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TEACH - First Year Program Grand Ecole

Purposeful Leadership

100% of the HEC students follow the Purpose and Sustainable program to focus on what makes sense to them in their relationships with others, their professional project and the company’s corporate purpose. There is three stages during the first year of this program, allowing students to experiment, take a step back and explore these issues in greater depth.

Building on the experience and the humanities, our students explore the stakes of purpose at work for themselves, with the others, and for the organizations

Cécile de Lisle, Executive Director of the Purposeful Leadership Chair

Experimenting in Mont Saint Michel, Saint Cyr Coëtquidan and Chamonix

All of the students who take part in the Master in Management (MiM) Grande Ecole program at HEC Paris follow the Purpose and Sustainability Track throughout their studies.

The objective is train to purpose and leadership by experience and humanities and to invite them to reflect personally on their own search of meaning and on how to become a "responsible leader"

Reflecting on questions of purpose requires a movement away from an academic, scholarly logic to a process of of authenticity, sharing and responsibility. 

Even before the new first-year students set foot on campus, they met for four days of seminar in Mont Saint Michel, Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan and Chamonix

They were asked to experiment with the issues of meaning through role-play situations that encouraged them to question themselves (supported by professional coaches), to excel as a team (for example, towards collective action and decision-making exercices with young officers) or to question the mission, the 'raison d'être" of companies (by learning about the purpose of local leaders).

During this seminar, they will explore 3 dimensions of the leadership:

  • Be yourself”: Purposefully lead self – Authenticity axis
  • Be with”: Purposefully lead others – Team leadership axis
  • Be for”: Purposefully lead organizations – Mission axis

Social and environmental issues were also brought to life for the students, especially during their unforgettable experience learning about the retreat of the glacier in Chamonix and hearing insights from leading climatologists.

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Capitaine Raphaël - des écoles de Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan
Capitaine Etienne - des écoles de Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan
François Lamotte d'Argy, Guide de la Baie du Mont Saint Michel

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Malak Slaoui - Témoignage du Mont Saint Michel
Tommaso Cattó - Témoignage du Mont Saint Michel
Caroline Fady - Témoignage de Saint Cyr

A new perspective, thanks to exceptional testimonials

After visiting these exceptional places, meaning finds expression in exceptional men and women. A series of conferences is organized given the students the opportunity to meet with inspirational business leaders, who recount how, in all circumstances and despite the conflicting demands of a given economic environment, they have tried to be themselves, to be with their teams and be faithful to their corporate mission. For the first edition in 2019, the students appreciated the sincerity and depth of the testimonials provided, including those from Antoine Frérot (CEO Veolia Environnement), Hubert de Boisredon (CEO Armor), Antoine Lemarchand (CEO Nature et Découvertes), Christopher Guérin (CEO Nexans), and Emery Jacquillat (CEO Camif Matelsom).

In-depth, in touch with reality and in a sustainable way

Once these questions had been asked, the students chose to explore in greater depth the one that was of particular interest to them. This exercise, informed by the use of the humanities and social sciences, was rooted in the real-life experiences of the companies and their employees, who hosted the students and allowed them to ask questions about their corporate purpose and the meaning of their actions. Since the beginning of the adventure in 2018, around 100 companies were involved in hosting the students. 

These discussions have become high-quality dissertations on subjects as varied as taking vulnerabilities into account or the inversion of hierarchy in companies, the best of which were recognized by Denis Machuel (CEO Sodexo) for the first edition on November 2019. Finally, the students learned about the environmental and social issues that are essential to reinventing a company and harnessing its potential for the common good. A rewarding first year on a program that the students will follow throughout their studies, learning how to bring a human dimension to business.

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Jérôme Lacaille, président directeur général du Crédit Immobilier de France
Noémie Gélis, étudiante en première année à HEC Paris
Diane d'Audiffret, directrice générale de SIS UP

Best thesis 2019

Federate for or federate against?

Is a group and the purpose it adheres to be formed by a process of coalescence antagonist or coalescing assimilationist?

Vulnerability in groups

Is it a sign that we are vulnerable, and that we take into account the vulnerability of others? weakness and a risk to performance, or a strength, a sign of meaning, of authenticity in our relationship with each other and collective success?

Does reversing the hierarchy from time to time lead to efficiency gains?

In exceptional situations, competence must take precedence over hierarchy; more generally, organizations adopting this flexible and pragmatic management approach maximize their efficiency.

Best Thesis 2020

How to make an action meaningful for the person carrying it out?

The explanation is useful for a transmission of purpose in the company and since it allows a transfer of responsibility, it allows the opening of a dialogue within the company's hierarchy.

Does changing one's life allow one to rediscover its meaning?

The search for meaning most often presides over the change of life. But changing your life too often risks exhausting this notion of meaning.

Does the horizontal structure interfere with performance?

Without a shared common sense in the company, the horizontal structure cannot work.