A new guest speaker, Matthew Barzun, former American ambassador to the UK, takes part in expanding the leadership journey of the MBAs.

The cornerstone of the IMD MBA is the leadership journey that we have been on since the beginning of January. Throughout the course of the year, we have regularly worked with psychoanalysts and leadership coaches. In addition, we have received lectures exploring the different elements and methods of leadership from professors Jennifer Jordan, Alyson Meister, and George Kholreiser. If I were to synthesize the learnings from this leadership journey into one sentence it would be this:
There is no one-size fits all leadership, great leaders have a broad tool-kit of skills and an understanding of when to properly implement them.

This past week, we had the opportunity to expand our tool-kit further. Matthew Barzun, former American ambassador to the UK, zoomed into campus to discuss leadership based around his recent book, The Power of Giving Away Power. Matthew transformed politics in the United States when he explored the power of small dollar donations for the Obama campaign. Luckily for us, he brought his unique approach and mindset to a discussion with the MBA auditorium.

The discussion affirmed a lot of our learnings from earlier in the year. At the same time, it also presented a different framing and introduced some alternative concepts. Matthew presented all of this through eloquent and thoughtful stories.

I think that everyone left the discussion with a different takeaway. For me, the biggest takeaway relates to the role that we will take as future leaders. Matthew talked about the process of farming, saying that we cannot grow corn – we can sow the seeds, provide the seeds with water and fertile soil, and harvest the bounty at the end – but the corn itself grows. For me, success as a leader will not result from the act of imposing my will on others, but instead by providing the ecosystem in which others can thrive themselves.


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