If you ask any longstanding JCI member in the UK about their favourite JCI experience, the odds are it’s European Academy (EA). EA is an immersive four day experience where c. 100 delegates gather in the heart of rural Sweden to discover themselves, sharpen their skills, and prepare for a leadership role in JCI. I won’t spoil the details for those who haven’t been, but I’ll do my best to describe how meaningful this experience was for me.
I attended EA in 2018. Like most delegates, I came away from EA a different person, and there are very few times in my life where I’ve felt such a change. The last time I felt that way was when I moved from Canada to the UK in 2013 without knowing a single person or setting foot in this country before. Imagine that – going on a four day leadership course was the equivalent of moving continents for me.
I’ve been to leadership workshops where we do activities like role plays, case studies, or simulations of ‘real-life’ situations. These can be interesting, but easily forgotten. EA takes a deeper, experiential approach where delegates are tested to the point where they forget what their comfort zone is. The bond you create with others during the challenges is unlike any other, and I’m still in touch with people from my teams over a year later.
A key benefit was doing the Insights Discovery profile, which we love in JCI. I learned that I’m mostly “Cool Blue” and “Fiery Red”, which means I thrive on problem solving, facts, and results. Insights shows us that we all have different levels of the four colours (others are “Earth Green” and “Sunshine Yellow), and the more we understand them, the better we can communicate with each other.
Another great aspect of EA is the trainers themselves. They are highly skilled at managing different personalities and creating the right level of tension within a group to work through their differences and perform well. Every challenge we went through was debriefed as a team, giving us a chance to reflect, check in with each other, and grow together.
Overall, the experiences in EA showed me the difference between knowledge and learning. Knowledge is consumption – reading books, watching TED talks, going to conferences, etc. Learning is transcendence – pushing ourselves, challenging our own perspectives, and helping others too. We sometimes hear people described as “natural leaders”, which may be true, but I’ve always believed that leadership can be taught. If you want to truly learn leadership and understand yourself better than ever before, get yourself to EA as soon as possible.
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This post was written by Andrew Cornies