Finding Your 'Wise Person': Why Good Leaders Need Good Mentors

Brigitte Chanoine, Rector at ICHEC Brussels Management School shares with AACSB's Stephanie Bryant how even already well established leaders benefit from learning from a mentor of their own.


Transcript

Stephanie Bryant: [00:17] Brigitte, you've been at ICHEC for 10 years. That's a long time to be in a leadership role, at a big university. Tell me a little bit about your challenges. What have been the things that have really helped you struggle and be better? Tell us about that.

Brigitte Chanoine: [00:30] I was a professor of finance. Even if I was responsible for a little department, I was really not prepared to manage so many people. That was at the beginning, difficult for me, to manage so many people. I had to improve my skills of empathy and assertivity. That was one of the biggest challenge.

[00:50] The second challenge is to manage so many different tasks. As you say, it's coming from finance, accounting, human resources, everything. I had to be able to organize myself, to prioritize tasks, and also manage my time. What I think is important in those type of challenges, because in the first year it's really too much, you have to count of the team, of your committee, of important people in the school. You have to trust them. You have to delegate and to work with them. That was one way of doing that helped me a lot.

[01:33] Also, you know I like Africa. I always say that in those types of countries, we always trust so much the wise person, the senior persons, the person who left already the school.

[01:44] That was one of my major ways of doing. When I had a problem, I always went to my senior, my wise person, helping me taking the difficult decisions.

Bryant: [01:56] Who is your mentor?

Chanoine: [01:58] Different mentors. You met my president, Etienne Davignon; members of the board of directors because they push me in that position. I was quite young when I started the job. They asked me, "Brigitte, come here." I said, "Yes." "What work are you doing?" "I'm a professor of finance."

[02:15] They said, "OK. We would like that you present yourself to be elected by your peers to become director." I said, "OK." One of the senior persons say, "Yes, Brigitte, but we'll always be there with you." That was the case. After one year, "It's OK, you're worthy. You can go. That's fine." The very first year, I needed that help because too much new things to know in a too short time. That helped.

Bryant: [02:42] Mentors are wonderful. The trick is to find the right mentor that can help you in the way that you need that. If you had to give one piece of advice to someone, you were identifying, who you thought would be a good leader, what would be the one piece of advice that you would give them? Would it be, find the mentor? Would it be, prioritize--things I heard you talk about? What would be the one thing you would tell them?

Chanoine: [03:05] For me, the clue, the key factor, is to go to the right person when you need it. Don't think that you know everything, that you need a lot of people around you. You speak about mentor. Yes, I need one main mentor, but not only one because it will depend on the subject. Will it be strategy? Will it be human resources? You need to open you to all the skills and competencies you have around you.

Bryant: [03:37] I think that's fantastic advice.


Filmed April 2018 at ICAM in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.