x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

INSEAD graduates take flying colours

The first class to undergo the INSEAD business school's master's programme in entrepreneurial leadership graduated yesterday.

"It was a really good platform," says Jalal al Khaled, who graduated from the special INSEAD programme in entrepreneurial leadsership.

ABU DHABI // The first class to undergo the INSEAD business school's master's programme in entrepreneurial leadership graduated yesterday. Seventeen top-level government staff from departments including the Ministry of Presidential Affairs and the Department of Planning and Economy were chosen as the first to go through the programme.

Jalal al Khaled never imagined he would be going back to school at the age of 45. Now, at the end of the 18-month programme, he admits it was a challenge, but says it was one that he rose to. "This has been built around the government agenda and with the 2030 plan in mind, which made it very easy for us to associate the course with our jobs," he said. A Dh75 million joint initiative between the Abu Dhabi campus of INSEAD, one of the world's leading business schools, and the Department of Civil Service, the programme aims to help build a world-class civil service by 2012.

The students, aged between 25 and 55, were drawn from the Government's National Programme for Leadership Development, which was launched more than three years ago. Mr al Khaled, the human resources director at the Department of Municipal Affairs, said the course taught him how to bring out the best in his team, and to work with those around him. "You look at your peers and subordinates differently," he said. "It makes you look at problems in a very innovative, systematic way.

"The reading, revising and cramming for exams was a challenge, but experience from the workplace played a very important role in this programme's success. "They want us to go into our personal experience as a mirror for how to do things differently. It was a really good platform to share experiences with all the major government players." Phil Anderson, the academic director at INSEAD, said the course was a way to help government departments understand the benefits of collaboration, as well as help its graduates become entrepreneurial leaders.

"It's creating a cadre of people who can lead, not to set policy but they can be given an ambitious project and they know how to put that into practise," Mr Anderson said. "They don't expect people above them to tell them what to do. They put it in place themselves." Maha Jabour, the project planning and design director at Musanda, the general services arm of the government, said changes within the Government are forcing her to take on new challenges, such as learning finance, which is one of the course modules.

"In 23 years in government, we never worried about finance. We knew the value of a project and that was it. Now, in the last 18 months, things have changed. Whatever I take from here, it is relevant now." Mrs Jabour said it took some convincing to get her to take the course, which included trips to INSEAD campuses in France and Singapore. Despite a job with long hours and having to care for five children aged between 10 and 21, she was persuaded by her father to take the opportunity.

"I like challenges, but I hate to fail and because of this, I thought a lot about this before accepting." She said she could never have succeeded without the support of her family. Her children helped type her assignments - they said she was too slow - and her husband took on more household chores. She said she learned the art of delegation, and how to set priorities and motivate her team. Mr Anderson said the programme could even be used as a model for future ones. "But the Government has to decide if they want to do this again," he said.

@Email:mswan@thenational.ae