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‘How can you lead an organisation when you do not yet know yourself?’

How to implement good leadership? This is the central question posed during the inspiration seminars of the LLP, in which renowned guest speakers share their insights. A seminar at the beginning of May imparts this message: “Keep listening to one another.”

One by one the students of the Leiden Leadership Programme (LLP) enter the Old Observatory. Earlier during the programme, they have discovered their own and their peers’ talents and examined the theme ‘leadership’ from different perspectives. This revolved around sensitivity towards yourself, others and the organisation. Today the students attempt to put into practice the lessons learned during an inspiration seminar by Hicham Khalidi, director of the Jan van Eyck Academy, and Jacqueline Smit, who held leadership positions at Radio 538, Talpa and Microsoft among others.

Hicham Khalidi: "Think first about who you are"

Norms and values

The first part of the seminar is a nice segue into ‘sensitivity towards yourself’ with Khalidi’s personal narrative of finding himself in Marocco: “How can you lead an organisation when you do not yet know yourself? Stop and think first about who you are.” Khalidi teaches the students that their own norms and values are at play here. As a director he attempts to anchor values such as honesty and a sense of responsibility within his organisation.

The LLP participants know that sensitivity towards others is important as well. For example, an honest leader does not make decisions without consulting others first, finds Life Science & Technology student Maxim van Delft: ‘’In a conflict, try to understand the other to see if there is a compromise to be found.” Fellow LLP student Sahar Ansari (Middle Eastern Studies) agrees. “There are always multiple truths.”

Jacqueline Smit: "All feedback is important"

Embracing dissenting opinions

The second guest speaker Jacqueline Smit talks about her experiences as a businesswoman in a man’s world. She does not shy away from critical questions about sensitive subjects such as crises and conflicts at her previous employers. The most important lesson she wishes for students to take with them: “Keep listening to one another. All feedback is important to take into account before you act.”

Student Jiahe Wang (Medicine) is impressed by Smit’s proactive approach: “Embracing dissenting opinions is what stuck with me the most, because you will encounter these opinions again later on. However, when you listen carefully, you can move on from that together.”

Text: Naadiyah Jagga
Photos: Eric van den Bandt

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