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Sonia Reinhardt: “Because banks decide our future, we need compassionate values-based leaders in front of them”


27 January 2023

Values-based banks need values-based leaders to find innovative solutions to future challenges. To help with this, the Human Development Group of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV) created the GABV Leadership Academy in 2015, a transformative learning experience in partnership with the Presencing Institute and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Co-Lab. Sonia Reinhardt coordinates the GABV Leadership Academy and is part of the facilitation team.


In this role, Sonia Reinhardt works with (senior) leaders of values-based banks around the world to explore a joint future in which finance serves people and the planet and not the other way around. She also provides coaching sessions to create an opportunity for the leaders to reflect, grow and move towards their full potential.  

The next edition of the GABV Leadership Academy runs from March to June 2023, combining two 2-day online sessions with a 4.5-day in-person meeting run in parallel with the 2023 GABV Annual Meeting in New York in April 2023. Alongside three modules, participants will engage in peer coaching sessions and three individual coaching sessions, and they have the possibility to receive a mentor from the GABV Alumni group.

Why was this programme created? What was the gap you were trying to fill?  

Banks are sitting in a crucial position in our economic system. With each credit decision, they decide about our future. Where they allocate money influences whether an individual or business gets access to finance that may enable a better future. We, therefore, rely on highly skilful, conscientious, and passionate leaders and banking professionals who are aware of their actions and their interdependencies and who have the courage to take bold steps towards co-creating a financial system that helps to build just societies and a healthy planet.   

Many GABV member banks are growing and have an increasing need to connect their leaders to the values of the network. The GABV Leadership Academy was initiated in response to demand from CEOs of the GABV network to provide a programme that could help with succession planning. Leading along the triple bottom line is challenging and different from any other leadership challenge.  The GABV Leadership Academy provides tools and methods that combine a focus on values-based banking with leadership capacity building. 

The programme is based on Theory U, a well-recognised leadership method developed at the MIT Sloan School of Management in Boston and research on values-based banks also conducted at MIT.  



Register for the 2023 edition of the GABV Leadership Academy

Is this programme for personal or professional development, or does it balance both? 

Leadership is personal. This is the difference between management and leadership. Management means fulfilling a given set of tasks. Leadership is strategic and requires you to step into the unknown and take on initiatives that would not happen without you.

The personal growth then evolves into professional development as participants gain new insight, perspectives, and tools to become more effective leaders and managers in their organisations.

How will this program help co-workers and banks to grow? 

In the programme, students will be inspired by values-based leaders from the GABV network, world-renowned thought leaders, and faculty from MIT, and learn essential leadership practices that can be applied straight away.  They will be able to step to their full potential and deepen the impact of their organisations through state-of-the-art leadership methodologies in values-based banks, including the Theory U concept developed by Otto Scharmer at the MIT Sloan School of Business.  

Also, students will be equipped with the skills, tools and mindset to actively work on the transformation of their organisation, to innovate and to anchor values at the core of their organisation.  

And finally, they will gain access to a global network of values-based bankers many of whom have been frontrunners in the field of values-based banking for decades.  

Why is it important to do this programme, from a professional and personal point of view?  

Participants advance their personal leadership skills and gain tools to influence change and take action to transform their organisations. Through self-reflection, they establish a better connection to the self and learn how to identify their own leadership north star to guide them in times of disruption. By having more self-awareness, participants become more conscious leaders grounded in values-based banking, who have the courage to lead their organisations in times of uncertainty. 

Participants listen to highly inspirational speakers and hear best practices from leading values-based financial institutions from around the world, which they can apply to their own organisations. They learn about the unique challenges and opportunities for values-based banks and their role in bringing about organisational and cultural transformation. We present innovation techniques to participants and encourage them to bring current challenges to the group, where they receive peer support to find solutions.

Why is it important for GABV banks that their senior managers enrol in this programme? 

Values-based banks have an important role to play in addressing the multiple economic, social and environmental crises the world is facing today. Senior managers of values-based banks provide inspiration and serve as role models for others to follow, but not all managers are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to guide their institutions through these challenging times while staying grounded in their values. The GABV Leadership Academy provides them with the personal skills and professional knowledge they need to be effective values-based leaders.

