A View From INSEAD

Leading your People for Results

Schon L. Beechler

INSEAD Senior Affiliate Professor of Organisational Behaviour and 2013 Director of Leading for Results

Schon L. Beechler, INSEAD Senior Affiliate Professor of Organisational Behaviour and 2013 Director of the Leading for Results programme talks leadership – and her novel approach to teaching it…

Is it different being a business leader today than it was ten years ago?

A decade ago, it was still possible to be a single leader calling the shots. Today there is a trend towards a more participatory and empowering style. Of course, the old challenges that leaders faced – such as the demands of the stockholders – are still there. But the world has also gotten more complex. The rise of technology and global competition has changed the workplace for good, which means that leaders need new techniques to cope with rapid change and managing across diversity. Another interesting challenge (which you hear a lot less about) is that today there can be as many as four generations in the labour force, including the so-called “Generation Y”.

What is so challenging about managing “Generation Y”?

It’s a generation of young, highly ambitious, highly mobile workers, who have different expectations of their careers than their parents’ or grandparents’ generations. They want responsibility and promotions quickly, learning and development is a big motivator, and they change jobs and careers at a significantly higher rate than their predecessors.

All in all, is it harder to be a business leader these days than it used to be?

Definitely – and you see that in the rapid turnover of senior leaders in companies.

Where do leaders most commonly go wrong?

It depends what level you’re talking about. In general, leaders fail because they have developed a certain style that works for them and they just stick with it. It’s well documented that first-time leaders fail when they try to do the same things that made them successful as individual contributors. The typical mistake is that they don’t know how to give up control and empower people to hit their objectives. All the research shows that the most effective leaders have a broad repertoire of approaches. For example, they might be naturally very participative but also know how to be authoritative when they need to. That’s why it’s so important to develop a broad repertoire, along with emotional intelligence – so that you know when to switch styles. And that’s what we try to develop on the programme.

So does your programme focus mainly on the human aspects of leadership?

Leading for Results covers the three dimensions of leadership: strategic, interpersonal and personal with the main emphasis on the personal and interpersonal aspects – what you might call the human face of leadership. It focuses on leading others and teams for high performance, as well as on the individual's leadership of themselves. To that end, the programme explores the links between leaders’ intellectual, emotional and physical balance.

How else does Leading for Results differ from other leadership programmes?

The difference is in the fact that all the major leadership topics covered (developing a vision, looking at team effectiveness, execution excellence, communication and motivating others) are approached in an exceptionally interactive way.

How exactly do you bring interactivity into the programme?

It’s there from the very beginning, when I set up the class as a learning community, drawing on the experience of all of the participants – amounting to hundreds of years of wisdom! In addition, the programme includes group coaching, 360-degree feedback instruments, team simulations and tools like the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument, which reveals your preferred thinking style (analytical, sequential, interpersonal or imaginative) – and the implications of your preferences for the way you see the world and work with other people, who may think differently from you.

Who is the programme designed for?

Most participants are middle ranking or senior leaders with at least five years’ management experience and at least four direct reports. Ideally they should be managers of managers. In addition, participants should have cross-cultural management experience or international working exposure, as the programme draws a very geographically diverse group of participants and we do a great deal of group work.

Finally, how do you know whether the programme really does get results?

First, we follow up with participants after the course to undersatnd what action steps they have taken as a result of their participation on the programme. We’re currently conducting a research study on just this issue of impact. We’re piloting follow-up sessions with the programme coaches to see how coaching helps participants with their ongoing leadership challenges. It’s part of the process of continuous improvement that I apply to the programme, which is evolving all the time to match participants’ needs. In the meantime, however, I’m delighted to report that the feedback scores from the last two sessions are very high, and a number of participants told us that it was the best training course they have attended. But perhaps the most convincing evidence of impact is that we get a lot of repeat business. Since the programme was first launched in 2005, a number of organisations have been sending us their executives time after time, session after session.

To start feeling the impact of Leading for Results on your leadership style, visit the webpage and download an application form.

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