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The Year 2000 letter from Jean-Pierre Bal, founder of the school. 

("The Archways of Leadership" edited in 2014, and 2017)


  The Archways of Leadership, the '3.0' release



Two decades later 


Almost 20 years have passed since the day the masters in leadership programme I designed became the first flagship programme of what was to become another novel design of mine: the Thierry Graduate School of Leadership. In retrospect, and also on reflecting about what outsiders used to say, it boils that the aims of the curriculum, the institution, and the timing, were 'just about right', though many persons were quite sceptical about the viability of the 'project'. In my Year-2000 letter, shall we say the 1.0 release, I stated: "(...) the comprehensive educational response to the need for highly effective and experienced leaders who are -or will be- active in corporations, educational institutions, public or non-governmental organisations, training and consultancy firms, and in many other action-fields and domains". Well, the school provided that response, and continues to do so. 


Reality checks


I believe there's nothing more difficult than 'walking the talk', in other words to be and to do what one promotes in terms of vision, ideals, values, conduct, recommendations, and leadership education in general. Leaders initiate change, anticipate the waves as much as they can, and know how to handle unexpected events. And that obviously applies to leadership schools as well, as opposed to the unchangeable image some may have about their alma masters. Our school, as a community, knows about tidal waves, the foreseeable ones. Yet, some years ago we had to cope with an unexpected and bureaucratic type of tsunami, and seized its aftermath to set in motion the "Next Decade" (2010-2020) plan. Some say that nowadays 10+ years' strategic plans are unrealistic, as if it were a concept taken from a 1950s management textbook. I say: if you don't know where you're more or less headed in the long run, any road will lead you there, nowhere and never that is, along with the people you lead.  


It is a real blessing that I had benefited from a particular form of upbringing and educational environment, and also to have sought experiences that nurtured a certain leadership talent of mine. In the '1.0' letter I wrote: "Leading effectively is a lifetime process, or lifelong learning and practice. Leadership, or the act of  leading, certainly deserves to be called an art. That art of being a guide for individuals and the organisation as a whole is based on the practice of 'old' ways, the discovery of 'other' approaches, and the creative melting of 'old-and-other' into one's own or 'new' leadership style". In the 2.0 sequel I added: never stop learning. In the present 3.0 release I emphasize that with "never, never, never stop learning".


Envisioning the future


Some 30 years ago I could already foresee the 21st century's growing leadership needs worldwide: the ones that since emerged in our fast-paced society. Today I can see the ones coming in the next three decades or so. There's no 'magic' in that 'foresight'; many persons around the world know how to anticipate, and dare to take preventive or remedial action without much delay. In a certain way the school proved that it had the courage of challenging society, by the vision it conveyed years ago and the one it has today about the world at large. Having vision, and enabling it, is part of our role of supporting the development of present and future generations of leaders who face hard realities, tough times, increasing responsibilities, and the inescapable challenges in their work and communities. Further, as I wrote in the 1.0 letter: "(...) we ensure that each participant succeeds in adopting a soulful leadership style, including a strong leader-purpose, deep personal values, openness to change, and experience-sharing"Those objectives have remained unchanged, even if achieving those goals requires a -lot- of patience, determination, and energy, call it endurance. 


Structures and platforms


Returning to the initiating-change component, as years went by the school welcomed its affiliate or next of kin institution, the International Higher Institute for Leadership INSIL of France, followed by the launch of an INSIL-THIERRY joint-venture: the conceptually speaking very symbolic Earth-based i2LN Icare Institute for Leadership and Nature. In the meantime THIERRY had created its DuoRivi DR Leadership unit specialising in tailor-made programmes, and refocused its other curricula in order to meet local needs even better. In sum, from the start the school had a truly global mission, in other words: the World in mind, and still does.  


Finally, the last paragraph of my 1.0 I keep unchanged, to form the close of this 3.0 one: "If one were to describe a leader's career as a work of art, the completion of a THIERRY programme would then constitute one of the pillars or arches of the archway a leader shapes by his or her lifetime actions or achievements. Leaders therewith contribute to the building of personal, organisational, and societal archways, and vice-versa. In sum, leadership always includes the support and guidance provided by leaders to other persons who shape their own pillars, arches, and archways of life."


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