Sparking serious self-discovery

Staying unprejudiced, letting go of inhibiting beliefs and opening up to new emergent futures is quite the challenge. Yet, it’s the journey that 16 students undertook during the Leading Strategic Change elective week in Orshof, Belgium. “It was a great experience”, says Israeli Elias Atweh, International Sales Manager at Bioventus. “I have developed better self-awareness and commitment to growth, supporting me in developing a leadership style that is genuine, transparent and authentic.”


The Leading Strategic Change module is not a module on change management. It offers students a collection of tools for analysing, shaping and implementing planned change. Tools that are especially useful for leading developmental or process change, demanding a high degree of sensitivity to situation, relationships, timing and process. The Leading Strategic Change week’s guideline is Theory U, an awareness-based method for changing organisations and systems. Theory U blends system thinking, innovation and leading change from the viewpoint of an evolving human consciousness.


Powerful approach to change

Ukrainian Sofiia Gaitan: “Theory U is a powerful approach to change, helping you to break free from old habits. The method teaches you to pay attention to inner thoughts and feelings, which affect how you act and communicate. By listening deeply and being open-minded you understand others better. Theory U warns us about being judgemental or fearful, as these feelings can hold us back.” Ragnhild van der Straeten, IT Development Manager at Group-S adds: “The immersive nature of the week was very inspiring. The facilitators orchestrated a schedule that encompassed activities such as dialogue walks, reflects and simulations all centered around the Theory U. The emphasis on Responsible Leadership was evident in the dialogue walks and reflections, encouraging a thoughtful consideration of our own behaviour, our impact on others and the connection between body and mind.”


90% is subconscious behaviour

According to conservative estimates 90% of our behaviour as automated and subconscious. As this automated behaviour is stored in our bodies, we ‘think’ with our bodies. Furthermore, human reactions are highly determined by conditioning. Trainers Dr. Peter Berends and Drs. Jeroen Duijsens submerged the students into understanding and experiencing this conditioning, using insights from neurobiology, (social) psychology and philosophy.



Understand instead of being understood

Elias: “What really appealed to me was the open mind part. I have always been sure that I am an open-minded person. During this week I learned that this is not always the case! I better learned to listen to body signals, for instance during heated arguments, and signal back to my body that it is safe. What’s really important is that I am now able to make the shift to understand the other party of the argument, rather than seeking only to be understood.” Sofiia: “I really enjoyed the practical cases, offering applications and testing theoretical concepts. Equally significant was witnessing our student group evolve into a cohesive team.”


Key takeaways

Students mention various key takeaways of this intensive week. “Leading by example! For me that’s the most important takeaway from this module”, says Elias. “A nuanced understanding of the Theory U, becoming better aware of the signals of my body, park the voice of judgement, include multi-perspectives and use of resources. These are the takeaways that will undoubtedly influence my decision-making processes and my own behaviour”, Ragnhild adds. Sofiia: “I have learned that personal change initiates broader transformation. Other takeaways are that we need to challenge our beliefs and perspective. Leaders can’t do it alone; they need collaboration to create a new reality. We need to embrace new information and dialogue for change and release past constraints to steer toward a positive future.”


Excellent week

Ragnhild: “The off-campus setting at the Orshof Conference centre added a unique dimension to the overall experience. The change of environment and the fact that the whole group was all at the same place enhanced the learning atmosphere and positively influenced collaboration and group dynamics.” “The location was lovely”, says Sofiaa. “The tranquil environment helped us focus and be more open to new ideas. It was a great place to meet and connect with other students.” Elias: “All in all the module deserves a high rating, the only minus for me was the long and intensive schedule.” Sofia concludes: “The week was excellent, leaving me with the impression that making it mandatory for all MBA students could be highly beneficial for all the team and group assignments of the other courses.”


This article displays the student insights and experiences of the Leading Strategic Change module of the Responsible Leadership elective. The MaastrichtMBA programme has an executive modular part-time format and offers two tracks: On-Campus MBA and Online MBA. The programme has a Triple Crown accreditation and is aimed for professionals with at least 5 years of working experience.

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