Has HPL changed your life? That was the question asked of nearly 200 executives at IMD last week, with everyone enthusiastically raising their hands high.

One of IMD’s most powerful programs, High Performance Leadership, led by Distinguished Leadership Professor and hostage negotiator George Kohlrieser, has just celebrated its 100th program with an international alumni event, gathering 175 of its past participants. Each edition of the program accepts 60 participants.

Coming from as far and wide as Japan to celebrate the milestone, almost all HPL alumni have the same message: HPL transformed my life!

Life transforming

“Changing lives – 60 executives at a time,” said IMD President and Nestlé Chaired Professor Jean-François Manzoni in his address to the crowd. “I don’t know of any other program that does that in the same way.”

From losing a child to near death experiences, HPLers say that they have learned to deal with life’s most difficult situations and come out on the other side as stronger and better people.

Keynote speaker David Marquet, a retired captain, turned one of the worst submarine crews in the US Navy into one of the best through empowerment.

Irina Lucidi’s children were kidnapped by their father, who then committed suicide. Her children were never found but she said she was able to eventually find joy in life again after creating the Missing Children Foundation in Switzerland.

Pádraig Ó Céidigh went from being one of the Irish airline industry’s highest-flying CEOs to turning to a life of public service in the Irish Senate, after nearly losing his life to a heart attack and going through HPL along the way.

CEO of Mondi plc South Africa Vivian McMenamin lost her daughter to a freak accident but was able to find the strength to live life to the fullest and dance again, in part thanks to HPL.

Another HPL alumnus, Tom Merchtersheimer, went from a difficult childhood and a life marred by depression to founding neuroCare to tackle mental health issues.

Shared learning

HPL’s broad and global community continues to draw and build on its learning way beyond the realms of the course, with shared key themes emerging at the anniversary event including:

  • Putting people first as a leader
  • Leading by empowering not by dictating
  • Becoming better by dealing with adversity
  • Putting the fish on the table – i.e. being prepared to talk honestly about what’s wrong
  • Not becoming a hostage to situations

Many who have completed HPL and Advanced HPL have even founded their own alumni groups in cities like Zurich and beyond.

“What an incredible experience to hear the deep value participants found in changing their lives following HPL,” said HPL Director George Kohlrieser, who also shared the “lifeline” of his own challenges such as leaving the seminary and losing a son, at the event. “These last two days brought back memories, insights and feelings of connectivity. I was overwhelmed by the expressions of gratitude. From the bottom of my heart: Thank you!”

Through self-discovery, High Performance Leadership (HPL) helps executives focus on and realize their leadership potential, vision and the bigger impact they can make on their team, organization, and customers.