On 1 March, 47 new students assembled to begin a quest – and even though it was more than three months ago now, my memories of that day are as vivid as they would have been, had it occurred just yesterday.
The quest those students had embarked upon was the journey towards attaining the new University of Sydney Business School Master of Business Administration (MBA) – and the first leg of that journey was the initial study module, Leadership Practice and Development (LP&D).
My most striking memory of that day was how diverse our cohort of students actually is, as evidenced by the many and varied careers of the participants in the course. I had expected a mixed bag of people – but not to this extent.
After meeting a handful of the students, it was straight to work with a crash-course in the core concepts of leadership. Our facilitor, Associate Professor Mike Jenner, filled the room with a very strong personality, making a conscious effort to bring the topic to life and ensure a long-lasting message was received by everyone in the room. It would have been impossible not to get swept up in the subject, and the way it had been presented.
For me, the LP&D course was like getting my driver’s licence. It’s not hard for someone to get their “P Plates” – and then think they can drive. However, there’s nothing to help you master a skill like actually hitting the road and driving. Drivers need to learn through experience – and LP&D was very similar in that respect.
You can have an understanding of what leadership is simply by reading about the core concepts and attending a lecture or two. However, the real learning comes from when you leave the classroom and do it all yourself. And – just like driving – the best leaders are the ones who do it regularly, questioning their methods and approach and continually challenging themselves to do better.
LP&D’s professional applications are very clear, but the pleasant surprise for me was how applicable it was to me as a person, and how it could improve my day-to-day life. Leadership is important in business and industry – but it’s equally as valuable in relationships, with family and friends. The course recognised that, and provided us all with the tools to go beyond managing staff or facilitating meetings.
I think the secret to successfully completing LP&D lies in the reflection and self-awareness that it teaches. And, as with everything in life, it’s worth remembering that “your mileage my vary” – by which I mean that different areas of LP&D will offer challenges and benefits to different people. Not all of it was directly applicable to my life and career, but there’s value in the course that will no doubt make itself apparent for anybody who takes it up.