It’s a cliché to describe the streetwise mba as a ‘journey’, but for me, it sums up my experience with it.
The programme began by exploring the concept of core and flex. Your core is your unique set of beliefs and values that you would not compromise on, whilst your flex is your willingness to adapt to different circumstances. This was the first time I had come across this concept, but it has made a huge difference in how I now perceive great (and bad) leaders. While many in my group could define the parameters of their core and flex, I – being the youngest – was struggling to identify my own framework. I assumed my lack of experience meant my core and flex weren't as established as others in the group, and a lot less established than the speakers on the programme. But I was in for a surprise.
On day 2 of the programme, we were privileged to visit a mosque in East London as well as a large professional services firm in Canary Wharf. We were prepared to hold difficult conversations. Our group, therefore, threw quite a few curveballs in Canary Wharf – a major business district – on the subject of corporate social responsibility. Soon, I felt confident enough to ask questions about middle-class white men in large corporates.
On day 3, we met the head of a prominent church. I sought his views on what role the church plays in a millennial’s life – a question I really wanted to ask, but a week ago, could not have mustered up the courage to do so!
On day 4, we began to reflect on what we had learnt from the visits, as well as our honest speakers throughout the week. We identified the parallels between our two visits: a corporate’s core is revenue generation, and flex, its social responsibility activities, while the church’s core is social responsibility, and flex, its corporate objectives.
All the visits, exercises, and honest conversations with the leaders operating in the city made me reflect on my own core and flex. And I came to realize that one can have both at any age. I’ve now found my voice as a leader by recognizing my core, which is standing up for social justice – including diversity in all that I do – and make change happen. This can often prove to be a challenge in a hierarchal, bureaucratic organization but I now feel confident to ask courageous questions.
By learning about my flex, I now have a better understanding of promoting my core values in the most effective way. (Learning on the streetwise mba that there is more than one way to do this blew my mind!)
I’m grateful to have been a part of the streetwise mba, which has taught me a lot that I will carry with me throughout my career and leadership journey. A journey that has only just begun.