Leading at a new level: An executive's takeaways from MIT

For Tom Cahill, Senior Director of Global Compensation and Equity at Alexion Pharmaceuticals, executive education programs are and will continue to be the "cornerstone of my external learning for the balance of my career." Cahill recently earned an MIT Sloan Executive Certificate in Management and Leadership and had high expectations for the programs--expectations that he says were consistently exceeded.

"MIT Sloan Executive Education is a truly immersive experience that delivers on its promise to teach, challenge, and engage in ways that produce real development in your capacity and capability as a leader and practitioner." To date, Cahill has completed six programs, including Strategies for Sustainable Business, Maximizing Your Personal Productivity, Neuroscience for Leadership, and Building Game-Changing Organizations.

Tools for reducing his organization's carbon footprint
Strategies for Sustainable Business, taught by John Sterman and Jason Jay, applies MIT frameworks to the topic of sustainability so participants can return to their organizations with practical strategies to incorporate change. As a result of taking the course, Cahill says he has broadened his thinking about sustainability issues and embraced certain sustainability efforts, which are at the forefront of his company's agenda.

In fact, The Connecticut Green Building Council (CTGBC) recently announced that Alexion's global headquarters achieved LEED Platinum certification for Commercial Interiors--the highest level of green building certification through the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Alexion is one of fewer than 15 buildings in Connecticut to earn this prestigious certification. Alexion achieved the certification for implementing a variety of green solutions, including a green roof top, renewable energy sources, high-performance fixtures designed to save water, and materials such as paints and adhesives that provide increased air quality for building occupants. Cahill says he would like to see Alexion continue to push the boundaries in reducing their carbon footprint, become more "green," and also drive employee awareness of how "each of us can effect change for the better."

Getting more done, in less time
Cahill says he immediately started implementing lessons learned from Maximizing Your Personal Productivity: How to Become an Efficient and Effective Executive as a means to augment his personal and professional effectiveness and efficiency. The course offers practical suggestions on improving productivity and how to get more done in less time and is taught by Bob Pozen, Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan, a senior research fellow at the Brookings Institution, former President of FMR Co. and Executive Chairman of MFS Investment Management, and author of the bestselling book, Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours. The program focuses on increasing personal productivity through exercises, case studies, and surveys.

The relevance and applicability of material was such that Cahill felt compelled to shared what he learned with others on his team and in his organization. "I changed my meeting and e-mail protocols to be more efficient, and changed to a truly results-based focus, thereby avoiding the trap of hours worked being a proxy for results produced." Cahill continues to seek new and better ways to foster debate and dialogue, to drive ownership to the appropriate level on his team, and to make the routine aspects of his life "truly routine in an ongoing effort to maximize my decisional capability--and avoid unnecessary and deleterious effects of decision fatigue."

Bringing science to leadership
As a human resources professional, Cahill was also interested in the connections between the latest neuroscience research and leadership behavior and strategy. Neuroscience for Leadership helps participants apply concepts derived from brain research and psychology to improve leadership performance. Cahill says the course revealed that leadership can be learned and that neuroscience holds critical keys becoming a better, more accomplished leader. During the course, participants engage in guided meditation exercises, an optional yoga class, and even brain-friendly food choices.

Keys for driving competitive advantage
In Building Game-Changing Organizations, Cahill gained unique and critical insights "into what differentiates the best companies in terms of the ability to develop world-class talent (and drive competitive advantage), as well as build a sustainable high engagement culture, and, by extension, a high-performance culture." He adds that a key takeaway was that the "balance and integration of the hard and soft skills required to build such organizations (BlackRock is an amazing example) is replicable and can be articulated and implemented in any organization that wants to understand its collective ambition and authenticity."

So, what's ahead for the Senior Director who enthusiastically admits that continuous learning has been both critical and core to his career? Cahill says he plans to return to the campus as often as possible because of the richness of the programs. "They have each expanded my capacity to think, reason, work, and lead with a new level of knowledge, skill, creativity, and perspective."

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