Describing the indescribable

4 minute read
2022 Executive Diploma class

Describing the indescribable is a daunting task, but herein I will attempt to do so.

The Oxford Executive Diploma in Organisational Leadership enables you to access and connect with brilliant and creative thought leaders, acquire new learnings, to be creative, and to ‘think differently’. The professors and executive diploma peers alike relish challenging current and popular thought approaches.

Cherished and lively conversations with peers quickly result in shared problem-solving, with people who have insights from a delightful constellation of experiences and perspectives. Spirited debate is followed by a shared meal and much laughter. Friendships and bonds are formed.

The Oxford experience has been written about in much detail. To pause, reflect, and be in the hallowed spaces and places where world-changing academic endeavours have been undertaken is difficult to describe. In module two of the diploma programme, it was something to behold to present to the Bodleian Library. You can easily lose yourself in the winding maze of reading rooms, explore the incredible books, settle in for study, and look up to see the thick, aged walls with windows framing the blue sky and adjacent limestone buildings which seem to radiate in the sun.

On walking through Oxford to class, entertainers share their talents on the squares. The market at Gloucester Green is vibrant, with cheerful vendors and patrons, aromas that beckon one in many directions, and when one selects the fares of a booth, the taste buds delight. 

During class, the Oxford professors skilfully draw members into a shared learning experience. The afternoons unfold with deep engagement, conversation, cheerful debate, small group conversations, in-depth processing, and the application of frameworks to real-life scenarios. After class, the conversations continue – often into the small hours of the night over delicious food and drinks in historic, several-hundred-year-old pubs or recently opened establishments.

Being welcomed to your Oxford college, exploring the grounds, listening to the silence of the chapel, feeling the damp coolness of the limestone, breathing in the fresh spring air inside a 400-year-old quadrangle, diving into its history, and studying in the college library creates a deep sense of place, purpose, and connection. At the college dinner, it was a thrill to meet the warm, welcoming Pembroke Master, Rt Hon Sir Ernest Ryder, and learn of his story and his vision for Pembroke. Pembroke Academic Director Nancy Braithwaite shared efforts the members of the faculty and staff undertook in caring for students on-campus and off-campus during the pandemic — and how they took care of the college’s friends and neighbours by providing meals to the homeless of Oxford. 

The experience was that of finding oneself — engaging in invigorating and life-changing conversations with others who are undaunted, even invigorated, by challenge and who possess a fierce vision of what tomorrow can look like through a combined commitment to inspired, reflective, altruistic tenacity. The time, atmosphere, and phenomenal individuals facilitate reflection – how can one be a better leader and human being, ‘think differently,’ create new opportunities and approaches for those around them, and together work bit by bit to better our world? I learn more every day on the programme and strive to be a better leader, fortunate to serve my peers as one of our cohort’s student representatives.

The teaching and the lessons I’ve learned will stay with me, as will the friendships and connections. There’s still much to continue to digest, roll around, process, apply-learn-and-reapply around strategic thinking. What a wonderful thrill! I’m really looking forward to the next modules for insights on strategic leadership and resilience.  

The Oxford of amused paradoxes and surprising juxtapositions captured in Jan Morris’ 1965 book (reprinted last in 2001, p 143) was seen, ‘…there is scarcely a human activity which she has not enriched — from the art of nonsense to the ruling of the world’. Historic concepts are appreciated while considering novel approaches to problem-solving, as we create the next academic frameworks and models for future generations.

The learning is grounded in academic theory, while immediately applicable for practitioners. The conversations, friendships, laughter, debate, challenge, spirited intellectual connection and growth — and opportunity to explore all in an atmosphere wonderfully requiring of curiosity, connection, and perspective-taking — are incredible opportunities to facilitate inward and outward reflection. It’s in this space and with those with whom we are privileged to share our journey, that the Oxford experience provides for one to engage outwardly in complex, global challenges and professional growth, while encouraging inward examination of our own paradoxes and juxtapositions and continue to move forward. 

The relationships and connections are sure to be lifelong and life-changing. While conversations and connections will continue between sessions, the return to friends and academic engagement in-person during the next module in Oxford is eagerly awaited.