INSEAD Participant Interview
The programme challenges you to shed your old self
Stelios Sousamoglou is Head of Funding and Investments within the Treasury of the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank. He completed the Strategic Management in Banking programme working towards and completing the Certificate in Global Management at INSEAD in 2019, with The Leadership Transition programme being a core module. Here he explains why once was not enough in terms of the INSEAD Experience.
"I think as we progress in our lives and careers, we tend to become comfortable in our thinking and our ideas about how the world operates. Coming to INSEAD, you get exposed to a new, global perspective that really shakes things up and offers you a truly fresh perspective on things."
Stelios, what brought you to INSEAD?
I was looking to flesh out my skills set and add depth to my knowledge and I was initially attracted to the Global Management platform as an opportunity to broaden out my perspective. Being in the programme at INSEAD was hugely rewarding and challenging, and it dovetailed with a period of transition in my career. I am in the process now of transitioning up to the position of Treasurer within my bank. So the timing was interesting. Being at INSEAD I was able to speak directly with a number of programme advisors, who sat down with me to review my specific and emerging needs, and to work with me to identify a second programme tailored to these.
So you were moving up to a new position of leadership as the Treasurer and you were looking to build competencies to help accelerate this transition?
Yes, absolutely. To lead the department I was aware I had to move away from being a lone-star shooter and become more of a team player. I knew I had to build my awareness of the challenges of management and team leadership within the context of the high-level targets my team was putting together. It was about making that transition from a single over-achiever to being a point of reference for a team and empowering that team to work together coherently and cohesively. There’s a big shift of mentality there.
You must have appreciated your experience at INSEAD to want to pursue another programme at the school to help make this shift.
The thing about INSEAD is that it’s so much more than just a high-ranking business school. It offers incredibly tailored, solution-oriented, flexible platforms that really help people address their specific needs and move forward.
And having had this experience with the Certificate in Global Management, you must have come into The Leadership Transition programme with very high expectations?
I had high expectations for sure but frankly, the way the programme was structured, the content, the faculty and everyone involved in the programme delivery completely exceeded my expectations. The programme not only offered me the depth of knowledge I was looking for, it affected me from the inside. It woke up my thinking and broadened out my perspective.
The Leadership Transition programme is kind of like a two-way ticket. You take what you learn in class and then you have the chance to test and experience new concepts and approaches in the workplace. You then bring all of this back to INSEAD for discussion with faculty and peers. So you discuss the real-life, practical challenges of your own leadership transition which is incredibly valuable.
You mention faculty. What was your experience with INSEAD professors like?
INSEAD faculty is just outstanding. The professors are so adept at fleshing out the theoretical learning with practical application – they keep everything hugely engaging, enriching and relevant. And they manage the diversity of the cohort incredibly well. My group was made up of really high-calibre leaders from very different sectors and geographies and together with faculty, we really explored the differences as well as the commonalities of leadership.
What really critical things would you say you learnt or took away from the programme?
One of my professors said: As a leader you have to put yourself in the centre. And this is so true. Business is so complex with different networks crossing each other continuously. As a leader you always have to occupy a flexible, solution-oriented position in the middle of the complexity.
I think the other thing is the need for bi-directional feedback: from superiors and from the people you report to. Feedback is so critical when you need to see problems from different angles and move forward towards new solutions.
I feel that the programme has really given me the tools, the insights and the leadership mindset to move forward into my new role with confidence and clarity.
Would you recommend The Leadership Transition programme to other executives like yourself?
Absolutely. I think the programme meets the needs and challenges that every senior professional has to overcome in order to move from a siloed role into a more managerial position. It has relevance to people in every discipline and sector. I think it’s an experience that shifts you – not only mentally and professionally; it shifts you as a person and in a really positive way.
I think as we progress in our lives and careers, we tend to become comfortable in our thinking and our ideas about how the world operates. Coming to INSEAD, you get exposed to a new, global perspective that really shakes things up and offers you a truly fresh perspective on things.
So how would you summarise the INSEAD experience?
INSEAD challenges you to open yourself up and shed your old self in a sense. You have to allow new ideas come in and sink inside you. And that makes it challenging. The experience is also hugely insightful because it sheds so much light on the way that you think about things. And it’s motivating because there’s a constant forward momentum to build on what you’re learning and attain a higher degree of consciousness in the way you think and the decisions you make.