Leadership simulations: no more poor reputation
01 Aug 2013

Leadership simulations: no more poor reputation


categories: Leadership Development, Learning methodology, Simulations Solutions

On May 30th 2013, I ran our brand new one day version of Magnetic Leadership, our most successful leadership simulation. I’mot going to lie, I was a little star struck, as we had senior learning and talent development specialists from the likes of Abbott; Abbvie; Accenture; Astellas; BMO Harris; Discover; Eaton; GE; Kehe; Northwestern Mutual; and many others. We had 40 participants in total, with some companies sending both learning specialists and actual leaders for a true assessment from both end user and instructional design perspectives.

“I have never been on a programme where everyone was so engaged, no one even wanted to check their email”

It’s one thing running a leadership development programme for a bunch of eager high potential leaders who are just sponges for new ways to improve their leadership, but it’s another running an evaluation session for a bunch of senior leadership development specialists! That makes the above comment even more flattering!

I am lucky to know some great people and great companies in Chicago. No one really knows the brand of ProfitAbility in America. We are a baby in the learning world, after only being here for less than 10 years. So the only way to grow our brand and show off our true capabilities is to run free open sessions. Obviously we need a class to run some of these, and Astellas were kind enough to give us an amazing training room for the day. So we had a great venue, a great host, we had great people, and now it was time to put on a great show.

Preempting what you are thinking – the programme got an average overall score of 8.61 out of 10. Bearing in mind we had some seasoned professionals who confessed to being hard to please, I was a proud man when I saw the feedback.

“Very interactive and engaged teams, people, coaches and instructors. Right mix of “doing” and then thinking about it.”

Leadership simulations have gotten a bad rap in recent years. Costly to customise; overly complex; too much focus on the simulation and not about how to apply the learning; more focus on skills rather than on behaviours. I am sure you have some of your own bad experiences. Finding that right mix is not easy, but it is something we have got right with this simulation. In fact, the simulation is really only 10 minutes out of a 2.5 hour action cycle. The focus here is on behaviour.

So what did we do to engage these difficult to impress participants? Simple, we just ran the generic version of Magnetic Leadership. This version is essentially for those who are going to lead one day, or for new leaders. There are many versions that can be customised to any leadership framework, and for any target audience from top to bottom. We split for 40 into 4 teams, and ran the full 3 cycles of the simulation, in which everyone in the room gets a chance to co-lead a team through a complex project where the only thing that differentiates the 4 teams, are leadership behaviours. All we have done is to create a safe environment where we put people’s leadership to the test, in a simulated environment that mimics the types of decisions a leader would have to face on a daily basis. Except here, everything is under huge pressure, so it unearths your natural leadership style and traits. The good, the bad, oh and trust me, the ugly! The key is to catch you in the act, so we have coaches who are observing the teams throughout the cycle, which is a set up for the most powerful part of the simulation, the feedback sessions.

“Engaging simulation with excellent facilitation / although uncomfortable at times the feedback breakout sessions were incredibly helpful”

The key here is “uncomfortable”. Giving constructive feedback is a challenge to every human. I mean most of us can’t even give feedback to our other halves, let alone to those we lead. It’s easy to say, “you’re good at this, you’re amazing at that”, but how many of us say to people’s faces, “you need to improve this, and this is a weakness, oh, and here is my suggestion on what to do”. Not many. So we provide a feedback model that makes this easy. So every leader in the simulation gets a mini 360.

And that’s it.

No secret.

I have run this simulation for over 300 participants in the last year. I should not have been so nervous, as these folk are no different to the other 300 folk. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and so long you are open to that fact, you’ll come out of this program with fresh insight, even a senior talent development professional of a Fortune 500 company who has seen 100’s of leadership development programmes and simulations. In fact, I had a lot of fun with this group, and feel honoured that such high calibre folk from these types of companies gave a day of their time to something new and fresh. Next, the Magnetic Leadership road show is hitting Michigan at AAA Michigan on August 8th. Then we’ll be heading to Ohio and hopefully somewhere near you so you can see something a little different, but most importantly, something that actually works!

“This exceeded my expectations. I appreciated how well the model brought forward the key, realistic challenges of leadership and teamwork so we could observe practice, implement, and experiment what works and what doesn’t work with measureable and subjective feedback.”

Alex Draper is VP of ProfitAbility North America.


You can experience Magnetic Leadership in Geneva, Switzerland on Septmber 3rd, or inthe UK later in the autumn. For more information and to register, contact

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