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We have the pleasure to publish a two series interview with Léa Cléret that is leading in her capacity of Chief Executive Office, the Leadership Trust, one of the most distinguished leadership focused organization in UK and around the world. The interview is part of ENGAGE's commitment to promote responsible and inclusive leadership.

To know more about the Leadership Trust:

About Léa:

Léa has a PhD in philosophy specializing in ethics in sport, with a special focus on the use of performance enhancing substances. This led her to spend close to decade working with athletes on large scale behavior change programmes with the World Anti-Doping Agency. Léa was then asked to expand her mandate into the field of conducts which breach sport integrity, in particular match-fixing. During this mandate, she had to up skill and studied criminology in order to understand the specifics of the criminal mind. This Continual Professional Development reinforced her passionate belief in the power of personal development and brought Léa’s attention to the Leadership Trust in October 2016.


6) Mentor or not Mentor: What do you think about mentorship? Is it as valid tool as often proclaimed?


Mentorship is a very good tool, and like any good tool, it needs to be used properly. The mentor has to be clear about what his or her role is, and the mentee has to understand what they can expect. All in all, we have to think of mentorship as conversations with people who are ahead of us on their journey and most importantly, that we trust and respect. They won’t give us solutions, but reassure us, maybe prod, guide, support us, be that critical friend who holds the mirror to us even if we aren’t going to like what we see, and lead by example.


7)  About the Leadership Trust: the trust is one of the most recognized institutions, certainly not only in the UK, in matter of leadership. Could you tell us a bit of history and its key features and unique character?

The Leadership Trust was established in 1975 by David Gilbert-Smith, a retired SAS (special forces) officer. He was desperate to support the British economy and thought that the leadership training provided to the special forces would easily transfer into the business world. It was unheard of at the time.

He met (and subsequently married!) Janet Richardson, a behavioural psychologist, who integrated the psychological aspects into the course. Combining leadership development with academic psychology and behaviour change principles is the base of the design. This course is so effective that it is almost identical 40 years later, having been tested and refined on 70 000 delegates. Human nature doesn’t change!

What is so special about what we do, is that we get people to “give leadership a go”. Many leadership development courses are theory based and classroom based, which means that you come away from the course probably knowing a lot about leadership theory, but that doesn’t make you a better leader. It makes you someone who can probably write about leadership, but not necessarily help you get people to follow you or want to work with you.

When we think about special forces training, we often think of brute force and learning to suppress emotions. The truth is quite the opposite. The more you accept your emotions and learn how to manage them, the more effective you will be. Also, there is no better way to learn how to behave than through emotion. If you think about the most important lesson you have received in life, it comes with emotion.

A key component of our flagship courseis the projects we give to a group to complete within a certain time frame. This is different from role-play. We are not asking you to pretend to be someone else. It is about you being you, within a group of complete strangers and you have a job to do. As pressure grows, people start revealing their default behaviours which enables to highlight, through caring and compassionate feedback how they are perceived by others. This allows individuals to match the perception they have of themselves with the impact they have on others, which is how self-awareness is developed.

Therefore, our flagship course is more about providing people with the platform (a truer version of themselves) upon which to build their leadership skills than tips and tricks. You can have read all the books about how to be a great leader, if you apply the lesson from a fake personality, you won’t get anywhere: you have to be authentic to be a good leader.

8) Could you tell us about your Personal Leadership Approach? It seems that it quite focused on developing self-awareness, something quite hard to visualize or put into action


You are right. People usually want a quick fix and a few tips and tricks to be a great leader, but authentic leadership just doesn’t work like that. Remember, you need to “know and control self first”. Until you have that, you don’t have solid foundations upon which to build. Being truly “you” is the basis of everything leadership. Without that, at best, you will be able to pretend to be a leader, and you limit the possibilities of what you can achieve.

With the Personal Leadership development, there is nothing to do. You just have to be. And when you are truly yourself, then the development of leadership skills makes sense.It sounds simple, but humans are so good at complicating simple things.

There is often a confusion about great leadership and high performing teams. Great leadership at all levels is one element in a team/company/organisation being able to perform to high standards, but there are many more ingredients required to make a team effective.Leadership development is only one element of that.

9) Could you tell us a bit about your Leadership Foundation and Leading with Impact courses? How are they different?


To tell you about those two courses I have to give you three specificities of our flagship course, Leadership in Management. On this course, groups are made of complete strangers. This is very important for a number of reasons. First, it provides you with the possibility of making a complete fool of yourself, because nothing that happens on the LM will ever get back to your office. You can try things, with complete strangers, whom you have never seen before and that you will never see again (if you don’t want to, but the bonds created after 5 days of such an experience are unbreakable!) You can fail spectacularly and this will not impact what your colleagues think of you. You can let the worst of your personality come out without consequences, and this will allow you to explore yourself in more details.


The next reason is that the backbone of the programme is open and honest feedback. You learn to provide feedback and to receive feedback, and this takes some trial and error. Chances are that if you are on the course with your boss, you are not going to tell him or her how you really feel for fear of consequences! With strangers, you are going to learn to express how what they did made you feel, and the consequence that had on your behavior, and how that impacted your performance or that of the team. For example: “when you asked me to do this, it made me feel angry, and I completely disengaged from the project because I didn’t care anymore whether it succeeded”. Being on the receiving end of that feedback can be painful, especially when it is disconnected from how you think you are perceived by others, it is therefore best to experience this with people with whom you have no professional ties.


Leadership in Management is therefore very much a personal development course.


Leadership Foundations was developed to give people a first taste of leadership development. It is for people who are usually at the beginning of their career. It is a one-day course, and really just gives an idea of the challenge that lies ahead of you! It is effective in getting you to observe yourself.


Leading with Impact is a course that we now only organize for “intact teams”: where all the delegates come from the same company in order to increase their performance as a team. This allows teams to work together on projects which have no work consequence, where the team can fail safely and learn from their mistakes. It allows understanding the dynamics in the team.



10) Again about the Leadership Trust: What are the future plans? How can the Trust contributing towards the development of the sector? Are you planning to roll out any new initiative?


The Leadership Trust’s role is to contribute to the general public’s education about good leadership. With the current situation in the world and the leadership crisis that we are experiencing at all levels, our mission is critical!

The Leadership Trust Foundation offers bursaries every year to support those who can’t afford the flagship course. It is important to enable the not-for-profit sector to have access to this important opportunity for self-development. There have been many scandals lately which reinforce the fact that the charity sector is in desperate need of good leadership.

We have lots of very interesting projects and one which is very close to my heart is the one in the next question.


11) Children too: Can you explain about Kids go too Program?


We set up this initiative as a result of research we did into women and leadership. We know that women are underrepresented in decision-making positions, whether it is in business or politics.

We looked at the gender distribution in our courses and they mirrored what the situation is at large: we have many more men coming to our courses than women. We were therefore concerned that we were supporting the status quo. If more men receive leadership development, then when it is time to promote someone or give someone an opportunity requiring leadership skills, those who have been trained for that purpose will have an advantage in the selection process.

We therefore explored why women did not come on the course, and one of the most important reasons was childcare.

We therefore decided to organize a course which would offer childcare. Both men and women can take advantage of this formula: while men are on our course and the children are taken care of, then the mothers can do something for themselves too!






Position: intern

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