It can also support succession planning so that there is a tier of senior-level managers ready to uphold the values of the bank in executive level positions. For small and medium-sized banks with limited access to career and development opportunities for values-based bankers, this programme provides the opportunity for high-potential managers to grow and advance. Graduates join a growing network of passionate global values-based leaders who are potential collaborators in developing innovative financial solutions to address the triple bottom line. 

What learning and training opportunities does this programme provide to Human Resources departments?

The GABV Leadership Academy provides an outsourced development opportunity from a trusted GABV partner, specifically designed for values-based bankers, that complements any existing in-house Learning and Development programme. Participants deep dive into values-based banking principles and gain best practice insights from leading values-based banks through peer-to-peer learning. Through workshops and individual coaching, participants connect more deeply with their values and learn unique skills to be more effective, compassionate leaders.

Can you describe the programme?  

The core of the programme is three modules with our elite faculty of values-based banking leaders, spiritual teachers, and MIT lecturers. 

Each module contains the teaching of concepts and tools, speakers, reflection spaces and mindfulness and embodiment exercises and practices. Community is an integral part of the programme; therefore, participants can expect an immersive, participatory and peer-to-peer driven experience. 

“The GABV Leadership Academy focuses on personal growth and how to lead with purpose and intention.”

Besides the generic programme, there are other additional elements that will help participants to deepen their learning, such as monthly peer group meetings, 1:1 coaching sessions with a facilitator, mentorship support from the GABV Alumni network or the selection of an individual project about change.  

This is a blended online/in-person programme. How does it work? 

This programme combines two virtual modules with an in-person module. The in-person meeting (second module) will run in parallel to the Annual Meeting of the GABV – hosted by the GABV member bank Amalgamated Bank in New York followed by a retreat to deepen your own leadership work.  

Therefore, participants will be able to dive deep and connect with pioneer Amalgamated Bank and experience a gathering of the global network of values-based banks. This includes Learning Journeys with clients as a way to learn about the broader ecosystem of the member bank. Usually, we visit clients or partners in order to understand how the host bank creates impact. We will move into a retreat on the second part of module two to focus on deep leadership work.  

Who is the GABV Leadership Academy for?  

The GABV Leadership Academy is meant for senior leaders of values-based financial institutions who are passionate about creating impact and helping to deepen the impact of their organisation. This includes executives, senior leaders and leaders from values-based banks – who are committed to growth, creating impact and leading with purpose, mindfulness and compassion.

Participants should have been exposed to leadership for a minimum of 3 years – that includes a (senior) leadership role or leading a complex project.  

The GABV Leadership Academy is intended to be a transformative learning experience where participants should demonstrate a readiness to look inward. They should be open to new ideas and be interested in thinking about innovations in values-based banking. Most important, they should be committed to advancing the ideas and practices of values-based banking.  

What are the requirements for participation? 

The GABV Leadership Academy is designed to be interactive and engaging, providing a safe space for peer learning and for deepening connections to oneself and the other participants. A prerequisite for participation is, therefore, a commitment to attend all the modules and to bring your full attention and experience. This includes being on time, having your computer’s camera turned on, and being willing to share and contribute. The ability to log on from a location without major interruptions is important. 

Can someone outside the GABV network be part of the programme? 

Yes, we do welcome any motivated leader working currently in a financial institution who is passionate about deepening his or her impact.  

Who is facilitating the GABV Leadership Academy? 

It is supported by a team of experts from the Presencing Institute, MIT and the GABV network. At the front of it is MIT lecturer and author Katrin Kaeufer, director of the Presencing Institute, who has dedicated her career to researching values-based banks. Further, the programme draws on a global network of guest speakers and case studies by leading values-based banks. 

What is the general feedback from graduates?  

The feedback is overwhelmingly positive, with people stating that the program changed their lives and the way they approach leadership, innovation and business transformation. We keep in touch with the GABV Alumni group, consisting of more than 200 graduates from the programme. As a network of peers, the GABV Alumni group provides a unique space for learning, knowledge sharing and mutual support to create an impact in their respective organisations. They are, no doubt, our best ambassadors. 

Do you want to learn more about the GABV Leadership Academy? Download the 2023 edition brochure here

Learn more about Sonia’s work in the interview below:

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