Unprecedented, pivot, resilience – these words have frequently entered our vocabulary over the past three years as the world faced a global pandemic.
And, even today, we are still working towards identifying what resilience will look like in 2023 and beyond.
These concepts have been explored throughout the Executive Diploma in Organisational Leadership but were particularly prevalent in module four, which focused on both individual and institutional resilience. In a seemingly appropriate vein, I made it from my home in the US all the way to London...and then contracted symptomatic Covid-19 and attended the last module virtually from a hotel room. Similarly, the programme itself and other peers adapted to Covid happenings.
Looking back on the four modules, Leadership Fundamentals, The Strategic Mindset, The Strategic Leader, Building Resilience as a Leader, a theme emerges throughout the programme: the idea of tackling ‘wicked’ problems (those which do not have universal benefit or agreement, quick answers, or easy implementation).
Each member of our cohort, and everyone with an interest in continuous growth, can recall the effort it takes to find your place and purpose in your surroundings, ‘see’ and assess different or plausible futures, wrestle with optimal implementation, and work to recover and move forward when the ‘going gets tough.’ The final module encouraged us to both reflect on our own lives and organisational experiences, to consider the layers of resilience (personal, professional, institutional) present, and how these move with us throughout this one glorious life.
One of the key takeaways from the module was the importance of high-quality connections to sustaining our resilience. These high-quality connections may look different from person-to-person, relationship-to-relationship, and context-to-context. We considered how to identify and optimise enabling and empowering relationships, whilst navigating relationships and scenarios that are less positive. As formal or informal leaders we all inevitably face challenges in varying forms, frequency, cultures, and contexts. We also discussed how to align and (re)align ourselves, our teams and our institutions in this ever-changing world.
Looking back over the past year, the Executive Diploma in Organisational Leadership has imparted four tremendous, long-lasting and immeasurable benefits:
- Frameworks and language to describe phenomena many of us see on a daily basis. With language, we can communicate, share ideas, create plans, and move forward.
- Access to ongoing networks and opportunity for lifelong learning. Oxford is among the most resilient academic institutions – where there is a delightful mix of old and new, acknowledgement of previous missteps and commitment to the betterment of the future, and of history taking itself quite seriously, but not too seriously.
- (Re)igniting a passion and superpower – that of asking questions and challenging with an uplifting, contributory purpose. Ideas, concepts, and questions are considered in spirited debates with mutual enthusiasm to further understand them, consider alternate perspectives, generate endless solutions, and apply novel approaches to real-life wicked problems. Sometimes consideration of these questions results in answers – and more often it brings to light further questions to be considered. This process facilitates the joys of connection and ideation, the hope which comes with generating practical applications, the satisfaction of their successful execution, and learnings (and resilience) when things don't go to plan.
- High-quality connections – the opportunity to meet, learn, connect, grow, ideate, and be with phenomenal individuals. The professors and peers on this diploma programme and the Oxford surroundings continue to inspire.
People work in systems, and systems could, should and can, work for the benefit of people. The Diploma has provided a truly incredible opportunity to meet people who have overcome, are in the midst of, or will face, hardship. Programme classmates and faculty alike are exhilarated by learning, possess an indomitable sense of agency despite hardship, and truly do ‘see the world differently.’
Finally, I am with an unpayable debt of gratitude to my colleagues and classmates for the hours of discussion and engaging in buoyant and humour-laden conversations about perspective and possibility. We’ve rolled cases and ideas around in every direction to explore each possible perspective and have shared a collective passion for asking questions and creating solutions. This is deeply personal, but, thank you for connecting and engaging in some of my favourite pastimes of question-asking, scenario-exploring, perspective-taking, and spirited debate.
Thank you for modelling resilience in its deepest sense – not a superficial, sunshine-and-roses, or pretence-of-ease resilience – the intense, soul-searching, gut-wrenching, jaw-clenching, messy, no-clear-answers, operating-on-faith moments and actions which are stitched together to become resilience.
As an oncologist, I am aware most people look backward and forward, think on, are grateful for, mourn and relish most their relationships and connections. Thank you to everyone involved in the Diploma, the professors, staff, colleagues and classmates, for your relationships, sense of connection, camaraderie, and for sharing of your challenges and joys. Together, you modelled what the best leadership is all about – understanding the systems people work in and how to support them, so they are inspired to become better leaders themselves.
Thank you to my classmates for providing us all with encouragement, promoting resilience, demonstrating leadership, strategising and helping each of us to refine our strategic leadership capabilities. With awareness of your limitless potential and incredibly meaningful contributions, I am sure you will continue to tackle wicked problems that truly change the world.
I look forward to celebrating your successes and supporting you through the difficult times. You are appreciated more than my (loquacious) words can convey. Looking forward to continued development and connection my class plan meet-ups, our own ‘module five,’ collectively build on our learnings, and further our leadership capabilities.