The Cass Full-time MBA cohort at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

As I approach three months at Cass, one key pillar of the School’s philosophy continues to become more and more apparent. There is some education that requires that you leave behind your textbooks and go out into the world. What’s more, some of the most impactful learning can happen when you go to the places where that learning is most valued.

Take, for example, the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, the venue of Cass’s  professional development week.

Sandhurst is the training academy for all British Army officers. With the motto “Serve to Lead,” the Academy develops military leadership that is grounded in the service of others. If you are first discovering Sandhurst in this blog post, I do suggest that you read further about the Academy’s unique value system and its transformative impact on leadership. Or, you could just enroll in Cass’s Full-time MBA, where you can experience Sandhurst’s ethos firsthand.

The ‘Achieving Your Potential’ professional development week functions more as a leadership retreat than as a traditional professional development workshop. While we participated in lectures and discussions that focused on fundamental themes of leadership and followership, what made the three-day trip incredible were the many opportunities to put these themes into practice on the grounds of one of the world’s most celebrated leadership institutions.

I must admit I am sworn to a certain degree of secrecy regarding the details of the week. Cass’s partners at the Inspirational Development Group (IDG), who designed and led the week’s activities, made us guarantee that we would not give away too much about the individual activities, for the sake of future Cass MBA students. What happens at Sandhurst must stay at Sandhurst, if you will.

But I can say that IDG does an outstanding job of integrating Sandhurst’s military leadership roots, storied history and breathtaking grounds into a series of experiential learning opportunities that illuminated our strengths, weaknesses and potential as leaders and team members.

We were placed into teams at the start of the week, largely with cohort members whom we had not yet worked with in our studies. This allowed us to start afresh, with no team roles established or expectations to build on. We could be aspirational when approaching each activity, experimenting with the sort of leaders and team members that we wanted to be.

As one might expect from a retreat at a military academy, we were asked to stretch ourselves both physically and mentally. There was more than one hill to climb and heavy thing to carry.

But these challenges developed a certain camaraderie within the teams and the cohort at large that we simply could not have built in a lecture hall or study room.  We had to lean on each other in ways we normally would not need to in an academic setting.

Aside from the real leadership development that I gained through our trip to Sandhurst, this sustained period of cohort-wide camaraderie was also an outstanding chance to see how we function as a group when we are together around the clock. With international consultancy week and the international electives looming in the spring, it has been great to see that we can depend on each other from sun up to sun down (as well as toast our successes at the hotel bar after hours).

Although I am sure it is impossible to fully espouse Sandhurst’s “Serve to Lead” ethos in just three days of professional development, I do think our ability to depend upon each other was strengthened by the fact that it was acquired at an academy so committed to selflessness. It is also a learning you do not usually associate with leadership development workshops.

Such workshops usually focus on I, rather than we. How can I be more influential or motivating or respected? That simply is not how the Royal Military Academy views leadership, and they know a thing or two about how great leaders work in some of the most challenging of situations.

The ‘Achieving Your Potential’ week was one of my favorite experiences provided by Cass thus far, because I was able to explore this powerful and unique perspective on leadership at an institution I may never have been able to visit otherwise.

Cass recognises that such opportunities are some of the best for real, transformative learning. I look forward to seeing where the programme takes us to next.

Joseph Cassidy
Full-time MBA (2018)