Last night 21 participants of the Next Generation Leadership Program met Sofie Claes in the Antwerp Fashion Museum. Sofie is a young, recent graduated fashion designer with a first collection, far reaching ambition and a 40.000 EURO loan to sponsor her participation in the Paris Fashion week in March 2011. The group got a real life mission: “how can you, with all what you learned over the last two days, consult and support Sofie to be successfull the next coming season: her first collection needs to find the way to the market and buyers and she needs financial resources for the next and crucial step?” The mission came after two days of serious mind broadening.
The first day Jamie Anderson introduced our NGL participants to the brand “Madonna”. What did she do in order to create a brand? Who is this woman? What’s her secret to success? The group learned in a deductive way the key ingredients for success and the essentials of sustainable strategic management. Through very dynamic pushing the thinking of our group. Through speed dating on the own company success ingredients and working together on questions drilling in the details. The afternoon brought the participants back to a more regular business reality. Why did Virgin enter the British mobile market? How did Branson approach the market? What was the reaction when other competitors came in? A wealth of questions pushed the strategic reflection capabilities of the participants. A wonderful relaxing and socializing evening was spent for dinner in a nice Antwerp restaurant. As Jamie says: “Fun in programs is not trivial. The best team dynamics are created through booze & karaoke.”
The second day Peter Hinssen introduced the group in the New Normal. The digitalization of the way we live, work, relate and do business leads to massive change. How do we as digital immigrants, lead the digital native next generation? Do we really welcome them in our organizations? What’s their social DNA? Peter is a visionary, a thought leader, and he delivers his message in a passionate way with factual information, inspiring visuals, sharp humor and real life anecdotes. He got every participant thinking, arguing, asking questions, doubting: “how can I be relevant in the New Normal? How will our organisation be relevant in the New Normal?” Peter opened a magic box that none of the participants will ever be able to close again.
And then came Sofie. Sofie needs to build impact, persuasion power and tell the world: “here I am and that is what I stand for!” Jamie’s definition of persuasion: ‘it’s about credibility, finding common ground with other people, doing a compelling proposition and connect emotionally.’ He worked with our business professionals on the seven steps of the Consultative Engagement Model. Equipped with a loaded powerfull toolbox, the group started working with Sofie. Sofie displayed her collection and gradually told her story. In smaller working groups, Sofie was interviewed, information was exchanged, ideas were generated and Jamie, as a true facilitator, pushed the professionals beyond the usual. In the end, all teams formulated their advice to Sofie.
Leadership development can only be holistic. It’s not only about skills to better communicate or lead people. It’s not only person directed “who am I and what do I want”-material. And it’s not only about management knowledge & tools. It’s a mix. Developing leadership is growing more aware, developing personal vision & ambition and understanding what’s happening in the world and ones own organisation. But how do you go about that? What’s the ideal formula, while also staying effective and pragmatic? The second module of the Next Generation Leadership Development Program of Antwerp Management School shows the way forward. This blend, this melting pot of ideas and actions worked wonderfully: great group dynamics in a residential setting, a clear red line of exciting, relevant knowledge bridging to practice, a real life and ‘out of context’ experience, topnotch faculty and time for reflection on the learning process. We were all thrilled about what was accomplished.
And Sofie? Did she get help? You saw her thinking along the way: ‘My god, what am I doing here with these business people?” But the enthousiasm of the group for her collection and project were authentic and warm. A lot of advice was actionable and could make the difference: “Make a top 10 of famous Belgian women that match with your vision and contact them. Connect with jewel designers, young filmers, furniture designers, shoe makers. Write a blog on your journey to Paris. Organize ‘tupperware’ moments for your collection through networks. Develop you elevator pitch. Create your advisory board of people who challenge you.” But more than that, participants tapped into their personal networks and offered real oppurtunities for meeting journalists, improving her website and connecting to influencers.
We could call this NewNormal leadership development.
Koen Marichal, 26th January 2011