9 December , 2013, Geneva, Switzerland - During his 27 years of imprisonment, Nelson Mandela was inspired by a powerful phrase from the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley: “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul”. Leadership is all about people. This is the fundamental lesson learnt by the thirty-eight leaders from twenty-three different countries who participated in this two-day event on “High Performance Leadership”. The seminar, which was held at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, was directed by world renowned leadership and negotiation expert Professor George Kohlrieser, who is a Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behaviour at the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne (IMD).

With the help of three professional coaches (Jean Piere Heiniger, Andreas Neumann, and Lydia Kan), professor Kohlrieser led the participants to engage in what he called a “real journey”, which consisted in teaching “how the mind’s eye is used in effective leadership, how to drive change and how to inspire people”. Throughout the workshop, the participants engaged in a wide-range of activities, including role-playing, action learning and group exercises. From tears to laughs, all pallets of emotions were mobilized to hone the participants’ leadership skills. One of the interviewed participants, Mr. Mugur Tolici (Director of Human Resources, National Bank of Romania) describes his own experience of the workshop: “This was a very different type of seminar on leadership. It focused, more than others, on what you feel as a leader, how you react and how you share your feelings and emotions. I have learnt that it is very important to share your feelings, and that you can’t fulfil your potential if you don’t act with emotions”.

The seminar was divided in 8 sessions spread out during the two days. On day one, the course focused on the participants’ personal leadership experiences, introducing concepts such as “secure base” and “caring to dare. During day two, the professor and coaches provided participants with the tools to effective dialogue, negotiation and facing leadership challenges, in the scope of successfully leading with others.

All the participants who completed and returned the feedback questionnaire distributed at the end of the workshop indicated that they will likely use the information acquired through the workshop in their job. Likewise, 97% of respondents indicated that they will recommend this seminar to a colleague with similar job responsibilities.

Below is a comment from Mr. Henry Uhuo (Technical Assistant to Executive Director, NNPC/Pipelines and Products Marketing Company, Nigeria) “The seminar has taught me to be a leader who can inspire my team leaders and to be a secure base to my team members”.

On the whole, participants provided very positive feedback on the seminar. Below is a comment from Ms. Kapambwe Doreen Chiwele (Director of Finance, National Pension Scheme Authority, Zambia): “This isn’t the usual seminar on leadership. It uses a unique approach, which has really helped me understand my leadership style. The professor has taught me to step back, and realize that I am a product of various happenings, from childhood to adulthood, which have shaped my leadership style”.

This workshop is the second of UNITAR’s Public Finance and Trade Seminar Series. This series of seminars is expected to equip government and business executives with the skills to succeed in today’s highly ambiguous, uncertain and changing environment. It draws extensively on UNITAR’s active network of renowned international experts and practitioners, who each possess a wealth of academic and practical experience. This ensures that real-world examples, which facilitate experiential learning, are integrated into the coursework. These experts not only provide the course content and documentation, but also work closely with UNITAR to strengthen the pedagogical and practical aspects of the leadership training.

Laura Halonen, (Senior Associate, LALIVE, Geneva) expressed her impression of the course director: “The style of teaching of the instructor was very effective because it combined several different techniques, which meant that we never had time to disengage during the two days. It was very interactive and got us to think about our own leadership style and our own issues, as well as focusing on more theoretical aspects”.

Professor Kohlrieser discussing one of the group exercises with a group of participants

Professor Kohlrieser discussing one of the group exercises with a group of participants.


UNITAR’s Public Finance and Trade Programme regularly organizes courses and workshops on topics linked to international trade and economic issues. For further information and online registration please see http://www.unitar.org/pft/events.

Additional information about the seminar on “High Performance Leadership in Times of Ambiguity, Uncertainty, and Change”, please see https://www.unitar.org/event/high-performance-leadership-times-ambiguity-uncertainty-and-change