“I’ve learnt more in 4 days than the whole of my first year of university” 

Comment from an attendee

In July 2016, I ran Close Brothers Asset Management’s Future Leaders Programme for the fourth year running. This programme was attended by over 40 young people in their late teens and early twenties. They were eager to learn what it takes to succeed in business and life. From the first moment they arrived, we challenged their beliefs, opened their eyes to alternative ways of thinking and taught them to be more adaptable to how they approach tasks.

I thought I would share with you some observations from the week:

1. Growth vs. Fixed mindset

Are people born with intelligence? That was a question I asked them in one of the sessions. Coming from 6th forms and universities, several had strong beliefs as to what intelligence was; an IQ score, degree grades or A-level results. Many had the view that intelligence was about academics, however, in fact, the dictionary definition is very broad and includes ‘the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.’ This explanation is much wider than just academic ability. The rigidity of the educational system caused most to have a somewhat fixed mindset, believing people are born how they are and people are either intelligent or not. Through discussion, it was shown that open-mindedness and adaptability are some of the keys to success and constant lifelong learning is needed for actual intelligence.

Outcome: Broadening your beliefs and having an open mind are vital for growth and success. Your intelligence can change.

2. Stress – and its impact on results

Are you stressed? Do you know what is causing your stress? Before the event, all the attendees completed an assessment which determined individual work life/personal life strengths and weaknesses. In most cases, it was notable how it was the personal side and in particular stress, that was the major barrier to peoples’ performance. Worryingly, stress is becoming significantly more prevalent especially with students in the UK. In a recent article from The Times, it was recorded there was ‘a rise of 68 per cent in the number of students using counselling services at Russell Group universities, since 2011’.

Outcome: Resolving issues in your personal life, notably stress, can positively impact results in your work life.


What are the most important values to you? Is it loyalty, adventure, family? Everybody has a unique set of values. These can differ significantly from those around you. It came as a shock to those on the course, how different these values can be even amongst a small group of like-minded people. Understanding personal values was an important lesson to be learnt. The world is full of people with opposing values and it is necessary to be receptive to others. It demonstrated that acceptance and discussions are needed to make sure everyone within a group is working from the same set of values, vital if they want to succeed as a team.

Outcome: Being receptive and adaptable to people’s values will help create a stronger team.

4.Team Behaviour and Gender

From a young age, we are told the importance of teamwork, however, many of the programme were surprised at just how big an effect it can have. During a simulation exercise we ran, they discovered that their team scores were in some cases 20-40 times better than their individual scores. Interestingly, the teams that noticed the largest increases were those who had members with the most diverse views. These teams had to discuss their views thoroughly, considering all approaches, before a final decision was able to be made. It was noted that the genders of teams could have a significant effect on the distribution of subcultures within a group. I had divided the teams between male only, female only, and mixed gender. The men only groups were significantly more aggressive and far less constructive in their discussion than the team consisting of only girls or mixed gender. This exercise clearly showed that gender has a significant swing factor in team behaviours and the quality of the result.

Outcome: Working in a constructive team yields dramatically better results.

5.Hardiness and Resilience

Hardiness and Resilience is a concept that combines commitment, control and challenge to give an overall hardiness and resilience score. A lot of research has been done on this matter especially with many veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq. Hardiness and Resilience distinguish those people who stay healthy under stress from those who develop stress-related problems. With the modern day globalisation, multitasking and critical decisions required, people can find themselves spinning numerous important ‘plates’ trying not to drop them. Building resilience is essential here, around commitment, challenge and control. For many, adversities in early life has helped build up their resilience. Peter Drucker’s comment that ‘if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger’ rings very true.

Outcome: Developing hardiness and resilience will allow you to stay healthy under stress.

After 4 packed days, the cohort departed with much to think about and reflect on. Armed with a range of new life skills, they are now better equipped, more aware, with increased confidence to potentially become the next future leaders. I wish them all the best on their journey. They deserve it.