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Leadership Excellence through Awareness and Practice: It's a total reset in orientation

Roger Maechler

Roger Maechler, CFO of Swiss pharmaceutical multinational, Octapharma, felt it was time to step back and provoke a personal dialogue with himself as a leader. What the LEAP: Leadership Excellence through Awareness and Practice programme gave him went far beyond his expectations.

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There are some experiences that can actually change your life. They can reshape the way you understand yourself, your relationships with others, your motivations and your most personal situation. And they can provide you with the insights and the tools to press forward, step by step, as a leader, partner and friend. 

Ask Roger Maechler, Chief Financial Officer with pharmaceutical multinational, Octapharma, and he would say that the INSEAD Leadership Excellence through Awareness and Practice (LEAP) programme is precisely one of these experiences. 

For more than 15 years, Maechler has held senior leadership roles within his organisation. In 2020, he felt it was time to step outside of his day-to-day and to take the temperature of his own leadership style, his professional trajectory – and to seek external “input” and perspective as he braces for the future.

“In one way, the pandemic afforded a natural inflection or break. It felt like the right moment to stop, to provoke a dialogue with myself and to seek different perspectives; as well as the stimulus from outside to reassess my context and prepare for the next 10 or 20 years ahead.”

That this “stimulus from outside” should come from INSEAD was a natural decision, he adds. INSEAD has a long-standing, collaborative relationship with Octapharma, via its custom programmes with the company. Group Chairman, Wolfgang Marguerre, also holds an INSEAD MBA and is a long-established sponsor and supporter of the School.

“I knew that INSEAD was absolutely the best option for me in terms of providing the kind of deep, personal reflection I was looking for,” says Maechler. “What I didn’t expect was the sheer immediacy of impact. Or how profound and at times emotional that impact would be.”

From the very offset, the LEAP experience was one of deep engagement, trust and inspiration, he says. The imperative to share personal experiences, thoughts, hopes and fears across the cohort forged almost instant bonds of intimacy, lending the programme an intensity that Maechler found “wholly unexpected.”

“It’s just eye-opening from the word go. There’s a team atmosphere, and a genuinely trust-based intimacy between peers, faculty and the external speakers that come into the programme, that engenders a kind of opening-up. You feel empowered to share your personal story and the kinds of insights this produces can feel very intense and emotional and can spill over into every aspect of your life.”

The virtual format of the programme enables this kind of intimacy very effectively, he notes, affording each participant the confidence to share their story openly – despite the absence of face-to-face time. 

“Sure, you miss the chance to have a drink together or to get together and do some sport say, but the sessions you share are so very intense that you quickly go from being peers to becoming friends.”

Coming out of the LEAP experience, Maechler says he has gained a more holistic perspective of himself as a leader, husband, father and friend. He has acquired the instruments and the practices to “work on myself every day.”

“LEAP isn’t the kind of learning experience that gives you one-off breakthrough moments. It’s not about the ‘ahas’ or a list of concrete takeaways for you and your business. This is much more of a journey. It’s about a really deep, very personal transformation that empowers you to go forward, making small steps every day in order to become a better human being as well as leader. As an experience, this has given me extraordinary understanding of myself across every context – from work, to family and friends to my most personal self. It’s a total re-set in orientation.”

A function of this re-set is a renewed sense of importance around his network, Maechler adds: the need to nurture the human eco-system that supports his leadership, “beyond just the role itself.” 

“You learn to prioritise the human system that you operate within and you build that into the small goals you set yourself every day as you progress towards the kind of leadership you envision for yourself.”

Anyone who, like him, might be looking for this kind of personal and professional restart, would do well to prepare themselves beforehand for an experience that is as challenging as it is rewarding, he says.

“LEAP is not easy. This is a programme that will demand a lot from you. It’s a very different approach to leadership development, and as an intense personal journey, it’s not always nice. That said, if you are well prepared, you will emerge with a more complete understanding of who you are, and why you are you. To put it very simply, it can change your life.”

 

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