INSEAD Participant Interview

Developing Emerging Leaders & the INSEAD Online Premium experience



Tjeerd Hendel-Blackford

Tjeerd Hendel-Blackford of Cority was looking for insights and support to make the transition to team leadership smoothly and successfully. INSEAD’s online programme Developing Emerging Leaders delivered an experience in self-awareness and analysis that went far beyond his expectations.

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Stepping up to a managerial position is fraught with new challenges. How do you assume responsibility for the performance of recent peers – friends even – as well as your own? How do you help them meet their targets, while managing personalities? What can you do to keep people happy and engaged, while exerting new authority?

Making the transition to team leadership can be enormously challenging professionally, psychologically and from an interpersonal perspective. Tjeerd Hendel-Blackford understands this as well as anyone. Promoted recently to the position of Director of International Sales with environmental, health and safety software producer, Cority, Hendel-Blackford has had to navigate significant change in his professional life first-hand. And the desire to negotiate this period of change successfully was the impetus that brought him to INSEAD and to the Premium journey of Developing Emerging Leaders programme in 2021.

“Constant learning has always been a bit of mantra of mine,” says Hendel-Blackford. “So when I was promoted to leading my team at Cority last year, mid-Covid, I very much saw it as an opportunity to rise to new challenges, and to learn. Looking for a learning partner and a programme that really matched these challenges, I felt that INSEAD was by far the best match.”

Going into the programme was a relatively seamless process, he says. From kick-off through to the weekly live sessions with peers and faculty, content and preparatory reading was both clear and concise, leaving abundant opportunity for what he describes as the “highlights” of the learning experience: deep self-reflection and the chance to map new ideas and approaches to his own personal experience.”

“Each week we broached a new topic around things like leading yourself as well as others, how to build and drive collaboration, leveraging digital and much more. From the get-go, there’s a real connection with peers and the learning is easy and accessible, while challenging you think, to be introspective, and to explore different ways of enacting the learning in your own real-life challenges and problems.”

As an online learning experience, he found it both “slick” and deeply engaging, with ample opportunity to go back and consult recorded content and material whenever necessary. Having opted to take the Premium Journey version of the programme, Tjeerd was able to work in great depth with a learning coach, and customise the most challenging aspect of the experience: the Action Learning Project (ALP).

“The Action Learning Project is the ultimate output of the programme. This is where you identify a specific challenge or issue at work and week over week, you evolve and develop it, adding flesh and building it out as you apply your learning progressively. The premium journey meant that I was able to really customise this experience and take it much further, working closely with my coach who provided a constant sounding board on what was working or not, and why. At the end of the programme, the ALP becomes a kind of blue-print for your leadership journey.”

Opting for the premium version of the programme meant that Hendel-Blackford was also able to leverage an experimentation period as part of his ALP, which saw him set out his challenges, their context and concrete action to put in place as a core function of his leadership journey.

So powerful was this experience that he printed his ALP out in the form of slides and has kept it on his desk as a road map to refer back to on an on-going basis.

Then there was what he calls the “catharsis” that the programme afforded.

“The experience really requires you to open up and investigate yourself; to understand that becoming a leader is about what you see in yourself and what others see in you and having the self-confidence to carry yourself with purpose and assurance.”

Hendel-Blackford would recommend the Developing Emerging Leaders programme to anyone facing the challenge of stepping up to new responsibility in the workplace.

“In fact, I have already suggested it to a few people within my organisation. We are growing fast and organically, and as we change and acquire new talent with new roles coming to the fore, we’re going to see more and more emerging leaders coming out.”

To get the very most from the experience he recommends two things: be committed and be open.

“You really need to make time to work hard on your ALP because it will repay the effort – but that means prioritising application and refinement. And perhaps above all, I’d say you need to read all the comments and input from others and engage with it and them. Self-awareness is fundamental to good leadership. You might not always like the feedback you get, but getting it is essential!”


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