Embracing conflict and turning negative experiences on their head will make us better leaders, Professor Kohlrieser teaches MBAs in their High Performance Leadership workshop

IMD has long been known for its keen focus on developing the leaders of tomorrow. Its leadership stream – carefully curated for experienced professionals – is one of the best in the world. This was one of my main motivators when choosing IMD to pursue my MBA. As part of our leadership development, the MBA class of 2022 participated in a two-day workshop with George Kohlrieser, Distinguished Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behaviour at IMD and a renowned organizational and clinical psychologist. He enlightened us on ways to become a high-performing leader; a leader able to influence others through all levels and types of communication – from simple conversations to complex conflicts – in order to achieve greater team and organizational alignments.

Irvin Yalom, in his book The Gift of Therapy, advocated one singular thought – human beings have an inbuilt propensity towards self-realization. These words rung extremely true for me when, over the course of the workshop, the class underwent a transformative experience of growth and self-fulfilment through profound discussions. These were structured around the eight pillars of building high-performance leadership: bonding, loss, grief, psychological safety and discovering our secure bases.

One of the essential precursors to becoming a high-performing leader, as advocated by George, is having the ability to focus on the positives. George encouraged us to change the perception of our negative experiences, thereby avoiding remaining psychologically hostage to past traumas. It was an overwhelming exercise for all of us and George’s words “Courage can be contagious” touched me deeply.

George also strongly stressed the importance of effective communication and dialogues and explained how, through effective discourse, high-performing leaders can bring disparate team members together. Words, we learnt, are an extremely important tool for high-performing leaders!

The second day was an intense one, and was centred around exploring our losses and dealing with our unresolved grief. It was an intensely emotional experience to recount how our losses had shaped our outlook towards life and possibly our leadership skills. As a cohort, not only did we feel more in touch with our emotions, but also more connected with each other as a result of going through this deeply powerful experience together.

The workshop was indeed an exhilarating ride in discovering our personal paths and in ensuring we remain inspired and resilient for the future. It enabled us to examine and build our own personal power within as we prepare to become high-performing leaders and navigate an increasingly complex and uncertain business environment ahead.

Tanisha Pradhan

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