One of the greatest gifts the Copenhagen MBA journey brings is the opportunity to reflect and challenge the assumptions I have made during my own professional experience, surrounded by committed and inspiring classmates. And that’s exactly what we do in leadership. Together, we are on a journey of leadership discovery, spotting our blind angles and reflecting on what kind of leaders are needed in the world and how we can move forward.
COVID-19 has disrupted the way we live in many ways, including the way we lead. Of course, the transition hasn’t been easy, but through these lines I would like to mention some of the concepts we have reflected on in these sessions and offer my own perspective.
We began by measuring our own self-awareness during one of the first sessions. I was quite shocked, as I have always thought that taking care of oneself equaled being selfish. I’m somebody who has a lot of empathy for others, and due to that, I take my own well-being as a given. The reflections made during some of the Leadership Discovery classes, in addition to the real experiment living through this pandemic, made me realize that my physical and mental health are my primary responsibility, especially if I want to be there for others. It’s quite clearly explained in the oxygen-mask-in-planes example; in case the pressure drops, you should always fix your mask first, because only then you can help others. It might seem obvious, but the world needs healthy leaders, who take care of their body and their mind, who feel empowered to be their true selves, who recognize when they are feeling anxious and take measures to alleviate it, instead of pushing it down. And it also needs organizations that openly encourage this way of being.
Another characteristic that’s needed for good and responsible leadership is courage. Courage as an enabler to be your true self, meaning being brave enough to expose your vulnerabilities to your colleagues and to your team. Once I read, ‘vulnerability is the currency for relationships’, as it allows us to connect with somebody, to trust her or him. We are currently living in a world connected by screens, and it’s really difficult for some of us to engage without nonverbal communication. It’s here where we have one of the biggest opportunities to learn, to reveal directly how are we feeling and what our fears are, and to encourage others to do so as well. Our colleagues can’t feel what’s going on inside of us unless we tell them. By doing that, we will encourage and establish real connection and support, which is always highly needed, now more than ever.
During one of the leadership discovery sessions, we were asked to rank our priorities in life, from family to career to social life. After ranking them, we needed to reflect on how much time per week we dedicated to each area. It was a reminder. We are not two, three, or four personas in one; we are just one. And if there are really busy periods at work, we need to be aware of the opportunity cost. As leaders, as family members, as friends. Once, an executive told me that balancing is impossible, and I don’t blame her, but I want to believe that the current disruption we are living in is teaching us the importance to challenge the ‘way things were always done’ and realize that our adaptability knows no limits, while acknowledging that each one of us will go through changes as we walk our unique life path.
There’s a saying my mother uses quite a lot every time we say goodbye before I travel, which is ‘keep your eyes open’. This is a way to encourage me to keep discovering things. I think it fits quite well with leading, as we need keep our eyes open towards ourselves, to what we’re projecting. We need to keep our eyes open towards our teammates and create space for trust; and keep our eyes open towards our ecosystems. We’re all in this quest together. I will always follow her advice and keep discovering.
Laura was born in Spain, has studied in Berlin and worked in Belgium. Her first experience living abroad opened her eyes for how much diversity could foster her growth and shape her way of thinking. She came to CBS to further her leadership skills, learn more about sustainability and collaborate with interesting people from all over the world.