Lifelong learning to become a leader

Rohit Mittal
Jan 16, 2019 · 3 min read

Life-long learning with Stanford’s LEAD executive program

We are living in a period of constant change and huge disruptions. According to Ray Kurzweil, a well-known futurist, it is in the nature of exponential growth that events develop extremely slowly for extremely long periods of time, but as one glides through the knee of the curve, events erupt at an increasingly furious pace. And that is what we will experience as we enter the twenty-first century [1]. Lifelong learning is a mantra we all need to live by if we wish to make an impact.

As I looked around for ways to increase the repertoire of my skills, I talked with many friends, mentors and coaches. MBA was mentioned in many circles — however, the original intent of the MBA was more focussed on finance, M&A, banking, management consultancy. I had no intention to change careers into a new industry such as banking. I am a technologist at heart. Additionally, I was looking for a diverse, multi-national program that encompasses not just gender but also geographical diversity.

I was referred to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business program called LEAD — Learn, Engage, Accelerate, Disrupt [2]. The moniker instantly attracted me per my goals as I outlined above. This was not a traditional short summer or a few courses. This was a very intensive program which involved long hours and the extent and pace of learning was amazing. With a truly global platform, I was able to interact with diverse executives from every continent and hear the potential of technology to impact at a global scale. Learning is emphasised and so is broadening the horizon and outlook. Cutting edge research based management theories which are yet to make into books and networking also opened up new perspectives. In summary, it was a cutting edge mini-MBA with a focus on corporate innovation [3].

Let me give you examples of where I have personally applied it and the impact it has had.

a. Negotiations course (Getting more of what you want)…We were negotiating a contract for one of our suppliers. I used the issue-value matrix and discussed the complete package rather than fixating on price. For instance, the supplier was willing to lower the price in return for customer references and introductions to other business units.

b. Storytelling course (The innovation playbook)…I was asked to present at a global conference in front of 100+ people. My previous talks were seeped in technical details with little follow-up from audience. I used the power of storytelling to modify my presentation and connect emotionally by detailing the process of understanding the challenges at a user level. This led to much stronger engagement during and after the talk.

c. Business course (Business Model Analysis and Design)…As one of our products was becoming a commodity, I used my learnings to propose a new business targeting higher end customers. By presenting customer and product data, we were able to get the buy-in to test this hypothesis. The business did not ultimately launch due to shift in product roadmaps — however, the analysis was used later on for another similar scenario.

I have many other stories around the impact and the learnings I have had. As I reflect back, I realize how much I have grown and I now have the confidence to tackle more difficult business and organization problems.

If you are like me who have had success as a technical or business professional, please look into a program like the Stanford LEAD program to round out your leadership skills. Lifelong learning and the ability to have a beginner’s mindset to grow are two of the top qualities for 21st-century executives.

Rohit Mittal

Acknowledgements and contributors: Nandu Menon, Shenggao Li, Anoop Menon, Alberto Orozco

[1] https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Ray_Kurzweil

[2] https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/exec-ed/programs/stanford-lead

[3] https://www.novoed.com/blog/6117/stanford-lead-online-executive-education/

[4] https://medium.com/@aorozcog/the-roi-on-stanfords-lead-certificate-in-corporate-innovation-4c6a1717f15c

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