As a leader, I have become adept at what I would call the “human” side of leadership and the programme was a space to affirm and explore that further. And I’m very happy with that experience. So happy, in fact, that I’ve already signed up for my next INSEAD programme later this year!
Josje, your relationship with INSEAD began before you actually took a programme with us, didn’t it?
Yes, INSEAD did a case study on my company, ING, a few years ago, looking at agile banking. We met with faculty in Paris for an interview, and I was able to get some sense of the school and what it represented. I have to say, I was so impressed that I started dreaming about one day doing my own programme at INSEAD. It became an ambition in itself.
Of course, in 2020, that dream became a reality. What specifically was it that brought you to INSEAD and to the High Impact Leadership Programme?
In the intervening years, my career had moved on and I was promoted into leadership positions three years ago. As you acceded to new levels of responsibility, I think there’s a steep learning curve – you need to master new skills and new dimensions of understanding. For me, stepping up into managing big international teams at a hierarchical level and dealing with so many stakeholders was a challenge, and I felt I needed some guidance and expert input. INSEAD had always been on my radar, so I asked my boss if I could enrol on the programme. I was looking for the tools and frameworks to build and lead a really great team and this programme completely dovetailed with that need.
Coming into INSEAD then, you must have had a lot of expectations?
To be honest, I was a blank canvas. I knew that the experience might entail certain things and I was hoping for outcomes related to being more effective as a leader, but I was really very open to the learning. I guess that in terms of expectations, the one thing I felt slightly disappointed about was that given the COVID-19 situation, I wouldn’t be able to experience learning on campus and the kind of networking that you get face-to-face.
Of course, your programme was shifted to a live virtual format. How did that experience play out relative to what you might have hoped for on campus?
I think it’s always much harder to make the bonds and ties with peers that you would over coffee and dinner, but that said, there were a lot of unexpected benefits from taking the programme virtually in fact. You don’t travel so there is a huge saving in time and energy that you can invest back into the learning. And we were actually still able to bond and make connections as a group. The programme was well designed to promote trust and making the group really gel as a whole. This was very apparent in things like the roleplaying and simulation exercises we did, which I enjoyed enormously.
What were the highlights of the programme for you?
I really enjoyed the one-on-one coaching, and a great highlight for me was the role play and networking simulation game, which we undertook in small peer groups.
I think one of the things I really came away with was an understanding of the kinds of careerists we are, and how to work well with different types of motivation. Some careerists are motivated by loyalty, others by remuneration, some by the energy they get from the role or the company. The programme really shed light on this for me, and helped me not only to understand myself and my own motivation better, but to understand other people better too – how to motivate and influence others who may not be like you.
Is this something that you see as helping you to become a more effective leader?
Yes. I think the programme really lays this bare. You get to know yourself better and you develop tools to motivate and influence others without hierarchy. Coming out of the experience, I feel that it has also given me validation and affirmation about my own leadership style. I have grown a lot over the years, and the programme confirmed that I’m on the right track, so to speak. You learn a lot during your own tenure in leadership and I was able to bring quite a lot of my own experience back into the programme to share with my peers and faculty. That also felt empowering and built my feelings of confidence.
So did the dream of INSEAD match the reality?
Yes, it did. It did a lot for my self-confidence. Six years ago in Paris, I might have felt that INSEAD was a little out of my league, but actually coming into a programme and experiencing it first-hand, you realise that you do belong. Not only that, but that others can learn from you as well. As a leader, I have become adept at what I would call the “human” side of leadership and the programme was a space to affirm and explore that further. And I’m very happy with that experience. So happy, in fact, that I’ve already signed up for my next INSEAD programme later this year!