The HEC Paris Executive MBA Outdoor Leadership Seminar is a highlight of the HEC Paris EMBA schedule.
The on-campus event is a massive exercise in team leadership development. Decision-making chops are put to the test in a unorthodox setting far removed from the cosy confines of either the classroom or the board room. Participants draw on experience, instruction, and instinct, taking turns leading teams through a gamut of uniquely challenging and often pressure-packed mock crises.
Guided by the best
Everything unfolds beneath the watchful eye of leadership experts from SCYFCO Formation Continue, executive leadership specialists with backgrounds that span both military and the private sector and sometimes both.
One of these specialists is Eric Méjean, HEC Paris’ own head of security.
Eric has already led between 40-50 seminars for SCYFCO. A sterling track record in previous roles in private sector crisis-management consultancy makes him a clear choice for accompanying the EMBAs.
“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 immediate feedback from instructors and 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 own experience.
“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 immediate feedback from instructors and my team members. 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 HEC Paris Executive MBA participants from all five tracks— including Doha— are together simultaneously.
Karen Mkyrtchyan was among the contingent of Doha-based participants who traveled to campus.
“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 on the value of the seminar’s in-your-face leadership lessons, with all successes and failures dissected in granular detail immediately after each exercise.
“Upon exploring the situational tasks from multiple perspectives, I came to find that the best leaders have to be able to spread serenity,” he noted.
“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 thoughts falls neatly in line with the stated purpose of the seminar, per SCYFCO’s own guidelines:
“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 zeroes in on the seminar’s usefulness for EMBA’s in particular.
“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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