Management: CEOs were far from stuffy at this week’s British chamber talk.
Photo: Steve Eastwood
“I will not give too much advice, because I too, am still learning,” said Jean-Marc Crepin. He has worked in the financial services industry for more than 20 years and is now the head of the Brown Brothers Harriman office in Luxembourg. Crepin was speaking at the British Chamber of Commerce’s CEO forum, “A dynamic exchange about leadership with the persons behind the title”, where indeed his advice was solicited.
Despite not having a full turn out, the small audience was extremely enthusiastic. Broadly speaking, the chiefs concluded that leadership is not always at the top of an organisation and can be found in many unexpected areas.
Monica Jonsson, founder of the coaching firm CoachDynamix, who served as the forum’s moderator, kicked off the discussion by inviting the four speakers to define leadership.
“Leading without a title”
Marie-Hélène Massard, who has been the CEO of AXA in Luxembourg for more than three years, set the tone for the discussion by defining true leadership as “leading without a title”. She explained that often leadership is not hidden in the title of the manager but in the character and experiences of a person.
Crepin was probably the most disarming of all four. Everything about his appearance and stature suggested at first that he is a ruthless businessman.
But this facade quickly faded away as he divulged details of a session with a psychologist that had successfully convinced him that in order to really excel as a leader, he must be more emotional. Through the use of a box analogy to describe how we compartmentalise our feelings, he reasons that: “sometimes we need to make holes in our boxes, to allow for emotions. Only then can we become better leaders.”
Drawing links between his own career in the national football team and his career as managing director of the retailer Cactus Group, Laurent Schonckert spoke earnestly from the heart. He explained that the key to happiness and success within a company is that: “you have to understand why you do what you do. Which direction is this company moving in and how does my role enable that?”
The light-hearted and personable discussion continued. Edith Magyarics joined the Bank of New York Brussels in 1991 in the income department and left the firm as a manager of the short term investment funds team by the year 2000. She is now CEO of Victor Buck Services, which provides communication and document services to the financial sector.
Magyarics spoke passionately about the importance of the younger generation within a corporation. “Young people can teach you a lot. When my generation started working, we did as we were told and we rarely knew more than our superiors. But nowadays, young people grow up with things like Wikipedia and social media, they have a lot to teach us too.”
Massard then added that at her company: “fresh graduates are invited to the firm regularly to teach our management, including our CEO and COO, how social media works and how we can utilise it.”
Following the panel talk, during the networking cocktail, Alison Macleod, chairman of the BCC, told Delano that: “I felt incredibly inspired by the way different things and different topics were raised during the conference, but that everyone could agree on the main points that define true leadership.”
“It was so refreshing to hear individual reflections from CEOs and their willingness to share with us their true stories was what made it so interesting,” stated Yvonne O’Reilly of Avanteam.
Jules Muller of BT said: “Best of all, it was assuring to hear that a crucial element of business and leadership is to have fun! Something that our own CEO reminds us of all the time.”