Reflecting on Columbia Business School’s YPO CEO Academy

Like most of us in the telecommunications industry, I believe in the value of lifelong education. I got my MBA and attended Harvard Business School many years ago, but there isn’t a day that goes by without a new lesson to learn.

That’s the thinking that led me to Columbia Business School in New York. I was there to attend the YPO Global One CEO Academy, which took place over the course of five action-packed days. The YPO is a global leadership community of more than 30,000 chief executives from 142 countries. Running since 1950, the organisation “welcomes extraordinary leaders to grow stronger together to improve lives, businesses and the world.”

The programme was designed for both new and experienced chief executive officers, and featured a range of speakers including professors as well as current and former CEOs from major companies. The benefit of this diversity is that we heard from leading academics about the results of their research while also listening to real-life CEOs who’ve been at the business coalface for years. Hearing their perspectives on macroeconomic trends, shareholder relationships, and strategic leadership was enlightening as well as inspiring.

The CEO Academy was one of the last global events I attended before the pandemic kicked in and we were faced with real tests of our leadership. All the challenges we’d discussed — including leading teams through a crisis period — suddenly became much more acute, as we were faced with unprecedented change and an uncertain future. I found myself recalling the stories of veteran CEOS who’d shepherded their companies through critical moments in the past. Those words of wisdom helped to strengthen my resolve and keep thinking of the big picture when every day brought a fresh firefight.

I was also reminded of the CEOs who honestly and earnestly recounted the impact of their work on their friends and families. Our roles can be demanding, requiring long hours and international travel, and this can be difficult for loved ones. There is no easy solution, of course, but my colleagues in Columbia taught me that the key is to seek balance. This guided my thinking during the long work-from-home period, and helped me establish better goals for myself, my team, and our international community once we returned to the office.

It’s this environment of open sharing and trusted advice that YPO seeks to foster. Their aim is to create a community where members can “learn from one another, access rich learning programs, share exceptional experiences and make lasting friendships”. It was the latter aspect that I found the most affecting — I’m still in touch with many of the people I met in New York, and hope to maintain their friendship for years to come.

That’s the real benefit of opportunities such as the Columbia Business School’s YPO CEO Academy — meeting like-minded people, forging lasting connections, and working together, one small step at a time, to make the world a better place.

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