3 Leadership Learnings from ‘Paddle for Cancer Support’ Dragon Boat Racing

Twelve IMD MBA’s had the opportunity to participate in “ESCA Paddle for Cancer Support” Dragon boat Festival held at Lac de Joux on Sunday 1st September. Together with professors and staff, we teamed up to form a 40 people contingent of paddlers and supporters from IMD. 

Since 2009, IMD has proudly taken part in the Dragon Boat races to raise funds to support English-speaking cancer patients and their families in the Lac Léman region. IMD President Jean-Francois Manzoni, IMD’s management team and the MBA Program Dean, Sean Meehan, are equally dedicated to supporting this cause and encourage inclusiveness between the staff and MBA participants to help to solidify the IMD community.

Two Teams – IMD Real Impact (Captain Kei Takizawa), and IMD Real Learning (Captain Arturo Bris) battled in the corporate category. We competed in three dragon boat races of 350m each with the top teams qualifying for the finals. My team, IMD Real Impact qualified for the finals and finished with the fastest timing – topping the IMD score board from the past 10 years.

We came in Top 5 out of 21 corporate teams, registering a 25% improvement in the final race, and concluding at 1.66 sec from a podium finish.

Over the past six years, I have been part of various dragon boat races with the Ministry of Health corporate team in Singapore. Here are some of the leadership learnings that I would like to share as the team pacer from the Lac de Joux race experience.

COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY

It doesn’t matter how much we know. What matters is how clearly others can understand what we know,

says Simon Sinek.

It was hugely visible as many of us were paddling for the first time. As a leader, simple and effective communication to the team on what to do and how to do it is crucial. 

STRATEGIZE A GOOD EXECUTION

A good beginning is half the battle won.

Undoubtedly in dragon boat races, a sound strategy and good start are essential. In order to win a race in competitions and businesses alike, a well-defined strategy is not enough; the right execution of the plans is the key. Strategy needs to be complemented by strong execution.

BACK THE TEAM AND MAINTAIN THE MOMENTUM

When you focus your attention on your intention, you gain momentum.

Dragon boating is the ultimate team sport. Field the group with high energy, execute a good start, and continue the pace – keeping an eye on the momentum of your boat. Back the team and trust the process. Keep learning and continue to apply those learnings.

Last but not least, I would like to thank the IMD “Paddle for Cancer Support” organizing committee:  Aurelia Held, Lucy Jay-Kennedy and Kathy Schwarz for the overall planning, logistics, catering,  travel, and everything else. And to Professors Arturo Bris, Arnaud Chevallier, Albrecht Enders and Omar Toulan amongst others for their great camaraderie, strategic insights and enthusiastic support.

Here’s a short souvenir video to relish the best moments: https://youtu.be/xLPdbISDJyE

Shriekanth Iyer