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Executive Education

Vicky Politou
Vicky Politou
Lead the Future

Investing in growth: Vicky Politou's experience with Lead the Future

Vicky Politou

Internal Audit Director at a top Greek banking group

Participant of INSEAD Lead the Future

Lead the Future is a practical and purposeful programme — it offers valuable learnings with substance. It’s not “generic”, superficial or theoretical. Instead, it allows for practice, and you are given tools to apply what you have learned in your own context.

Vicky Politou’s career story is one of how hard work and initiative pays off. Starting as a bank branch employee back in 1994, she boldly embraced challenges and seized opportunities for growth, gradually working her way up the ranks to where she is today: leading the internal audit team at a leading Greek banking group.

It has been almost three decades of learning and development, but Vicky shows no signs of slowing down.

“For internal audit to remain relevant, we have to find new, innovative ways to use audit processes and practices as tools to elevate risk and control awareness and support sustainable organisational growth,” she passionately declares. “The work is so much more than systems and processes. It’s very much to do with people and culture, and we need to think outside the box to find new ways to support our organisation! Internal Audit’s role goes well beyond identifying concerns and encompasses forward-looking consultation and insight on key issues”.

Besides needing to upskill to stay abreast of changes in the industry, Vicky is also a firm believer that continuous learning is an integral part of leadership. She explains that this is because a leader’s “maturity level” plays a pivotal role in shaping organisational culture and mobilising teams to take action towards key strategic objectives.

“The more we mature as leaders, the more we can support our teams and our organisation,” she says. Her desire to do this, she shares, is what led her to INSEAD’s Lead the Future programme.

Gaining enhanced skills and new tools

"I felt the programme was a comprehensive one that incorporates core courses on topics of top interest, and liked that we could shape our learning journey with additional electives,” Vicky explains. She adds: “The hybrid format fits with my busy schedule and INSEAD alumni status would give me access to a distinguished community network, learning opportunities, and resources around the world.”

Now, more than halfway through Lead the Future, she confidently states: “I'm very, very happy that I made this decision. It's definitely worth all the effort and the dedication and the learnings have been exciting.”

Vicky credits the programme for providing her with “diverse perspectives, approaches and practical tools to drive innovation and find new solutions with sustainable impact.”

For example, she has honed her ability to think creatively and uncovered tools to navigate through uncertainty. She has gained frameworks to better leverage on team dynamics to elevate effectiveness and enhance decision-making processes. She’s also been able to leverage Lead the Future’s core project to explore cultural transformation at the workplace — a topic extremely close to her heart.

"The learnings from each module came together like magic, and when combined with the experiences and backgrounds of the participants, has led to an outcome of broadening my horizons, knowledge, and the way I see things,” she says.

Practical and purposeful lessons

Vicky believes the programme’s effectiveness comes largely from its emphasis on practical application.

“We didn’t just learn the theory, we also practised the tools and actions to make what we learnt stick,” she explains, citing the Action Learning Practices (ALP), which gave her the opportunity to immediately apply what she had learnt to business challenges in her workplace, as one example.

She adds that the impact of such exercises was enhanced by the feedback provided by the learning coaches along the way. “The way they asked questions “pushed” us to think further, be creative, be innovative and apply the tools and frameworks that we learnt,” she says.

“The opportunity to interact with the INSEAD faculty, as well as sharing and learning with other participants has also been amazing,” she continues, noting that the hybrid format lends itself well to this.

While part of Lead the Future was done individually at her own pace, there were also asynchronous sessions with the entire cohort, and team assignments to complete, allowing her to interact with her peers from different countries and industries.

Likening each participant’s knowledge, experience and background to be a different piece of a jigsaw puzzle, Vicky explains that the interactions were a way of putting the puzzle pieces together. This has given her a bigger picture of the business world and offered her valuable ideas, “food for thought” and solutions for her own context.

A programme worth pursuing

Reflecting on the skills and insights gained, Vicky affirms that Lead the Future is a practical and purposeful programme. “It offers valuable learnings with substance. It’s not “generic”, superficial, or theoretical. Instead, it allows for practice, and you are given tools to apply what you have learned in your own context. I learnt so many things that I can apply not only in my professional life but also in my personal life,” she says.

She may be nearing the end of programme, but for Vicky this is just the beginning of her journey with INSEAD. “Improving my leadership skills is not a ‘tick the box’ exercise or one-off for me. It’s a constantly evolving process,” she reiterates, adding: “I take every opportunity to elevate my skills and upgrade my competences.”

Vicky encourages others to do the same and encourages those in leadership positions to consider Lead the Future.

“It's a very comprehensive programme that can take professionals many steps forward,” she says. “You will see different perspectives and gain insights on key topics. I would definitely recommend it for leaders to improve their skills and integrate ideas into day-to-day business. What I have learnt and experienced is amazing.”