Owen’s leadership course in Chennai


Owen Jackson, Head of Firstsource Belfast, recently had the opportunity to go to Chennai (formerly Madras, in southern India on the Bay of Bengal) to take part in a new course in leadership management. Here he shares his experiences with us…

My first thoughts were mixed, with the thrill of the opportunity for personal development that I was being offered tinged with some apprehension: the challenge of meeting new people; where would I stay? and what have I signed up for?

The course was based on a university campus, which meant sharing a dorm with a colleague from Bangalore, whom I had never met before.  This course was certainly a no-frills approach, with no 5-star hotels in sight.  However, it didn’t matter, and I will tell you why.

I have been on many courses in my life, but until now I have not been on one that sparked curiosity and created those light bulb moments that we sometimes need in our life. I had covered a lot of the content at university, but as I got further away from my university days, I had put all of this valuable information to the back of my head. Now, thanks to this leadership course, it is now firmly at the front of my thinking. I met and was coached by a very inspirational man who is a professor at the IIT in India.  He is a world-leading university professor called LSG for short – a truly humble man and an absolute gentleman. He also loves to play the guitar.

Throughout the course we heard many speakers talking about leadership and one session that I will carry with me for a long time was the session with our Chief Operating Officer. He spoke about leadership in a very straightforward way –  about taking the odd risk; making those decisions yourself and having the confidence in your own ability to be able to do that. Sure,  you will get it wrong sometimes, but do you lie down or get up to fight another day?

The key points for me were:

  • I am deaf to the word no
  • Never settle for mediocrity
  • Don’t build excuse buttons around you if performance is bad – be honest as to why

Our COO stayed up until midnight for a question-and-answer session and then came back on another day as some questions were still to be answered. We also had sessions from our VP of HR, and our commander in chief Ananda Mukerji. All of these very senior and experienced people had differing views on what leadership was. However, the one thing they had in common was: What are you doing to support your people and what are you doing to support yourself? People in the business are the most important ingredient and if we are not taking care of that part of the recipe it has the potential to fall down.

There was not a great deal of time for sightseeing in Chennai, but we went to the beach one evening and also attended a lecture with a tennis star from the 80s and visited a few temples. The food was fabulous – a little hot, but you get used to it, and now I must confess I miss it as I am starting to find our own food back here a little bland. The weather was also hot – so I appreciated that air con is a great thing!

One final thing for me was the friendships I made.  I met many colleagues who made me more than welcome and also my room-mate, a chap called Thirmal, who is a true gent and one of life’s genuine people – he certainly made me feel more than at home.

If you get the opportunity to go on such a leadership course, particularly as far afield as India, my advice is don’t think about it, just do it. For me this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Published On: 25th Mar 2009 - Last modified: 22nd Mar 2017
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