Kartika Kurniasari (second from right) is the CEO at Rachel House Foundation, the first paediatric palliative care service in Indonesia. She was selected for the Aspen Institute Leadership Course, based on her participation in the American Express Leadership Academy run by Common Purpose in Singapore back in December 2017.  She reflects on her experience, her key takeaways from the programme and how it differs from other leadership programmes.

Learning Approach

The course was delivered through a seminar model, which included largely text-based discussion. We were given a set of extensive reading in advance on the topic of human nature, individual rights, property/efficiency, equality/justice, community and leadership. The reading materials were mostly written by modern and ancient philosophers whose thoughts have shaped our civilization today.

An experienced moderator led every discussion, asking thought provoking questions to explore our core values. The course was far from a lecture model – the questions posed by the moderator were very intriguing, and at the end had successfully led us to ponder deeply upon our nature and purpose as human beings. There was no right or wrong answer: every idea, criticism and argument was equally respected and listened to no matter how absurd.

Key take away #1: Seek to listen rather than to be listened to. Always stay curious, open and critical when learning.

Initially, I, along with most other participants, was unsure of the relevance of the philosophical texts to our leadership values. Later on, I understood that the course was designed for participants to explore and articulate the underlying values driving their work and commitment to the social sector.

The Aspen Institute Leadership Course deliberately put learning outcomes and measurements aside, recognizing that it would be extremely difficult to measure one’s individual value. There are no tangible results from the course on a short-term basis, rather the impact of the course is on finding out your root values and using those to reinforce your commitment as a leader.

Key take away #2: The universe works using the Yin & Yang principle to put everything in balance and to make mankind learn. There is no single concept created without its counterpart/opposite.

Key take away #3: Humans are created equal but are very diverse in belief, race, ethnicity and culture. This diversity enables us to learn from each other and understand how to build tolerance towards one another.

Key take away #4: We as human beings have our own role and purpose, which we must seek to understand.

The different learning approach of the Aspen Institute Leadership Course has had the strongest impact on my understanding of my core values as a leader. I didn’t come out of the course with just practical leadership skills; it has given me much more than that. It provided me with the clarity to find out my purpose as a leader. I came out of the course with the realization that each of us will always have differences. As leaders, we must learn how to work together despite those differences. Despite our differences, we are all the same.

In conclusion, the learning approach of the Aspen Institute Leadership Course is very powerful. I hope there are many more not-for-profit leaders in Indonesia and Asia who will benefit from this course.