5 Lessons on Leadership from the AMEX Leadership Academy

The American Express (AMEX) Leadership Academy is an annual training program which was launched in 2009 at Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University through a partnership with AMEX. More than 270 managers from over 90 organizations have been served and benefited through the program. The curriculum focuses on the skills needed to run a successful nonprofit, while recognizing cultural nuances and molding specific lessons to different nonprofit niche needs. Each program targets up to 30 emerging leaders from around the world.

Ani, Carl, and Gaspard at the AMEX Leadership AcademyThree Build Change staff attended the program in early 2017:  Haiti Program Manager Gaspard Pierristal, Indonesia Program Manager Mediatrich Triani Novianingsih, and Lead Structural Engineer for the Philippines Carl Fosholt. Each took away important lessons that are advantageous to their leadership skills and styles both in Build Change and as young professionals developing their careers. According to Gaspard, he “learned how to coach effectively by asking the correct questions to understand the reality of the person, and help find solutions without being given the answer”.

Attending the AMEX Leadership Academy is also a privilege. Carl, Gaspard, and Ani would like to share some lessons with you, in hopes that their privilege can help guide other young professionals as well:

1. The Leadership Versatility Index (LVI) is a tool that helps discover strengths and weaknesses in order to act on them, as well as finding a balance between the two.

LVI uses the 360 method to comparing feedback “full circle” and improves results through leadership. The framework accounts for the complexities of the manager’s job and focuses on finding a balance.

  1. The Global Mindset Inventory (GMI) offers tools that help to discover weaknesses in your global mindset and abilities to work on them in a way that will lead to a stronger ability to adjust your influence on those in varying cultures.

GMI was developed by the Global Mindset Institute as an assessment tool to help determine the ability of global leaders to better influence others unlike themselves. Learn more about GMI and take a sample survey.

  1. Identifying different communications strategies, and how to use them with various stakeholders, is an important step in the leadership process.

As Margaret Mead said, “Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.” Remembering that everyone has a different way of communicating, and different modes of communication that they respond to best, is imperative in honing your leadership technique. Your colleagues, supervisors, and employees will all be individuals with different communication styles and preferences- it is your job to learn from them and adapt effectively.

  1. Organizations and businesses must also contribute to the society in which they function.

During his time at the AMEX Leadership Academy, Carl had the realization that “it is a privilege for an organization to operate within a society, not a right”.  Businesses and organizations must participate in all aspects of society, not just those that support their goals. Incorporating an understanding of social standards and priorities into your leadership style will help develop a deeper understanding of how your organization interacts with its surrounding social, economic, and political contexts.

  1. A truly strong leader is flexible in the techniques that they use with their team and will find the right balance to lead the team, given the specific circumstances in which they are operating.

Leaders are nothing if not flexible and adaptable, especially in the ever-changing landscape of the nonprofit sector. Did you just stumble upon a prospective funding opportunity, but the proposal is due tomorrow? Or perhaps your project timeline is progressing slower than anticipated due to factors outside of your control, and the various stakeholders are getting impatient? Circumstances will rarely be ideal, however every team will respond to stress, deadlines, setbacks, and accomplishments differently. As a leader, accepting your team’s responses and working with them – not against them – will help the team get through the hard times and celebrate the good times without additional stress.