22 April 2013

“You don’t lead by hitting people over the head-that’s assault, not leadership.” – General Dwight D. Eisenhower

Our MBA students take to the field at the foremost military academy in France to put some practical leadership skills to the test.

April 8th-12th saw our Full-time and Part-time MBA students embark on our annual off campus leadership seminar, at the St Cyr military training academy in Brittany.  The idea was to see how leadership and teamwork using military training exercises could connect skills and competences between military and business success.  The results we saw and experienced came through courage, trust, commitment, motivation, decisiveness, self-knowledge, team work and responsibility of the students, tomorrow’s business leaders.

Now in its 5th year, the seminar plays a vital role in our curriculum. Led by French military leaders, the seminar is aimed to instill sound leadership abilities, and to equip our MBA class with the experience necessary to cement pre-acquired knowledge and strategic thinking.

Upon arrival at the site for the seminar, Ecole Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr, students were kitted out and organized into small teams of ten, with whom they would live and work together to overcome challenges.  Teams were composed of a mixture of January 2013 and September 2012 MBA intakes; all from a multitude of nationalities, professional backgrounds, all mentored by one member of the French military.   What made the seminar more interesting was that some of the MBA students where actually coming from military professions in their respective countries. Our September 2012 intake welcomed four Full-time army officers this year, who played a vital role in the seminar, as mentors of four teams: Tugdual Barbarin, Charles-Emmanuel Daviet, Benoit Olié and Hervé Fernando. These four MBA participants, together, share around 50 years of military experience, and did an excellent job supporting their fellow classmates through atypical situations.

Tasks included building wooden bridges to get your team across a river, constructing a raft and crossing a lake with limited materials and resources.

There were a lot of personal triumphs; a wealth of individual challenges were included, to encourage participants to overcome their fears and realize their true potential.

Before the seminar, some students were a little apprehensive, having heard from past intakes of the activities often included in the seminar;tightrope walking across the sea does indeed sound like a scary venture!  However, having experienced the seminar, participants learnt to excel and to push themselves to achieve in challenging situations. Beyond this, they learnt how important it is to support each other in order to collectively succeed.

Despite the rain, wind and cold, everyone was motivated to complete all of the tasks and to stretch themselves beyond their pre-conceived limits.’ stated Suzanne Fawzi from our September 2012 intake.

MBA students on tight rope

One particularly beneficial aspect of the seminar was the constructive debriefing sessions carried out after each exercise; students were encouraged to critically reflect on themselves and their team mates, to learn for future experiences.

The majority of our MBA students are not military trained, but they have clearly benefited from the military based experience lived at St Cyr. It is an experience that many say will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

The seminar was a success because this diverse group of MBA students excelled in challenging situations, taking turns at being in leadership and collaborative roles, all while considering the objectives and teams’ welfare.

As Harry Truman famously stated, “A great leader is a man who has the ability to get other people to do what they don’t want to do, and like it.” At first they had to persuade themselves to do something which some didn’t want to do, then persuade others within their teams that they could do it too.  What better challenge and example of a leader is there than one who triumphs over the self and can help others triumph as well?

To learn more about the Off Campus Leadership Seminar, check out our website, and for a full photo round up take a look at our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/HECParisMBA

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