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Developing your personal leadership style

The concept of Individualised Personal Development, often referred to as ‘coaching’, now forms a critical focus at the end of week two of the Cambridge Advanced Leadership Programme. Four of the delegates of the November cohort of the ALP got together to discuss their experiences of both the coaching component and the programme in general.

Cambridge Advanced Leadership Programme cohort
Cambridge Advanced Leadership Programme cohort

Nick Goh (CEO, Yellow Pages Consulting): I found the coaching session really useful… it was constructive, they were really professional about it and I think it’s something that should be part of every leadership programme.

Mitchel Pfaff (General Manager, Hydrasun): “I liked it a lot – especially where it sat in the programme. You started off in the first week with the elements of developments in the world, theories and how you should manage things in your business, but if you’re not effective as a leader and your personal leadership style is not good you will never have success in implementing all the things you learned, so it’s really good that the personal coaching session is part of the programme.”

Kazunori Umetsu (Deputy Director, Otsuka Pharmaceutical): “It’s very rare to get the opportunity that we can explore, as a leader, our own problems and weaknesses and to get such wonderful advice from experienced people in different fields was so valuable. I, for one, loved the piece where we’re sitting there looking at a wall and just listening… everyone else is giving messages about strength and warmth and it was really lovely…quite frankly, I think it’s one of the best sessions I’ve ever had in a programme like this.”

Máximo Morel (Automotive Division Manager, Gildemeister Group): “Absolutely, and the environment of the whole programme was not at all like a classroom, where we were just learning… it was all more interactive, reflexive, inspirational and the coaching component for me was taking that on a step further. It felt really deep – it was about looking and reviewing trends and the things that are happening in your own leadership, and in contrast to other people who probably have different ways they manage. I could say that these three weeks have been an inspirational, interactive and reflexive pause in my life to continue leading and improving my skills.”

Kazunori: “The coaching certainly helped us all – it brought us even closer together, in terms of more being more open, more willing to share new ideas and ways of thinking.”

Maximo: “The coaches were able to create a very open environment: we were sitting in a room with five successful, adult business leaders and a fair few of us became really quite emotional… it really was an open environment, and everyone was just open and honest about the problems and challenges they had. Everyone tried to help each other, and you felt that afterwards there was a really strong bond between us.”

Nick: “I think one thing that was great about the whole programme was the camaraderie that our group was able to form. I’m not sure whether it was different for the previous cohorts, but I like to think that this group is a bit special…”

Mitchell: “I think saké night might have helped!”

Nick: “Exactly… but perhaps saké night is another conversation! The other thing I quite liked is the structure of the course, what Mitchell was talking about. I think it’s very close to what we go through in real life. Essentially: first of all you learn about the environment, which was the first week, then we learn about how to respond to that, and then for the coaching bit we learn about ourselves. That was a key thing about the coaching, it is about peer learning because we learn from each other and our bond helped that…”

Mitchell: “And everyone was critical, which was really good. Everyone was ready to challenge.”

Nick: “Exactly, which I think gave us something that we can replicate as leaders in our own environment. It’s been beautiful the way that the whole train of thought has been formulated to give that real-life experience, and real-life learning to us as leaders is always really useful. I’ve been on a lot of programmes before, but they’re always related to your management of the business and your attributes in terms of how to lead a business, but the ALP also takes personal things in, and your personal life is what probably makes what you are today as a leader.”

Mitchell: “It’s given me more confidence, and has also made me more aware that if I behave differently as a leader I will be more effective – and that’s the most important part. For example, during the personal coaching sessions it brought up a few biases, and seeing that from other people’s point of view makes you more aware of it yourself, so you can start to work on it with your own team members as part of personal coaching sessions when you get back to your business.”

Nick: “I know – I definitely have learned things about myself that surprised me. When we first looked at the reading material, it’s about the concept of the “incomplete leader” and when I saw that I understood, I thought “Ok, so that’s where this is going…”

Michell: “Yeah, absolutely.”

Nick: “…and I said to myself this is something which I’m definitely going to benefit from because a lot of the time leaders tend to hide to hide behind “oh, we’re in charge – we know everything”, but that’s not true because we don’t know everything. I think I quite like the fact that we’ve come here to learn about ourselves.”

Maximo: “We came to this programme knowing that we could change, we could move towards other ways and finding new strengths. One of the learnings is that change is constant, and for that you need to open your mind and create new environments and networks that permit you to listen in a better way other people. Before I came here, part of my approach was probably incorrect. I was thinking more of me and that I’m doing very well at things, so I’m usually right about something. But now I’ve seen more the benefits of opening your mind to new trends and people, get “out of the box” with new strategies and looking for different ways to solve problems and lead your team.”

Kazunori: “I think the contents of a course depends on the course design. If it’s about, say, “management” it will be mainly be thinking about how to analyse, and how to manage a business but this one I think is deeper – it’s more about thinking about ourselves in an external context.”

All: “yeah…”

Nick: “It’s kind of what Max was saying, we’re here for a leadership programme. You can do any management programme anywhere in the world, but I think for sorting out your own leadership issues this is the perfect place to do it, because you also learn how you’re going to apply it directly to leading your team.”