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INSEAD participant profile

The Executive Leadership Programme:
a Consortium For Co-Operation

Fahad Al Hassawi

Chief HR Officer for du®, the Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company

When does an Executive Education programme become a force for raising business leadership standards across a whole country? When it is a collaboration between 11 major companies across a range of sectors and one of the world’s leading international business schools. Fahad Al Hassawi, Chief HR Officer for du®, the Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company, played a key role in designing and setting up the Executive Leadership Programme in the UAE. Here he explains its unique philosophy and its success to date…

What were the reasons for creating the Executive Leadership Programme?

We started with a vision of the company we wished to be in eight to ten years’ time. We realised we wanted our general managers to be better leaders, with a clearer picture of the company as a whole, rather than just their own domain. And we wanted them to become better collaborators with each other, our suppliers and our clients. Then we started talking to other companies in our supply chain about their visions for the future. And we found that pretty much everyone had the same concerns!

What exactly are the challenges for companies in the UAE?

They’re similar to the challenges elsewhere. On the one hand, we need to be better at a strategic level: transforming our organisations, achieving growth, reducing costs, meeting our financial objectives and coping in a crisis. On the other hand, we need to be better at a human level: developing talent, retaining talent, negotiating win-win deals and managing people more effectively. In other words, it’s all about leadership – not just within the company but also across the supply chain.

How did you come up with the idea of a programme?

Once we’d identified our joint requirements for short- and long-term success, an Executive Leadership Programme seemed the obvious solution. We believed we could benefit mutually and serve our customers and shareholders more effectively, if we learned with each other and from each other. So we formed a consortium to build leadership capability among high potentials and senior executives – and started looking for a top business school to partner with.

How and why did you choose INSEAD over other business schools?

We spoke to several world-leading schools and launched a bidding process. INSEAD was the clear winner, not just because it was in the region and had a campus in Abu Dhabi but more because of the school’s ethos. The INSEAD professors wanted to deliver a five-star programme, just like the other schools, but they also seemed to understand our philosophy and relate to our needs better. All the companies on the selection panel agreed about this.

How was the programme designed and developed?

We started to design it before the bidding process. We identified five subject areas: strategy and planning; customer-centricity; supply chain management; strategic HR and leadership; and financial management. I know they’re obvious, but they’re the things that C-level people need to be good at! Then INSEAD retooled the curriculum in just the right places to be more effective.

Can you give an example of how INSEAD helped you refine the curriculum?

Just after the programme started running for the first time, the lead coach said that he thought we needed a more efficient coaching process. Rather than sticking to the contract, we all agreed to change it – and everyone saved both money and time. It was a perfect example of the philosophy that had led us to create the programme.

What else makes the Executive Leadership Programme unique?

It blends classroom learning with practice in a very special way. There are five three-day modules across two years. Each module is followed up, with a live case study based on the topic and one of the companies in the consortium. It’s worked on by a team of six people – all from different organisations – who get access to the CEO and other senior people. Then, about two months after the end of the module, the team presents its recommendations to a jury of C-level people from the company concerned. It’s a bit like Donald Trump in The Apprentice! And the case studies are all written up to be used in class by future cohorts and on other management programmes in the region.

Are there any other innovations involved?

During each module there is a CEO panel – a bit like a live chat show – featuring three CEOs of consortium companies and hosted by Professor Neil Jones, who is the programme director. All the participants attend and can ask questions, which means that the CEOs learn what’s on executives’ minds, as well as giving answers. In addition, we have executive coaching between the modules to reinforce the implementation of learning. It keeps everyone engaged throughout the two years.

What has been the impact so far? Is the programme a success?

The first cohort finishes this year, the second has started and the third starts this coming June, so it would be wrong to expect too much. But already, du® executives have much stronger relationships with suppliers, clients and colleagues. The consortium is continuing to grow – with new companies and countries. We now have participants from Turkey, Qatar and Oman. This is a clear indicator that people find it useful. And the feedback forms consistently rate the sessions at 4.5 or more on a 5-point scale.

And how do you see the future of the programme?

The challenge is to keep renewing it. The contract is for three cohorts, but we’d like it to continue. It’s rare to see such close collaboration between organisations in the private sector. So it’s much more than a contribution to the regional business community. It’s a culture-changing, groundbreaking innovation!

Find out how INSEAD can design, develop and deliver a company specific programme to meet your organisational needs.

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