19 Mar 2012

LEADER

It comes complete with a scenic bridge over the River Thames, and even the typical morning fog (which delays my return). But this is where the resemblance of London, Ontario with its much larger namesake ends. The main attraction in this London is the University of Western Ontario, which hosts over 30'000 students and one of the country's most reputed business schools, Ivey. It is this fact, and not some English nostalgia, that brought me here.

Since 1991, Ivey has been running the LEADER Project, an initiative sending MBA students to developing countries for a few weeks to teach their freshly acquired business skills to entrepreneurs and managers there. For a while now, my employer has been the key sponor of the program, and as such gets to select one employee to travel along with the students each year. And so it is that this May, yours truly will be teaching business in Macedonia.

Unlike those of my young, bright and visibly enthusiastic student friends, however, my skills are a bit more of the "hands-on" versus the "freshly instilled" variety, leading to a desire to familiarize myself a bit with Ivey's famous case methodology before teaching said approach to a group of unsuspecting Skopje entrepreneurs. Which is how I found myself in an Ivey auditorium this weekend, duly having read the required papers (I've even applied that trusty combination of pencil and highlighter to them!).

Being there felt awkward at first, the classroom setting having grown somewhat away from me and the fashion trends having very obviously evolved a lot further since I last paid attention. Listening to a lecture, raising my hand to make a point, even chatting with my neighbour under my breath - these were not things I have done recently.

But fortunately, it has not been too long, either. As the second break was approaching, I was yearning for coffee and an opportunity to socialize with my fellow LEADERs on the patio. And by the time the day was done and we were hanging out over beers, memories of my student days certainly started to come back, just as excitement started growing about the opportunity to spend two weeks abroad with the fresh graduates. They graciously welcomed me to join their gang, giving me a taste of North American graduate school life - academic and otherwise.

With their motivation, no-fear attitude and infinite curiosity, they have what it takes to make this endeavour both successful and enjoyable. And to instill me with the energy to drop the corporate suit and wake up the student, err, the LEADER in me.

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