Building Sustainable Legacies


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30 Things I Learnt while Staying in Paris for a Month

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An illustration of continuous leadership education: the executive monastery

Executives have different needs at different times. These include traditional executive training in leadership, management or business skills. A relatively under-estimated need is the possibility to retreat from the day-to-day demands and action and to reflect on the past to crystallize lessons learned and critical considerations and adaptations for the future. We call it the Executive Monastery!

The Executive Monastery forms an integral part of the management school of the future. It offers a space to reflect on professional and personal achievements and challenges with the possibility to digest and integrate experiences and to prepare for new challenges. Imagine a place, not unlike a real monastery, a safe and sacred space with archways providing shade for walks and reflection, with emptiness in the middle, often enriched with elements of nature, surrounded by a building that offers amenities (rooms and food) and inspiration (libraries) integrated into the surrounding walls. As such, it welcomes professionals for retreats of a duration of their choice, offering them a powerful and safe space of emptiness that is held for them by a variety of supporting services around them: coaches and facilitators are available when necessary, there are personal development workshops, a library with inspirational material in all current media forms, spaces for silent retreats, as well as common moments of yoga, meditation, sports, singing, working, cooking, eating and sharing in general.

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From top to bottom: Sanahin Monastery, Armenia, Sucevita Monastery, Romania


How to become a leader?

I have always been fascinated how leaders are “brought forth” by circumstance. Something out of the ordinary occurs – an accident, a coincidence, a conflict, an opportunity – and you see people step up and start doing what needs to be done. Such leaders who hold no formal power or authority express what I believe true leadership is about: the courage to fully engage with all we have – our acquired and dormant skills, competencies, fears and uncertainties – if and when the situation requires it. It may well be that such leadership makes the headlines once in a lifetime only, but I have noticed that there are countless opportunities every day before, during and after work that invite us to practice this kind of leadership that I call “personal responsibility”. This makes all of us potential leaders.

Imagine if each of us would dare to engage fully if and when the situation requires it! Daring to make a mistake, to shake things up and maybe to step on some toes; not to show off or to manipulate, but simply because you know what is required to happen and, since you are there, it is up to you to step up. And this is where it gets interesting: how do you know what to do, how to be and whether to engage in a situation or not?

Is it indeed possible to learn such kind of a enlightened courage? I believe, you can! You can learn to be connected to your inner quiet voice, you can learn to sense what is right and what feels wrong, you can learn to differentiate between your own subconscious autopiloted fear mechanisms and your true values-based intuition, you can learn to find that voice and speak up. Such learning resembles more of a journey than a 3-day executive course. It requires practice and reflection.

It is possible to create powerful and safe learning environments to develop not only your courage to step up but to develop your full potential so that you can engage with a maximum of resources that you have. And if we as business schools were doing what is required of us right now, this is – in my humble view – what we should be doing: developing globally responsible leaders equiped to deal with the emerging societal, economic and environmental challenges so that all of us can live well and within the limits of out planet.