This past summer, HEC Paris Executive MBA participants took part in the Outdoor Leadership Seminar for the first time.
The seminar is a highlight of the HEC Paris MBA schedule. It is designed to improve team leadership skills through a series of increasingly difficult tasks. Decision-making and leadership skills are put to the test, far removed from either the classroom or the board room.
Guided by the best
Everything is supervised by leadership experts at SCYFCO Formation Continue. The team of executive leadership specialists boast backgrounds that span both military and the private sector.
One of these specialists is Eric Méjean, HEC Paris’ head of security. Having led between 40-50 seminars for SCYFCO, the former a private sector, crisis-management consultant is a clear choice for accompanying the EMBAs on this unique exercise in teamwork, adaptability, and complex project management.
“What I find great about the Leadership Seminar is the experiential aspect of it,” Eric says. “You can go over leadership techniques intellectually in a classroom, but you’ll never understand mistakes the same way, and worse, you can be dishonest about them. Doing things physically— being confronted with the physical failure of your plan— forces you to accept your own mistakes, and the fact that you cannot be perfect, and that it’s okay. What it helps you do is think about why it’s not working, how you need to organize your team to succeed, and how to approach the issue differently.”
Elena Zuikova, EMBA ’22, got to the crux of what she and her teammates experienced during the seminar.
“Every one of us had to lead a specific operation during the Seminar. The task recreates real-life conditions that require charisma, cleverness, heart, gut, empathy, and courage,” she says. “It requires ultimate team cohesion and trust, is a test of mental and physical endurance, and the ability to make and efficiently communicate decisions and to take action. In other words, it is a test of ultimate leadership capacity.”
“I really appreciated learning about my own leadership style, and having the feedback from my team members.”
The importance on cultivating leadership as a deliberate practice was not lost on any of the participants. Mohsen Rezaei, EMBA ’22, riffed on his
“Being a great leader requires the ability to inspire and unite people with different backgrounds and motivations, particularly in hostile and fast-paced environments, under stress and pressure,” he explained.
“I really appreciated learning about my own leadership style, and having the feedback from my team members. I have to admit that before this seminar, my vision about leadership wasn’t so clear. Now I feel much more confident.”
From near and far
Along with testing their mettle under the watchful eyes of Eric and the SCYFCO team, the Seminar also presents a natural and excellent networking opportunity. It is the only time that all 200-plus members of the Executive MBA graduating classes from all five tracks, including Doha, are together simultaneously.
Karen Mkyrtchyan was among the contingent of Doha-based participants who traveled to Paris this year.
“Meeting students from other cohorts, binding with common interests and interacting during the exercise felt awesome. Furthermore, during networking events I had an opportunity to meet industry professionals with whom I shared highly actual topics of food waste and agreed on further e-sessions,” he said.
He remarked that the in-your-face leadership lessons, with all the successes and failures, dissected after the exercises in mission-critical debriefing sessions, bore immediate fruit.
“Upon exploring the situational tasks from multiple perspectives, I came to find that the best leaders have to be able to spread serenity. They shouldn’t make decisions in the heat of the moment but draw on inner peace before speaking or acting.”
An integral feature
Karen’s conclusion falls neatly in line with the purpose of the seminar, according to SCYFCO itself:
“To unite a team and to contribute to the success of achieving a goal which goes beyond individual efforts, we must emphasize several qualities: judgment, decisiveness, and availability to act.”
Eric notes that from an EMBA perspective, the Seminar offers enticing possibilities.
“I think the added value for EMBAs is due to their being a population that has quite a bit of experience. They can relate the lessons from the leadership seminar to their own experiences, to things that didn’t go right for them as managers or as part of a team,” he muses.
More CEOs of Fortune Global 500 companies have graduated from HEC Paris than any other university in Europe. Nearly 4,000 graduates are currently CEOs, CFOs, or have founded their own companies. According to the Financial Times, the HEC Paris has the best EMBA program in Europe and #3 in the world; click here to learn more.
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