empowered to utilise their valuable expertise and experience to foster innovation?

Ans: Engaging faculty during transformation is indeed crucial. At ESCP, we foster a culture of collective work involving all members, including professors, staff, alumni and administrators. We share a common vision and actively encourage initiative.  Through collaborative workshops and open, transparent  communication channels, we harness collective intelligence to gather valuable insights and perspectives. This collaborative approach empowers all members to initiate, contribute expertise, and drive the institution forward.

Q9: Dr. Laulusa, as you anticipate ESCP’s growth over the next 3-5 years, what are two or three pivotal endeavors that you are leading to drive the institution towards its forthcoming achievements?

Ans: The world is undergoing significant transformations – ecological, technological  (including disruptions), and societal (encompassing inclusion, diversity, and political issues). Business schools are responsible for addressing these challenges and equipping future leaders to navigate them. At ESCP, we focus on three key initiatives aligned with these transformations. 

  • Sustainability: We actively seek ways to reduce our carbon footprint by searching for and contributing to new sustainable business models, and by promoting environmentally conscious practices. 
  • Technology Integration: We leverage AI and other emerging technologies to enhance the student learning experience. However, AI is seen as a tool to assist our faculty, not replace them. 
  • Diversity and Inclusion: We firmly believe that diversity and inclusion are essential for high performance. Therefore, we actively foster an inclusive learning environment that celebrates a variety of backgrounds and perspectives. 

Q10: With your vast experience collaborating with French enterprises, what notable strengths do you identify that empower them to compete successfully in the global market? Moreover, in light of the changing global panorama, what are your projections for the future trajectory of French businesses?

Ans: In my view, a key strength of French businesses lies in their ‘soft power’ – the art of living, or ‘savoir-vivre’ as we say in French. This translates into a high standard of creativity and living, which contributes to a strong sense of culture and brand image. When people think of France, they often associate it with luxury goods,  culture, gastronomy and tourism. However, the scientific and technological prowess of  France is sometimes overlooked. France has a robust scientific foundation, evident in our nuclear capabilities, telecommunication infrastructure, railway systems, satellite technology, and even biopharmaceutical advancements. 

This ‘soft power,’ combined with a strong tradition of critical thinking and a rigorous scientific approach, creates a unique formula for success. French companies excel at showcasing their expertise not just through technology but also through cultural influence. This synergy between different strengths allows French businesses to stand out and thrive in the global marketplace. 

Q11: From your experience, what are the three essential considerations for aspiring  MBAs when selecting a business school? What key factors should they prioritise during their search process? 

Ans: In my view, there are three critical factors for aspiring MBAs to consider when choosing a business school. 

  • Reputation and Programme Quality: The school’s reputation is undeniably important. It signifies the quality of education and the overall learning experience you’ll receive. 
  • Career Advancement: A strong global network and alumni community are crucial. Look for a school with connections to the industries and companies you’re interested in and expertise aligned with current market demands, such as AI and sustainability, as you mentioned. These are the skills many companies are actively seeking. 
  • Leadership Development: Finally, consider the programme’s foundation in management principles. This will equip you with the knowledge and skills to become a responsible and accountable leader who can initiate projects positively impacting the planet, organisations, and society.

Q12: For prospective ESCP Business School applicants, what essential qualities or experiences would you encourage them to highlight in their applications?  What type of student would you be particularly excited to see apply to ESCP? 

Ans: We highly value two key qualities in ESCP applicants. First, we seek candidates with a truly international profile and a strong desire to work globally. This includes a willingness to relocate across borders, reflecting our focus on preparing students for careers in a globalised world. 

Second, we look for individuals who actively contribute to their learning environment. This means being interactive, curious, and willing to engage with professors and challenge ideas in class. A dynamic classroom thrives on diverse participation, and we actively encourage applications from students who bring a variety of backgrounds and perspectives. This commitment to diversity is a major reason ESCP consistently ranks among the top 25 business schools worldwide and number one for the criteria of international student mobility. 

Q13: ESCP boasts a rich heritage spanning over two centuries. Beyond the well-known aspects of the school, are there any unique or unexpected features that might surprise incoming students? In other words, what are some hidden gems of the  ESCP Business School experience? 

Ans: Several hidden gems might surprise incoming ESCP students. One is the exceptional support for entrepreneurship. An esteemed British journal recently ranked ESCP #5 among European universities (and #1 among business schools) for alum fundraising success. Notably, our Master’s graduates from private programs have collectively raised a staggering USD 5.4 billion. This impressive achievement reflects our exceptional support through our network of incubators, called Blue Factory hubs, across our campuses. These hubs offer valuable learning experiences in creating and scaling startups.  Another hidden gem is the development of cultural intelligence. With six campuses across Europe, ESCP mandates student mobility. This means students will experience different academic environments and cultures, fostering valuable intercultural skills. 

Finally, the strength of our global community is truly remarkable. Boasting over  80,000 alumni in 190 countries, the ESCP network provides unparalleled access to mentors, collaborators, and potential employers across the globe. Imagine encountering an ESCP graduate in almost any country you visit! If you allow me, I’d add one more hidden gem: our core humanistic values. These values,  encompassing respect, empathy, benevolence, and self-improvement, are woven into the fabric of our education. We believe in fostering academic excellence and well-rounded individuals with a strong sense of social responsibility. 

Q14: How do you personally define success, considering both professional and personal aspects of life? 

Ans: Success is a continuous journey, not a final destination. At this career stage, a crucial aspect of success involves continuous self-improvement. This requires ambition, setting goals, and striving to achieve them.  However, reaching a goal is just one milestone in the journey. True success lies in the ongoing process of learning and growth. The ability to learn effectively is crucial. As we learn more, we acquire the capacity to learn even faster. This constant learning fosters curiosity and a deeper appreciation for knowledge. This continuous development holds greater significance than simply achieving predetermined outcomes. 

Q15: Explain what an MBA is in less than ten words.  

Ans: Advanced business degree with a positive global impact.

Q16: If you had the opportunity to pursue a different career path, what professional aspirations would you have? 

Ans: Interestingly, even though I dreamt of a career in advertising during my teenage years due to my love for creativity, education has become my true passion. The responsibility and impact of shaping young minds are incredibly rewarding, and I  find immense fulfilment in this role. 

As we draw our discussion to a close, it’s evident that ESCP Business School, rooted in the heart of France, stands as a beacon of excellence and innovation in MBA education. Through its rich history, diverse community, and unwavering commitment to academic rigour, ESCP has not only adapted to the changing landscape of business education. Still, it has also led the way in shaping its future. 

France, with its profound cultural heritage and vibrant business landscape, is an inspiring backdrop for ESCP Business School’s educational journey. The institution’s Paris campus, nestled amidst the bustling streets of the French capital, provides students with a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of French culture, history, and entrepreneurship. 

Under the guidance of Dr. Léon Laulusa and the esteemed faculty, ESCP continues to push boundaries, challenge norms, and inspire the next generation of global business leaders. ESCP Business School equips its students with the skills,  knowledge, and perspectives needed to thrive in today’s dynamic and interconnected world by fostering collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. 

As we reflect on the insights shared in this interview, it becomes clear that ESCP’s impact transcends borders and extends far beyond the confines of the classroom. It’s not just about acquiring knowledge; it’s about embracing diversity, fostering innovation, and driving positive societal change.

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