Exploring the human condition to create greater leaders
As the longest-running programme at Cranfield, the Personal Transformation for Leaders course is the flagship programme at the Praxis Centre.
Originally launched in 1980, the personal skills programme is unlike any other at Cranfield, or any other school of management.
The focus was always on how each individual’s life experiences shape their thinking; but since the programme came under the directorship of Dr Ido van der Heijden, the evolution of the Personal Transformation for Leaders programme has been notable.
Ido, who gained significant experience in the Netherlands as a clinical psychotherapist, was invited by Cranfield to inject even more life into the programme; this led to in-depth working with people.
Instead of working on behaviour-focused exercises, Ido explained the innovative and unique way in which he implemented new ways of thinking for senior executives and directors.
“I started to work with people’s emotional patterns based on their life stories, human challenges that all of us have, and that started to take off.”
Physical elements were introduced to help people understand their bodies and even how they breathe, giving them a better understanding of themselves.
It is something that has become the norm at Cranfield – working with people intimately to ascertain how they tick and how this can be fine-tuned to the betterment of professional and personal development.
Ido added: “We’re working with the mental aspect of the human condition that has been in existence for hundreds of years – people’s fears, ways of protecting themselves and the challenges that every human face, and how they deal with that.
“This could lead to certain patterns that may not be so helpful in leadership or any other role.”
Overview of programme
The programme – the next intake for which is November– is designed for senior executiveswho have a keen desire to develop their leadership potential in a way that examines one’s self.
Crucially, it will allow executives to improve their understanding of people through an intensive journey of not only personal development, but also discovery, resulting in a lasting impact on leadership.
Over the years since the programme has ran, those who have attended it at Cranfield have found it has become more adept at addressing the issues of people.
It has grown in terms of diversity of attendees too, with executives from a range of different cultures now benefiting from the programme. This in itself presents its own challenges, but the course has been able to provide for everybody.
On the personal transformation for leaders course, there arethree “key ingredients”used:-
- The life stories of people and how they are affected by these – this involves early life but also what happens as adults
- The culture of people – how people are raised in different environments, through different attitudes
- Existential challenges – those questions and challenges we all have to face; the entire meaning of life question is often addressed and people are able to reflect on what they want.
The programme untangles the common patterns of senior executives; Ido explains: “People want to do everything themselves, yet the role of a senior executive is to work with others so that they can give their best.
“It means you have to shrink your ego a little bit, and this programme does that too.”
Those who attend the course benefit from extensive feedback on how they are perceived by others, so the whole idea of self-awareness is highlighted to the executives who attend the course.
This insight into themselves and what makes them tick – as well as what makes other people tick – is absolutely vital in leadership positions; this helps to grow crucial skills.
The programme, according to one participant, “makes you a better leader by becoming a better person.”
By exploring the life stories of those on the programme and the impact these have on their attitudes, it helps to provide a thorough self-examination whereby people are forced to look at their own behaviour and how it may hold them back.
Confronting this results in better leaders.
Benefits of the Personal Transformation for Leaders programme
The nature of the programme’s teachings, and the way each person is encouraged to look at themselves honestly, means that executives and directors leave the course with a much-improved understanding of their own behaviour and how this impacts other people.
This therefore leads to greater emotional intelligence and empathywhen attempting to understand how each individual employee behaves the way they do.
Changes in behaviours as a result of the programme have been described as “drastic,” and Ido explains the transformation described by one of the executives who when through the programme successfully.
He said: “Before the programme, one participant said they saw people in 2D but afterwards, they saw the extra dimension.
“They basically begin to see that behind every behaviour, there is a story that is a reason why people behave the way they do.
“Rather than responding blindly to how people’s behaviour affects you, they take a breath because there’s more going on than meets the eye.”
This intimate look means executives leave the programme with much greater clarity of decision making; they take a step back and think deeper before responding or making a decision.
It creates better professional relationships because – thanks to the course – leaders do not respond blindly or irrationally, as they may previously have done as per the patterns of behaviour.
Now, they have more of a choice on how they conduct themselves thanks to increased awareness.
“Leaders are taken out of their comfort zones and are invited to stretch their emotional comfort, receiving feedback that may be difficult to hear,” Ido said.
But the Director of the course added that “executives are strong people and find it exciting to do something so different.”
This course certainly provides something different, and an added bonus is the creation an “extremely cohesive” group, resulting in meaningful relationships within each group, almost becoming a support group for each other, exchanging different insights and experiences.
The result is greater confidence, self-awareness, identification of strengths, and where support is needed to ensure leaders are stronger at the end of the programme.