EDHEC Executive MBA cohort on leadership development expedition in the French Alps

The EDHEC Executive MBA programme puts great emphasis on collaborative activities for the leadership development and strategic prowess of its participants. What better way to do this than through a…

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17 Feb 2022

The EDHEC Executive MBA programme puts great emphasis on collaborative activities for the leadership development and strategic prowess of its participants. What better way to do this than through a thrilling leadership seminar, led by mountaineering guides in the snow-covered French Alps! From the day the cohort received the trip announcement, through the preparation period, and the 5-day expedition, members were challenged to demonstrate and develop diverse leadership skills.  

Effective leadership requires preparation, initiative, trust, and teamwork

“Looking back, the preparation for the trip was remarkably the least memorable and yet perhaps the most important part…” (Participant, Natasha Wood). Meticulous planning and preparation were required for participants’ security, comfort in freezing conditions, and activities to be carried out successfully. Throughout their stay in Chamonix, cohort members were called upon to exercise situational intelligence in order to use the right communication and persuasion techniques within their teams. Building trusting relationships, empowering and encouraging others, leading by example and continuous collaboration were amongst the most important skills. Why? Because the serious games of the expedition put many out of their comfort zones! Hearts raced, certain fears surfaced, and problems needed to be solved on the spot. The ability to see the bigger picture during each challenge was key. Not only did cohort members triumph, but they also had an enchanting and memorable time in the process.

Each of the above-mentioned skills is transferrable and essential to any business culture and management style. Leaders who are capable of demonstrating the majority, if not all of these competencies, will succeed in responding aptly to the shifting sands of the business arena.  

As EDHEC EMBA cohort member Natasha Wood stated following the expedition:

“…social intelligence, adaptability, empowerment, building trust, risk awareness, and big-picture-thinking were paramount! The Chamonix experience is a reminder that leadership should not be misconstrued as a solitary charge. The balance of trust and control brings to mind a quote often repeated at EDHEC, « La confiance n’exclut pas le contrôle » (Trust shouldn’t preclude supervision). This captures part of the sentiment well; the ultimate power lies in complete control of, and trust in, a network of people bound by fundamental leadership qualities. In Chamonix, the shared connection during activities, whether physically as a rope team or psychologically through encouragement, emphasised how individual strength, courage, and ability is amplified by the support of a trusted team and collective victories.”

Leadership development during 5 action-packed days

From snowshoe hikes, glacier walking, and Alpine climbing, to serious crisis management games led by avalanche experts, immersion into mountain rescue processes, and evening conferences on excellence in sportsmanship, crisis management, and decision making. The experience that seemed to undoubtedly leave the biggest impression on participants, was being a mountain climbing rope team. The rope is there to secure team members to each other, to avoid having individuals slip and fall. But it also carries a great risk for the entirety of the team, since the fall of one member could bring down the rest. According to the expedition participant Jérôme Larché,

“The metaphor of the rope team in the business world is powerful. To behave as a guide or manager is to perform S.M.A.R.T. leadership (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound), for others and oneself. But one must also be able to combine it with the ability to think globally, using empathy, adaptability, and risk management, all the while building and inspiring confidence. Adopting the rope team mantra in an organisation is a wise option. Adopting it as a rule of life is mandatory wisdom.”

Cohort members were able to unwind over traditional mountain meals and picnics, hikes, free-time (some!), and an unforgettable night spent in self-made igloos (yet another challenge). They participated in debriefing sessions with the mountain guides after activities and had a detailed debrief of the Leadership Development Learning Expedition on the final night. Their insightful exchanges and shared stories enabled them to pinpoint the life lessons and elements of personal development which they had achieved. Participants found themselves in awe of their accomplishments and transformations during the expedition. These personal transformations translated into how to best motivate, serve, collaborate, prepare, encourage, and empathize both as a team member and a leader.

The general consensus was that making important leadership decisions during periods of uncertainty or risk is easier when the process is shared with trustworthy and inspiring peers. EDHEC’s Executive MBA programme emphasises this notion by incorporating experiential learning into the curriculum. Introducing its cohort members to real-life challenges which test the team’s collaborative problem-solving abilities, trust, and resilience outside of the classroom, has a profound effect on their understanding of how to apply these principles to the corporate world.

Learn more about the part-time EDHEC Executive MBA programme.

Download the EDHEC Executive MBA brochure.


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