Leadership

What is leadership? One means of approaching this question is by noting that leadership is without doubt the most discussed boardroom topic. By far. Everyone has an opinion about their own ‘boss’ and almost as often about – in gaming terminology – the ‘final boss’ : the managing director, or, in a corporate, an executive from the C-suite: a COO, CDO, CIO, CFO, CRO, or ultimately the CEO: the chief executive officer.

In such a conversation about the boss, it is usually about the many facets of leadership. What characteristics make a leader a good leader, a strong and powerful leader, or a mediocre or even arrogant boss? he following assessment is usually made: what is she/he good at, and what is she/he not good at? Many leaders clearly have weak points, but if the strong points sides are strong enough, people will still support ‘their’ leader. At least, that is what psychologists and leadership coaches claim.

Business programmes and management book classicsYou can practice becoming a better leader. Every self-respecting business school and university develops programmes, and hundreds of books and thousands of other publications have been published with the aim of improving leadership skills: by changing or mitigating  the weak points and developing the strong ones. These publications are often eagerly sought after. The classic The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by the American author Stephen Covey has sold more than 25 million copies in 40 languages. The audio version has sold 1.5 million copies. It is no coincidence that this book is a source of inspiration for many leaders.   Leadership is also a major theme for Management Scope. Indeed, Management Scope focuses primarily on the CEOs of Dutch corporate companies and on their stakeholders: those who are in direct contact with the CEO, the C-suite. These include members of the executive committee (the ExCo) but also, for example, a company secretary, the members of the supervisory board or a chief sustainability officer. Increasingly, executives are specialists who occupy themselves with one facet of management. Several authors focus on executive education and on the psychological side of leadership. And on what is known as the ‘boardroom dynamics’: how do you create an efficient leadership team – one in which bodies such as the executive board, executive committee (ExCo) and supervisory board function well and also cooperate well?

Diversity in the boardroomLeadership also shows clear developments. For example, diversity in executive and supervisory boards has been a major theme in recent decades. For some 20 years now, women have been steadily taking up more prominent positions in boardrooms. Management Scope, too, is committed to diversity. Every year Management Scope publishes the Top 100 Corporate Women in the Netherlands, inter alia. The female role models in Dutch management are put in the spotlight through this list.  Another theme is inclusion. How do you ensure that in the top of the organization – as well as in the layers below – there is room for the opinions and thoughts of bicultural and other cultural leaders? Incidentally, this development is absolutely vital. As Dutch society has embraced more and more nationalities and cultures, consumer behaviour is also changing. Companies can hardly get a grip on these social trends unless they themselves embrace different leadership: in other words, inclusion.

Transformational and responsible leadershipLast but not least, the rise of transformational leadership and responsible leadership in the boardroom should be mentioned. The rapid developments surrounding the digital transformation mean that many companies are having to innovate at an ever-increasing pace and even transform their entire business model. Hence: transformational leadership. What leader has the qualities to really take his team on a journey, where existing rules are set aside and innovation is embraced? Change is difficult for everyone. A good leader must not only be able to ‘jump over his own shadow’ but must also be able to do so on behalf of the entire team, undoubtedly assisted by an expert HR department. Workforce management – what kind of people do I have, and what are they capable of, also on a human level? – is becoming increasingly important. Responsible leadership is perhaps the most remarkable trend. Stakeholders increasingly expect companies and other organizations to know and measure their impact on society and even to have a clear purpose, a right to exist.  There is no time to waste for the leaders of our corporates.

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When Sibylle Würthner began her new position as Director People at Dutch-German grid operator TenneT in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, she also found herself in the middle of a major reorganization. ‘If TenneT wants to have a top position in the energy transition in the future, the current way of working no longer works – on many levels.’

Peter Agnefjäll exchanged the CEO position of the world’s most famous Swedish housing giant, IKEA, for the role of Chairman of the Supervisory Board of supermarket group Ahold Delhaize. Agnefjäll discusses his onboarding and the practicalities of his position: ‘It goes beyond formal responsibility alone.’

Sibylle Würthner (TenneT): ‘We Need to Repair the Foundation First’

When Sibylle Würthner began her new position as Director People at Dutch-German grid operator TenneT in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, she also found herself in the middle of a major reorganization. ‘If TenneT wants to have a top position in the energy transition in the future, the current way of working no longer works – on many levels.’

Peter Agnefjäll: 'As a Leader, I Do Not Limit Myself to My Formal Role'

Peter Agnefjäll exchanged the CEO position of the world’s most famous Swedish housing giant, IKEA, for the role of Chairman of the Supervisory Board of supermarket group Ahold Delhaize. Agnefjäll discusses his onboarding and the practicalities of his position: ‘It goes beyond formal responsibility alone.’

Recently I read Jeroen Smit's new book, Het grote gevecht (‘The Big Fight’). The title speaks volumes, because it is a good example of what happens when a CEO no longer listens to his immediate surroundings and what impact this has on mutual relationships. If you isolate yourself as a CEO, are no longer open to the opinions of others and continue to proclaim your own ‘gospel’ with a blind, burning desire, you will become detached from your organization and your organization from you. A purpose resonates only from an inclusive context and this requires a deep understanding of existing relationships. This is the essence of inclusion.

The ‘Great Reset’ after the pandemic asks for bravely facing uncertainty and discomfort, instead of giving in to escape phantasies to alleviate our anxiety. Only if we are ready to welcome reality and take time to reflect, can we remake the world, says Smaranda Boros, Associate Professor of Intercultural Management and Organisational Behaviour at Vlerick Business School.  

Bridging the covert differences in mores, culture and behaviour is decisive for the successful functioning of international boards. The key to this is a thorough introduction, a chairperson who connects people and mutual willingness to build trust.

About the Essence of Inclusion

Recently I read Jeroen Smit's new book, Het grote gevecht (‘The Big Fight’). The title speaks volumes, because it is a good example of what happens when a CEO no longer listens to his immediate surroundings and what impact this has on mutual relationships. If you isolate yourself as a CEO, are no longer open to the opinions of others and continue to proclaim your own ‘gospel’ with a blind, burning desire, you will become detached from your organization and your organization from you. A purpose resonates only from an inclusive context and this requires a deep understanding of existing relationships. This is the essence of inclusion.

Smaranda Boros on How to Prepare for The Great Reset

The ‘Great Reset’ after the pandemic asks for bravely facing uncertainty and discomfort, instead of giving in to escape phantasies to alleviate our anxiety. Only if we are ready to welcome reality and take time to reflect, can we remake the world, says Smaranda Boros, Associate Professor of Intercultural Management and Organisational Behaviour at Vlerick Business School.  

Internationalization of Supervision is a Challenge

Bridging the covert differences in mores, culture and behaviour is decisive for the successful functioning of international boards. The key to this is a thorough introduction, a chairperson who connects people and mutual willingness to build trust.

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