What Leadership means to me?

23 March 2022

Executive MBA participant, Yamini Padmanabhan Seethalakshmi, explores how the MBA programme has developed her understanding on what makes a successful strategic leader.

There is a popular saying, ‘Don’t let something or someone define you’ and this is something I have been told many times in my young and adult life. I found it disconcerting because, what are we, if not defined by key moments? The Strategic Leadership Development module in the Executive MBA programme has changed my way of thinking on what it means to be a strategic leader. Here are my key takeaways from the module:

Being a strategic leader is to possess and apply a set of eclectic skills

Attending this module has allowed me to retrospect as well as introspect, so that I can understand my strengths, and identify areas of improvements in becoming a strategic leader. It has made me realise that being a strategic leader means applying a range of eclectic skills. Before attending the module, I always thought that every leader would have a leadership style and I wanted to know which the best was. However, after attending the module, I have realised that there cannot be a preferred overall style as it depends not just on the leader, but also the individuals we lead. There are many more concepts that we were taught which I plan to use, as a quiver of skills, to change my way of thinking and the way I operate. So being a strategic leader involves developing a wealth of skills and applying them based on the leadership contexts and situations we may find ourselves in.

See things differently and reflect

I took this class because I wanted to see what it takes to be a strategic leader, and evaluate if I possess any of those abilities. What I got instead was a lexicon of lenses to understand myself, see problems differently and view the world at different angles. What I have come to realise is that I can now use this lexicon to map my past and future experiences with the themes covered during the module. The module has given me a plethora of different perspectives that will open up new possibilities and solutions. I remember Dimitrios, Associate Professor of Leadership and Innovation, telling all of us to keep a journal of our thoughts to help us understand ourselves and the journey from the beginning to the end of the module. I remember that as a kid, while going through some of the toughest times of my life, my diary kept me sane. Not only was it a medium to vent my feelings and frustrations but journaling also gave me a chance to look back, rethink events, and reflect on what had happened and how it impacted me, what I thought of it and what I learnt from it. Revisiting my hometown and finding that journal again, made me realise how I have evolved as a person. Now, I realise I need to do that again, I want to track how I evolve as a strategic thinker. I plan to use my lexicon of lenses when I come across opportunities to lead, and I intend to reflect on them periodically and write my thoughts and learnings along the way.

Take a chance and don’t be afraid of failure

Mel Robbins recently said that if you have not succeeded yet, you have just not failed enough. This ties in with what we have learnt in the course and from the talks by Sir Ken Robinson and James Dyson. We have what it takes to think creatively and innovate. Everyone is capable of strategic thinking. But the older we get; we somehow start applying cookie cutter solutions to our unique problems. Now I realise, sometimes, it is not about applying what I have learnt, but it is to unlearn or untrain myself and challenge the dominant assumptions and beliefs. It’s also about constantly experimenting and not being afraid of failures.

Find out more about our Executive MBA programme here.

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