Launched in 2019 by Spencer Stuart, the Future Leaders Experience (FLE) is the only leadership development program that develops Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and translates it to leadership capabilities. Its mission is to engage next generation talent across industries and functions in a personal and professional journey to discover intrinsic motivations, build a diverse external network of peers, and learn tactical leadership skills to apply to their professions. Spencer Stuart is a leadership advisory firm that helps discover and develop talent to form high-performing boards and executive teams. Founded in Chicago in 1956, Spencer Stuart has 70 offices in 31 countries. Originally, FLE was created by a group of Spencer Stuart associates for working professionals, with its inaugural program in partnership with WeWork and a cohort of corporate executives and entrepreneurial leaders. In its second year, Spencer Stuart partnered with Stern to combine academic rigor and leadership experience, which resulted in a blended cohort of MBA students and active corporate executives. This research-based curriculum took place once a month throughout the fall and all content was delivered virtually. Participants included ten Stern students and ten professionals from blue chip firms such as McKinsey, Shake Shack, and Insmed.
I had the opportunity to participate last year. The workshop launched seamlessly. We immediately went into breakout groups, where each participant reflected on ten life events, achievements, or moments that have shaped us. We ranked and bucketed them into either positive or negative experiences. The initial task in itself was momentous and forced considerable self-reflection. Arguably, the more difficult part was sharing these events on a timeline the first day in small breakout groups composed of strangers. A necessary process, as it forced us to be vulnerable in a way that we are not typically accustomed to. I soon learned that one of the key takeaways of FLE was the need for vulnerability in leadership. It is vulnerability, after all, that enables us to be introspective. By evaluating our own emotional responses and thought processes, we can decipher our intrinsic motivators.
Intrinsic motivators are the self-drivers that trigger our desire to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to be the best version of ourselves (professionally and personally). They are more enduring than and cannot be replaced with extrinsic motivators, such as financial rewards.To be honest, it was more difficult for me (and still is) to label my intrinsic motivators than rank life events that define me. It is rare for people to be able to explain what drives them, as many of us struggle to find that drive in the first place. However, the journey to discovering and labeling them is an important exercise, and knowing them can help shape goals in all areas of our lives. It also ties an elevator pitch together quite well.
Between sessions, we were expected to have virtual “coffee chats,” which were great in that they pushed me out of my comfort zone. I met with people I normally would not have and had the opportunity to bounce my introduction off all types of professionals. We also met with inspirational and driven leaders who told us their stories and provided guidance on how to chart our own leadership journeys. These speakers included: Jane Chen, Co-Founder of Embrace, Pamela Lifford, President of Warner Brothers Global Brands and Experiences, and Tara Comonte, President and Chief Financial Officer of ShakeShack.
We were able to utilize and apply Spencer Stuart’s proprietary psychometric tool, called the Individual Style Profile (ISP), designed to help map an individual’s motivators, leadership style, and cultural preferences. The ISP is composed of eight primary styles used to characterize individuals, based on two universal dimensions of attitude towards people and attitude towards change. The key takeaway is that we all have all eight styles within us, but it is the ordering that makes us unique. No style ordering is good or bad. I was originally surprised about my two primary styles, as they appeared conflicting in nature, but ultimately I understood how they are complimentary.
We discussed current issues going on in our lives–not to receive advice from our peers, but to practice active listening and demonstrate empathy. The majority of us were not accustomed to listening to others without interrupting to provide counsel or offering insight from our own experiences into the discussion. We were, after all, a very kind, but solution-driven group. It is a rare and powerful ability to be able to listen without thinking about your next response. This ability to live in the moment and solely focus on listening to what a person is saying is necessary to provide true empathy. This takes practice and can be worked on over time. Reflecting on the perspectives of others is pertinent to being a supportive and inclusive leader.
In order to transition from an individualistic mindset to that of a leader’s, we should continuously make an effort to support or uplift others. Unfortunately, it is not often that one gets guidance on how to develop or finetune our own abilities to become leaders of tomorrow, and I am so grateful for the experience I had last fall. I could not recommend FLE, Spencer Stuart, or a leadership workshop that focuses on EQ more. At the end of the day, anything that promotes self-awareness will make you a better version of yourself and therefore, a better leader. I am going to end this with a quote given to the cohort by the FLE team, which I find quite relevant to the start of another semester during trying times:
“We are at an inflection point in our professional development where we are transitioning from individual contributors and task completion to leaders, managers and strategists. One of the biggest changes you will experience in that shift is that you will get a lot less direction in terms of what you should and should not be doing. What separates the good from great leaders are those who become agents of their own development and not wait for support or directives. Take this moment to think about what you want to take charge of in the upcoming year and make a plan to act.”
I would like to thank everyone at Spencer Stuart and Stern for developing this unique experience. In particular, I would like to thank Keith Scott from Spencer Stuart for taking time to be interviewed and telling me more about FLE and its creation. Spencer Stuart will continue to partner with Stern to host the Future Leaders Experience. If you have the opportunity this year to apply, I would highly recommend doing so.