Notes on Leadership from Seth Godin's altMBA

Seth Godin’s altMBA

Last month I completed Seth Godin's altMBA. The course was designed by Seth to help people "level-up" and "make a ruckus" in their work lives. Seth's basic premise is the standard MBA course is outdated and doesn't teach skills needed to operate in complex environments. What an MBA is selling you is a piece of paper, and belonging to a particular club, or tribe, to reflect his own words.

AltMBA books and Challenge Coin

AltMBA books and Challenge Coin

The course happens across four weeks and multiple time-zones. The concept is peer-to-peer learning at scale, divided into groups, which are, in turn, split into learning groups of four. At the end of each week, learning groups are switched up, and you enter the following week with new learning buddies, having to build rapport and new relationships in the process.

There are 13 briefs, or prompts, over the four weeks. Prompts are distributed on a Monday with the online-learning group taking place on a Wednesday and responses are provided that same night. You are then committed to writing comments on the work of five other altMBA'ers the day after, with a personal reflection submitted the day after that. The second learning group happens the same evening, and the cycle continues to the end, with Sundays reserved for full days of engagement with your learning group.

This four-week sprint happens in between the rest of personal and work life. I'll leave you to imagine how intense this can start to get.

At commencement, student awards were given to those who contributed something extra to the course, and the learning of others. I was lucky enough to receive such an honor, the Abernathy Award, made even more special for the fact they were voted for by fellow learners.

Through this rather humbling experience, I formed a few lessons in leadership which I wanted to share.

Lessons in leadership

Leadership isn't a role or an outcome; it's an action

There's so much content on leadership that it's easy to get lost in the rhetoric. The truth is you can lead in any walk of life, and you don't need to have it written in your job description.

Champion something you care about

Leadership is about gathering like-minded people around an intent. Throughout my career, I've identified gaps that I think needed filling and create value for a community. Through championing ideas, projects, or movements that you sincerely care about, you create a gravitational pull that attracts others.

Openness and honesty are non-negotiable

It sounds glib, but throughout the altMBA I was as transparent as I could be. My perspective was that if I could model this behaviour, then others would also take confidence in not knowing, or displaying emotion or asking for support.

Model the qualities that you would want to see in another leader

What is your view of leadership? What are the qualities of a leader you admire? You may possess some, or all of these qualities already - decide what they are, work on developing them or amplifying the ones you already have.

Ask yourself; Do I possess the desire to help others succeed?

The idea that leadership is the service of others is a truism. If you are looking to become a leader for personal gain, in my opinion, you are less likely to succeed in your goals. You genuinely need to be committed to the idea of giving others a leg-up, potentially at your own expense. The concept of the Selfless Leader rings true for a reason.

The altMBA experience

It's hard to communicate the full experience of the altMBA. People have asked me to write about it, but everyone's experience of it is different. If you are committed to the idea, there is enough writing out there to help you make an informed choice.

From my experience, I would recommend it whole-heartedly. Seth, the coaches, and other participants make it a safe space and unique experience that it is hard to replicate. That said, I do think it suits people of a particular disposition or point in their lives or career where they need a catalyst for change. Of course, the entry requirements are also filters to increase the potential of curating suitable groups.

Personally, the altMBA enabled me to feel even more confident in the quality of work at We Create Futures and our approach to creating it. I also realised that the skills and experience I take for granted could be quite alien and highly-valued by others.

What I valued most were the connections, discussions, and generosity we experienced and our journey as fellow travelers as we continue our quest of making a ruckus.

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