An amazing journey: Stanford LEAD

It is here: today, I received this Stanford LEAD graduation certificate in the mail.

It has marked an amazing year-long journey in which I met the world-class Stanford GSB faculty: renowned professors, inspiring course facilitators, and amazing fellow LEADers – leaders of their own organizations.

What I liked in particular, is that each cohort is given a unique name representing the Stanford GSB spirit. In the past, we have had names such as Vanguards, Explorers, Pathfinders – mine is Navigators.

After 1 year, 9 courses, 10 teams, 83 submissions, and hundreds of self-research hours, I can proudly wrap up another chapter in my life-long learning journey. If you are aspire to be a better leader in your organization and considering Stanford LEAD, I’d wholeheartedly recommend it. You’ll have a chance to join a self-paced, year-long program and it’s totally online, which is the beauty of the program amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here is the list of courses I took together with my one-line thought for your reference.

Principled and Purposeful Leadership
Self-reflection course, looking inward and define your own leadership styles, then craft an executive plan and your motto.

Critical Analytical Thinking
Frameworks for thinking logically, fighting biases, with lots of practice with team and debates.

Financing Innovation: The Creation of Value
Corporate finance, financial statements (P & L, cash flow, annual reports), startup valuation & funding series.

Strategic Leadership
Generic leadership strategies, defining a firm’s core strengths and advantages

Communicating with Impact
Solid techniques and strategies, applicable frameworks for effective communication.

Decision Making
Logical steps of making decisions with imperative and data-driven approaches.

Customer Experience Design – A Neuroscience Perspective
Put customers first, see through their lens, leverage the X framework to convert customers from low → high-energy engagement.

Persuasion: Principles and Practice
Superb psychological insights & comm strategies. Simple yet effective examples through leadership stories.

The Innovation Playbook
Imagine you’re a startup founder with a problem & an idea: these are the steps to take your product from concept to POC to launch.

Speed of trust

OK, let’s try this game in 1 minute:

“Can you think of three people whom you trust deeply?”

OK, good. In the next 2 minutes, can you tell me the common qualities and characteristics? Why are they trustworthy and reliable to you?

Done? Great, let’s see do we have anything in common – to me, here are some common traits of trustable people:


1. Talk straight, no hidden agenda.

They are honest, they tell the truth. They demonstrate integrity and tell the facts, mean what they say and say what they mean.


2. Be loyal

They stay with you in hardship as well as in prosperity. Nothing can change the value of their friendship. They have friends whom they know they can call at 2 AM.


3. Be positive – right the wrongs

They don’t hide mistakes. They acknowledge, accept their mistakes and offer correction asap. They do the same to others’ mistakes.


4. Respect others

They genuinely care for others. Material value means little to them – they respond to other people by characters and core values, not on appearances, wealthiness, or social status. They don’t judge quickly.


5. Deliver results

They can be high-achievers and mountain movers, or just someone who keeps their promises. You know when they say they’ll make it, they’ll make it despise circumstances.


6. Strive to be better

They never sleep on their laurels. They never stop to be a better version of themselves tomorrow, and they encourage others to be the same with their infectious energy.


7. Challenge status quo

They have little respect for status quo. Not so much for dogma and social norms either. They always have a healthy dosage of curiosity. They are the square peg in the round hole.


8. Crystal clear expectation

They state exactly what their expectations are. They discuss, renegotiate, and validate these expectations. They don’t assume.


9. Hold themselves and other accountable

They practice strong accountability and they expect the same from you. They will not forgive themselves easily for irresponsibity.


10. Listen first

A lot of us listen with the intention to respond. They listen with the intention to understand.


11. Open-mindedness

Enough said, with all of the strong characters – they are great listeners. They extend their trust network, they welcome you to the circle, they accept differences knowing these are essentials for the greater of good.

This is by no mean a complete list, what do you have in mind?

Building stronger connection

Fast Friends exercise

Today at Stanford GSB, I did an interesting exercise developed by Arthur Aaron at Harvard University almost 30 years ago.

In this exercise, you work with a chosen partner, each of you takes turns to ask and answer questions. Each person must answer each question before proceeding to the next. Try to get as many as you can within 15 minutes.

After the exercise, in just less than half an hour, suddenly complete strangers can build closeness toward the other, a connection that we didn’t have before.

10 questions to ask

  1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest
  2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
  3. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
  4. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future, or anything else, what would you want to know?
  5. What do you value most in friendship?
  6. What is your most treasured memory?
  7. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
  8. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
  9. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
  10. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

The exercise left me to wonder: how could it happen? How did complete strangers get together and build up a rapport so effectively? What do you think?

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