Leadership lessons from the great outdoors

By Global MBA Student Aurélie Metcheka, reposted from the Financial Times MBA blog 

As part of our integration week at Essec, we went to Saint-Cyr Coetquidan, the military academy in Brittany, France, for a two-day leadership workshop. Everybody was excited about the trip.

We were told to bring a rucksack, hiking shoes, cutlery etc and to be ready at 1pm. We were all waiting for the bus at 12:45, but at 1pm the driver called to inform us he would be an hour late because he had a flat tire.

“No problem, it happens”, most of us said. But 2pm came and went, so we called at 2.30pm, but there was no response. At 3:00pm we were still waiting and our excitement had evaporated. By 4pm we gave up waiting and decided to take the train.

We arrived at Saint-Cyr at around 9:00pm and by that time everyone had come to terms with the delay. We had a very warm welcome from the army officers and we began the workshop the following day.
Aurélie does a balancing act during an exercise at St Cyr

During our stay at Saint-Cyr, we used physical situations what leadership means. What does it mean to be a leader and to be followed by individuals who do not think the same way? What does it mean to overcome your fears and be part of a team?

I had an amazing time at Saint-Cyr. In two days I learned through doing what I could never have learned in a classroom.

Based on the exercises we did, here are the qualities that I believe a person needs to be a leader:

  • A good leader needs to recognise the need to balance work and personal life. Without this balance, an individual could suffer from stress, a mental breakdown, or physical illness. Working excessive hours or maintaining a relentless pace can make anyone behave bizarrely or eccentrically and will not help to create a leader responsible for vision and directing others.

  • Successful leaders should be committed to building relationships. Staying engaged, building trust and reinforcing collaboration demonstrate how leaders can have an impact.

  • Successful leaders should also be excellent communicators. They must communicate their ideas in a way that energizes people and incites them toward action. The ability to gain the co-operation and support of others through negotiation, persuasion and influence depend upon communication skills.

  • Leaders need to be courageous. Having the determination to explore unfamiliar territory, for instance, is one way leaders shine. Leaders are prepared to step outside a traditional pathway and guide others. This tenacity also becomes clear when leaders go beyond their comfort zone and stay focused despite uncertainty or fear.

  • Finally, leaders need to show concern for others. They must have compassion, altruism, generosity and empathy.

We had an unforgettable stay in Saint-Cyr and we want to return.

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