How good are you at making tough choices?

By Sunita Chambore, Student-led Learning Manager

We make choices every day – what time to wake up, what kind of coffee to drink, what to wear for the Zoom call. One of the things we’re passionate about at London Business School is helping our students make good decisions not only for themselves but for their workplaces, their communities and the world. 

One of the ways students can develop their leadership skills at LBS is by leading a club or initiative. The Student Leadership Incubator strives to support these leaders by creating a reflective space for them, so they leave a legacy they are proud of and move forward as well-equipped leaders in an uncertain and complex world.   

Developing better judgement through practice with the Leadership Incubator  

The Leadership Incubator is a platform for student leaders to discover, develop and practice their leadership competencies, such as good judgment. Now in its sixth year, the Leadership Incubator is a partnership between three teams at LBS: Experiential Learning; the Leadership Institute; and the Career Centre.      

The learning journey starts in October each year and takes students with leadership roles within our community on an iterative process of collective exploration and experimentation. Currently, every two weeks, a small group of student leaders cycle through reflection, insight, and practice. We have anchored this learning with Insight into Action workshops, individual coaching, and Action Learning sets.     

Insight into Action with Andrew Likierman  

Having a small, select group in the Leadership Incubator allows students to hear from leading LBS faculty and have plenty of time for Q&A. The latest Insight into Action session featured former Dean of LBS, Professor Sir Andrew Likierman. He argues that exercising good judgement is a crucial skill for any leader.  

Andrew provided plenty of food for thought for student leaders. Mustafa Buxamusa is Co-President of the Healthcare Club. Mustafa asked Andrew how he evaluates the recommendations of people around him, especially “new” people. 

Mustafa took away that “gut feeling is very important. However, sometimes your gut is right and others, it is wrong. It’s important to understand when to trust your gut and when you should recognise that your gut feeling might be false, and you need more information”. Developing self-awareness as a leader is a crucial component of the Leadership Incubator.    

The role of your gut in making sound judgements was also on Kathryn’s mind. Kathryn Larin is Co-President of the Entrepreneurship Club. “Andrew shared that gut feeling is based on knowledge and experience. So, if you’re doing something for the 50th time then relying on gut feel is OK but when it’s the first time, then think again as you may need to dig deeper”.      

Tina Pan is the Co-President of the Social Impact Club. Tina asked Andrew a question around how we can objectively assess our own ability to make sound judgements. 

She found his answer “tangible and actionable. He suggested a systematic assessment against his 6-part judgment framework, using both my reflection and soliciting the feedback from people I trust. While I have sometimes done so informally, the structured approach will help me uncover new insights and put a sharper focus on my strengths and weaknesses”.  

Reflecting to improve judgment 

A robust process of reflection and self-awareness is embedded within the Insight into Action workshops. Straight after each faculty seminar, we expose students to a set of reflection tools and techniques.

This process aims to develop three leadership competencies in students:  

  1. Skills and strategies for lifelong learning   
  2. Critical thinking and metacognition     
  3. Self-awareness and emotional intelligence  

These competencies tie in well with the questions Andrew encouraged the students to think about when exercising good judgement:  

  1. Listening and reading, have I understood?  
  2. Can I trust the information and the people?  
  3. Do I have the relevant experience and knowledge? How do my beliefs and feelings affect my choice?   

After Andrew’s session on Judgment, we took a short break, before moving onto something creative and interactive. Josie Ng, who is the Leadership Incubator’s learning designer, introduced the students to a reflection tool called TRIZ.   

Raashid Nayeem, Co-President of the Investment Management Club found the tool “a great way to think of stumbling blocks from a dispassionate, objective perspective. It takes away the sense of helplessness one feels when inundated with problems.

You know how it’s much easier to advise others because they may be overwhelmed or have blind-spots? The TRIZ tool has the same effect but can be applied to oneself. It also seems to be a flexible tool that I can use in a wide variety of situations”.  

Some great feedback from Raashid and precisely what we hoped for as the Leadership Incubator busts the myth that reflective practice is tedious and can be fun, provocative and powerful.   

Individual Coaching   

An experienced coach is allocated to every student within the Leadership Incubator. In these sessions, students can explore leadership issues in depth. It’s a fantastic opportunity to challenge and expand their thinking, as well as experiment and take action within the student club ecosystem at LBS.   

The highlight of Tina’s Leadership Incubator journey so far has been the one-to-one coaching. “My coach, Elizabeth Newton, Head of Professional Development with the Career Centre has been able to help me reflect on my leadership beyond the immediate issues of running a club at LBS”. Having the opportunity and space to reflect is a vital aspect of the Leadership Incubator.  

Kathryn also found the one-to-one coaching with Elizabeth helpful. “She had fantastic insights on how to handle difficult situations and what questions to ask to diffuse a given situation. Through these discussions, I’ve been able to lead the Entrepreneurship Club through uncertainty and complexity by asking open-ended and thoughtful questions.  

I found the exercise we did with Elizabeth early in the Leadership Incubator outstanding. One question that stuck with me: What concrete evidence do I have to back up my assumptions? That was an eye-opener as we often do not stop and think about what assumptions we’re making about someone or something”.    

Listening in Action Learning sets  

Kathryn’s observation refers to Andrew’s first element of sound judgement. Andrew discovered that leaders with good judgment tend to be good listeners. “Many leaders rush to bad judgments because they unconsciously filter the information they receive or are not sufficiently critical of what they hear or read. The truth, unfortunately, is that few of us really absorb the information we receive. We filter out what we don’t expect or want to hear…”.  

Listening to each other is embedded within the Leadership Incubator through Action Learning sets and peer support. Creating a space where others aren’t providing the answers but where students can explore their leadership challenge in an environment where others are genuinely listening is magic.    

Action Learning sets allow student leaders to make connections, share challenges with running their club and use other students as a sounding board. This is particularly useful at this time when in-person interactions and those serendipitous encounters and conversations are limited.  

Putting theories of leadership into practice 

The Leadership Incubator supports an ambitious cohort of individuals who are looking to make a difference in the world. It provides a quiet corner for reflection, experimentation, and transformation through insights, reflection tools, and coaching.   

Mustafa sums this up, “the Leadership Incubator has created a productive space for us as LBS student leaders to share ideas and develop ourselves and our teams. It’s been a great outlet for me to test, validate and crowdsource ideas to the current and pressing leadership challenges that I face as a Co-President of the LBS Healthcare Club”.   

One of the things we often reiterate with the Leadership Incubator is: you get out what you put in! In other words, harness the opportunity of being in a small group to show up, challenge and learn from each other.   

Any questions about the Leadership Incubator can be sent to

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