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INSEAD Participant Interview

Boost Confidence in Decision-Making as a Senior Leader

Rani Francois-Marie Saad

Past participant of INSEAD’s Advanced Management Programme explains how the programme helped improve his ability to make judgement calls under pressure, as well as build his peer network worldwide.

Can you tell us about yourself and your career?

I’m 41, French Lebanese, born in Beirut and have been swinging since then between Beirut and Paris. I’ve spent most of my career working in Europe and Asia and have 10 years’ experience in senior management – mostly in Aviation, Travel Technology, and Venture Capital.

I’m now based in Singapore, where I’ve been working as Vice-President, Corporate Ventures (Asia-Pacific) at Sabre Corporation, a leading technology solutions provider to the global travel and tourism industry. Prior to that, I was Vice-President of Corporate Development and Ventures for Abacus International, a Singapore-based global distribution system and travel tech company. I’m also heavily involved in various business mentorship programmes for tech start-ups in Asia and the Pacific area.

Why did you choose INSEAD’s Advanced Management Programme?

I was about to move to a role as an advisor to the board of the first global alliance of low-cost airlines – Value Alliance, to set it up from scratch. It’s an exciting opportunity that will allow me to take on a range of leadership challenges. I knew I needed an intense catalytic experience to inspire me to think differently about my leadership strengths and weaknesses, converting my blockers into drivers. I was especially keen to hone my decision-making abilities and boost my leadership performance to the next level.

As the Advanced Management Programme involves four weeks in the classroom, I felt it was exactly right to deliver an intense, game-changing experience that would not take me away from work for too long.

At the same time, I wanted to build my peer network, and the mix of senior people who attend INSEAD’s programmes is exceptionally global and diverse. It is also an extraordinary peer network of entrepreneurs and together with my own entrepreneurial drive, it inspired me to create an incubation platform, known as INSEADERS. The idea is to support INSEAD through harnessing the power of INSEAD’s entrepreneurial network.

Were there any particular challenges you wanted to address?

There are plenty of theoretical models that are meant to help you make decisions as a leader – but following these will only take you so far. I believe leaders often fail because they find a certain model or theory that works for them and stick to it. The highly competitive, often unpredictable current business environment requires me to have the confidence and ability to make the right decisions under pressure, in situations where there’s no time to reach for the theory book. That’s what I wanted to explore.

What expectations did you have and were these met?

I wanted to be challenged – to gain some insightful awareness of how I operate as a leader, both from a personal and a professional point of view. The programme certainly delivered on that front. What also appealed to me was that the Advanced Management Programme focuses on judgement as a craft – something that can be polished with practice and coaching. I learned there really isn’t a magic formula for making that judgement call – it’s more about being very clear on what you want to achieve, then having the confidence to know you can deliver, even under pressure; that you can react with the courage of your convictions whenever required. I learned a lot from the professors’ feedback on my leadership style, and came away with a good strategic plan to help me perform well, whatever the circumstances.

Did you find the mix of participants on the programme beneficial?

We had a very broad mix of senior people – more than 32 nationalities, representing a wide range of industries, cultures and disciplines. This led to a lot of sharing of knowledge and perspectives, which I found really enriching. Six months down the line, I still exchange ideas online with my fellow participants as we go through the second, optional phase of the programme, which reinforces what you’ve learned with follow-up coaching sessions. A couple of people from the wider INSEAD alumni group have even reached out for advice on certain issues, so there is plenty of opportunity to leverage one’s peer network.

What did you think of the teaching?

It was excellent, thanks to the combination of in-depth knowledge and real-life experience on the part of the professors. The lectures were absorbing and there was a lot of interaction between participants and staff.

Would you say that the programme was transformative for your work life?

I’m better able to communicate in all parts of my life – personally as well as professionally – and I’m more confident about my leadership style. The programme hasn’t just changed the way I think as a leader but also the way I perform. So yes, after just six months, I’m seeing tangible benefits.


Interested in INSEAD's Advanced Management Programme?  Visit the programme page and download the brochure or get in touch with the programme advisor.

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