5 Questions About…TAI’s Leadership Persona

5 Questions About … TAI’s Leadership Persona Program

As individuals move up in their organizations, they experience a new set of demands.  Their identities as leaders must come through in a greater range of situations.  They are challenged to become more flexible, creative and insightful in dealings with clients and with colleagues.  In short, they must step out of the roles they know into new territory.

 These demands led us to design a program focused on exploring the unique perspective and personal drivers of high potential employees.  Using role-playing, discussions, and tools from the theatre such as character and script or scenario analysis, Leadership Persona combines group workshops and private coaching sessions. 

In this edition of Five Questions About … Twila Thompson, TAI Partner and Director of European Development, offers insights into the evolution and effectiveness of the Leadership Persona program.


TAIQ: Twila, you created the Leadership Persona program.  What was your stimulus for creating this offering?

TT: The original stimulus was a client request.  A longtime client of mine, involved in developing the next generation of leaders in his company, called me.  He asked me to create a program that would help these employees develop greater authority and leadership presence.  He specified that this should not be a presentation skills program but something different.  “They need to exhibit gravitas in meetings, with their teams, in the lunchroom – not just when they present or speak publicly.”  He said, “Remember the work you did with me on my personal point of view?  Let’s start there.”

I utilized two different learning approaches in this program – a contemplative, inner-focused kind of work and experiential communication skills that move the results of their contemplation into action. 

TAIQ: How would you describe the client who is a strong candidate for the program?

TT: Clients send us the front-runners from their organizations, those in whom they see high potential to become the top leaders in their organizations.  Investing in these is an investment in the future of their companies.  However, we find that this is a particularly powerful program for individuals who are moving from a purely operational or managerial role, into a role that requires decisiveness, team leadership and self-direction.  Often the people who can make things happen, these staff members have not developed the authority or autonomy to motivate others with a vision and purpose.  When they go through this program, they develop a whole set of personal insights and practical skills that allow them to move past management into leadership. 

TAIQ: What are two or three critical questions that participants can expect to address during their experience?

TT: This program asks three core questions of each participant:

  1.        What are your personal non-negotiables, the things you cannot do without?
  2.        What do you need in order to work at your best?
  3.        How can you allow these insights to guide you in the way you lead others?


TAIQ: Describe a moment during your facilitation in one of the workshops that confirmed for you that the program was meeting your intended goals.

TT: There was a lovely moment when working with an IT client.   We were asking participants what they had learned so far.  One of the participants raised his hand and with a big grin said, “I took a client out for dinner and, instead of trying to sell him something for the entire meal, I just talked with him.  At the end of the meal, the client asked, ‘Can we talk about my business needs now?’”  The participant told us that, until this program, the client would never have had the chance to request advice because he would have been too busy pushing products on him.

I knew then that we were succeeding in changing this man from an order-taker to an advisor and leader.

TAIQ: How have clients described their experience following their participation?

TT: Several have said this program was like a personal spa.  They rarely get a chance to look at themselves and what motivates them, let alone a chance to practice bringing what they learn into action.  They tell us that they have become better team leaders and stronger client advisors.  And they say that they have greater courage in speaking up at key moments with colleagues and superiors.