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Gaining a Broader Outlook on the Craft of Making Judgement Calls

Thabiso Legoete 

Past participant Thabiso Legoete explains how INSEAD’s Advanced Management Programme enhanced his performance as a senior leader

Tell us about yourself and your career so far.

I’m Head of Human Resources for two business units: Corporate & Investment Banking and Wealth Investment Management & Insurance, at Barclays Africa Group Limited. I’m based in Johannesburg, South Africa, where I was born and raised.

I’ve held a number of roles within the organisation, starting as an executive assistant to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Absa Capital, the front runner to what is today Barclays Africa Corporate & Investment Banking. From there, I became Head of Strategy and Planning, then Chief Operations Officer (COO) for the Sub-Sarahan Africa business, followed by a stint as COO in the Investment Banking Division. In 2014, I made the transition into my current role in the human resources function.

However, I didn’t start out in the financial services industry. I did a degree in Mechanical Engineering and then worked as an engineer at an industrial gas company. I’ve also been a risk engineer, run an insurance broking business and a management consultant at McKinsey & Company.

What made you decide to come on INSEAD’s Advanced Management Programme?

I had reached something of a career crossroads. While I’ve learned a great deal in my stint in Human Resources, my ultimate goal is to put myself in a position where I can progress up to the top role. So I wanted a senior leadership programme that could help me shape how to achieve that. I wanted to take a step back, take stock of where I was on my journey, strengthen my leadership skills and vision, and then lay some groundwork for future success in a different arena.

What would you say is different about this programme, compared to other business school opportunities?

My career has spanned quite a number of industries and roles. It’s not exactly been a conventional route through the financial services sector and it means I’ve ended up with a unique set of skills, competencies and experiences. I wanted a programme that could deal with that, and not offer a one-size-fits-all kind of solution. I was attracted to the fact that the Advanced Management Programme places such emphasis on tailor-making a strategy for leadership success based on each participant’s individual – and very different – requirements.

What expectations did you have and were these met?

It was an immersive experience and I learned things about myself that went way beyond my expectations. As a logic-driven engineer with a strong personality, I sometimes found it hard to deal with some the softer aspects of leadership. The programme was very good at helping me understand the impact I have on other people, and how they interpret my behaviour in the work environment.

It also explained quite a lot of the gaps I’ve had in my head about how intent and impact as it relates to either myself or team members. At the same time, it helped in thinking about how to navigate my own way through what is often a very ego-driven senior leadership environment. To say the programme heightened my self-awareness is an understatement.

Has the programme helped you make judgement calls in your role?

It emphasises the fact that exercising judgement is a craft that can be honed with practice, and the coaching and feedback we did on this was really valuable – especially around the power of harnessing the wisdom of the crowd. Again, the main takeaway for me here was about gaining a better understanding of how important it is to listen to other people’s views. As a senior leader, it’s up to you and you alone to make that judgement call, but opening yourself up to different perspectives first so you can consider the problem from all angles makes the process that much easier.

What did you think of the teaching?

The faculty impressed me with their knowledge and experience. The mixture of theory, group learning, feedback and coaching was also very effective. The emphasis is on real-life examples and practical solutions, so you can align the teaching with your own experience.

Tell us about the mix of participants on the programme.

We were a pretty diverse group, with participants from 34 countries. As someone who was there and contemplating the next phase of my journey, that was a huge factor in making the experience a success. You can learn a lot from different perspectives and different ways of working, especially if there are people who have walked your path before. Now that we’re all back in our various jobs, I also find it’s very useful to be able to pick up the phone and discuss issues or ask for advice. In fact, I’d say the network of senior peers I built on the programme has been almost as important as the teaching. 

How about the follow-up coaching? Did it add value for you?

After I went back to work and tested out my new approach, I did have some questions I wish I’d asked on the programme, so the follow-up coaching sessions were great. It’s a big advantage to be able to go away, have that reflection time and the thinking process it encourages, and then follow up with people who really understand your context.

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

Yes, it was a true journey of discovery. Before, while I was very confident about my leadership abilities, I wasn’t that clear a communicator and I didn’t think that mattered. Now, I think I bring more emotional intelligence to the role, which means I’m able to build a very different, more authentic kind of relationship with my colleagues. As a result, I believe I’m more impactful as a senior leader and better able to perform.


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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