IMD International

Strategies for Leadership – Learning to have real impact

Alumna Taina Mäkijärvi discusses how she discovered a new self in the program

Taina Mäkijärvi is First Vice President at Nordea, the largest financial services group in Northern Europe. Taina is based in Finland.

She recently participated in IMD’s Strategies for Leadership for senior and upper-middle level female executives in all sectors, who want to hone their leadership, access boards and other top positions, and create a network.

Taina discussed her experience in the program with IMD.

IMD: Why did you consider a female only program like Strategies for Leadership?

Taina Mäkijärvi:
I was at a point in my career where I was looking for further development. I was facing a change in my organization and I wanted to decide what to do with my future. I had been to another European business school in the past but the participants were mostly men and that tended to encourage people splitting off into groups based on whether they were male or female. The approach in Strategies for Leadership was very interesting and provided a level playing field for participation. I was curious to find out what difference would it make.

What is your impression of IMD?

I find it to be very professional. The school has great professors. The content is planned in a very interesting way and the issues we worked on were very concrete and applicable to real world situations. It was really a positive experience and a positive atmosphere. The diversity of participants, particularly the age-span–mixing young and very senior from different industries–was enjoyable and enlightening.

How did the program impact your work?

Before doing Strategies for Leadership, I wasn’t actually aware that I didn’t have time to reflect and discover new areas of focus, but the program opened my eyes. It also gave me the time and the space to decide how I wanted to move forward.

How was the experience with the other participants?

One of the things I find outstanding about Strategies for Leadership was the fascinating alumni network that it has built up. The group meets up annually and I go whenever I can to draw insights from the members I know, share experiences and to meet the new ones joining every year. This is an extraordinary plus for me.

What was the reality of doing an executive development program with women only?

I felt we were one harmonious group and didn’t split off into cliques according to gender. I think the participants talked more openly and directly. It was a very honest environment. I won’t say there was no competition, but less than I think there would have been in a mixed male/female group. In the end, female executives are a minority so it is hard to find people to learn from in the work place. This program provided a great outlet to meet women with eye-opening experiences.

Did you find the coaching helpful?

Compared to other programs I have done, the coaching was very professional. The coach went the extra mile to personalize the experience for me.

What happened after Strategies for Leadership?

Thanks to the new competencies and new strengths I realized I had because of the program, I gained confidence and figured out what I was passionate about doing next. I started to learn as much about service design as I could and I created a totally new professional path for myself. I went from manager to expert. It has been a tremendously rewarding process. I am using the best of what I knew before and what I have acquired after the program. In my current job as a Lead Business Developer I feel I have more real  impact on business by inspiring colleagues to find new ways of working.

Do you have any special memories from Strategies for Leadership?

The learning session with horses was a super exercise. It makes you overcome yourself. It was scary and fun and was a great introduction to truly understanding what leadership is all about.

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Strategies for Leadership, where women become passionate and empowered learners by drawing on the experience of peers and building powerful international networks.

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