SPOTLIGHT: How do I become a successful leader? Understanding individual and group behavior in work organisations

Prof. Dr. Fabian Bernhard’s seminar ‘Leading People & Organisations’ examines Personality, Motivation & Leadership in Organisations and Innovative Performance

Reading time :
14 Feb 2023

The EDHEC Global MBA puts a strong emphasis on leadership development. It includes the innovative “Lead360”, a programme solely dedicated to career and leadership development. Leadership subjects are also woven into its core courses, seminars and some of the electives.


Prof. Dr. Fabian Bernhard’s leadership seminar ‘Leading People & Organisations’ examines how personality and motivational leadership lead to better performance in terms of innovation. Companies recruiting for management and leadership positions are often looking for candidates that have the potential to be transformational leaders.

How can we become better leaders?

Prof. Bernhard explains that “the first step to become a better leader is understanding yourself. What are our weaknesses often when managing others? A thorough assessment of yourself is key! This is the concept of emotional intelligence”.

What is emotional intelligence?


Emotional intelligence includes four dimensions. An emotionally intelligent leader understands himself and what triggers his reactions and, secondly, knows how to control these triggers. Building on this, he or she can develop an understanding of other people. What drives them? What motivates them? “This is the third dimension of emotional intelligence. Knowing how others ‘tick’” illustrates Prof Bernhard. “When you know how others feel and react, you can influence and motivate them”. Building on this understanding, certain skills and competencies can be strengthened and practiced through exercises, real-life cases and role-plays.

How to teach successful leadership seminars


One of the success factors of Prof. Bernhard’s leadership seminars is the combination of in-class lectures, personal work, case studies, class discussions. His courses are about more than just frontal teaching. “Participants are encouraged to reflect on how the concepts discussed in class affect their work and how they can improve their skills in understanding, motivating and leading others” he reveals


Participants appreciate “his engaging teaching style and intellectual rigour” as MBA candidate Rustem Ospanov, himself a former academic, confirms.


“If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” Citing Antoine de St. Exupery, Prof Bernhard explains that “One of this leadership seminar’s goal is to experience the transformative power of charismatic leadership.


In line with this idea, participants will strengthen their capacity to provide the visionary guidance necessary for transformative leadership. For example, in a hands-on 3-hour session we practice in a group setting how to inspire and motivate others. By doing so, the elements of transformational leadership theory are put into action, while simultaneously using elements of what Goleman calls emotional intelligence.”


He further mentions the use of self-control techniques to learn how to keep calm in antagonistic situation, perspective-taking and empathy exercises to understand others better. “The lecture of Psychologist Justina Chodara (as part of the seminar) on stress, burnout, and mindfulness in organisational contexts is useful to understand some of the psychological dynamics and the importance of self-compassion.” adds Federico Porro, who has just completed Prof. Bernhard’s leadership seminar.

From understanding yourself to becoming a transformational leader


To be transformational leaders capable of fostering growth and innovation, managers should move from transactional towards a more inspirational, visionary level. Instead of a quid pro quo, bonus- or incentive-based approach to motivate teams. By giving teams a vision to work towards and the environment to make it possible to reach company goals, leaders can motivate teams and trigger innovative behaviors. “This is about intellectual stimulation, role models and leading by example.” Prof. Bernhard points out.


He continues: “while our MBA students come from various backgrounds and have industry experience from different fields, the topics that I cover in my course are relevant to all audiences.” Among these topics are the classic questions such as “how to motivate your employees and teams”, “how to overcome resistance to change”, and “how to use leadership to gain more influence in organisations”.  


But we also discuss current issues such as “how to efficiently manage a team remotely” or “how to build resilience in stressful times”. To adjust to an ever-changing world, I put additional focus on enhancing emotional intelligence and the capacity of creating an organisational environment that can foster innovation.”


Throughout the week-long leadership seminar, it becomes clear that becoming a successful leader can not be learned from books alone. It requires hard work: work on yourself but also work on your communication and your actions, how you perceive and treat others. Prof. Bernhard concludes “I will not MAKE you a better leader. But my leadership seminar will provide you with the tools and the understanding to HELP YOU to MAKE YOURSELF a better leader.”


"This leadership seminar will provide you with the tools and the understanding to help you become a better leader.”



Federico resumes the seminar as follows: “Personally, my 3 main take-aways from Prof. Bernhard’s leadership seminar are:

To become a better leader

  1. Be aware of the power of working on the perception when leading people;
  2. Make sure to pay attention to the signs you are giving to and receiving from the people working with you;
  3. Always remember the importance of asking for and giving feedback”.

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