From rebel to co-leader

Today is Christmas. For me, this occasion invites me to think about my contribution to the European project. And even more so to develop the deep conviction that moving the lines in whatever direction I take, is the right one. After all, Chrismas is a day for more appreciation.

And so today, after almost 17 years passionate to change a system, which I found unhealthy in a number of ways, I realise that I still have to work on me to increase impact.

From permanent revolt, invaded by doubts, it is high time to be more like Clarice, by trusting my intuitions for good. This is a key condition for becoming a co-leader, which I explained in the article inspired by the film The Silence of the Lambs.

To illustrate how to make that shift of attitude a reality, I need the powerful lessons from the amazing lives of Laetitia Cipollini and Yvonne Montrobert. Stories which also show that the world has been global for quite a long time already (so why even resist it?…).

Laetitia is my great-grandmother and Yvonne, one of the people Laetitia hid in her attic during the second world war. As this story has already been taken up in a book, I will move quickly to the main learning outcomes for us.

And I hope, that thanks to this, you too my dear reader, will be able to move from the challenging position of rebel (damaging both the body and mind, and limiting your power for sustainable impact) to the more desirable position of co-leader, by applying these lessons in your life.

1/ What we learn from Laetitia’s story

Laetitia was originally from Vinci (Italy), when she arrived in Nice (France) at the age of 16. She was hired as a maid at the Grand Hotel. And, it was there that she met the cook, Marius Carayol, who later on became her husband.

The little pretty shepherdess from Leonardo Da Vinci’s hometown, and the Auvergne chef would quickly have many children (eight I think), would open a fish shop near Beziers, until the death of the young head of the family, following his wounds from the Great War.

As a widow, left alone to take care of a large family, she would do everything possible to give her children the best values, including those of equality and freedom. And so, during the war of 39-45, as Jews everywhere were persecuted, Laetitia did not hesitate to hide in her attic:

  • A married couple, Sam Schwitza; polish jew and Yvonne Monrobert
  • A Jewish child, Edmond Cohen, who later on published the book “Berger parmi les justes”
  • My grandfather, André Carayol, who was hiding from the enlistment and deportation to Nazi Germany (I will do a post about him at a later stage if you want, because there are also many powerful lessons we can learn from his life).

Find below the main lessons from Laetitia’s fight for freedom:

  • Even with the most difficult financial situation, living in a small village when at any minute, someone could have denounced her, she took all the risks to defend her sense of alignment. She could not find any excuse not to stand up for her core beliefs.
  • Her sense of deep responsibility led her to ride tens of kilometers every day to buy food in other villages to go unnoticed, in addition to her work as fishwife. She never made her guests think they were a burden, and her house was full of laughs, despite a terrible context. For her, it was her decision to save them from death. It was therefore normal that she would do everything possible to achieve her goal without complaining, even once, of the difficulties that this brought.
  • And the most powerful lesson from her was to always seek to move from conviction to action in order to stay aligned with core values, thus happy. We should never escape action. Especially positive action.

All families impacted by the beautiful gesture of Laetitia, are obviously still in contact today, creating in all of us a feeling of common fate. Laetitia Cipollini (translated in English by “small onions”) is now on the wall of the righteous.

And now let’s move to Yvonne, Sam’s wife, and what I learnt from her make up routine, with her panties on her head.

2/ What we learn from Yvonne’s story

Yvonne was the granddaughter of Severine, famous journalist and close to Jules Vallès. After a first failed marriage with the son of the mayor of Brussels (Belgium), she met her second husband and the love of her life, Sam Schwitza, a Polish jew. And as you know now, they were both saved from certain death by Laetitia.

Since I had the chance to live close to Yvonne many years later; during my childhood, the memory that I keep of her is that of a woman who all her life fled the conventions to live her happiness. And this, very far from all that one could think of her.

And never have I seen a woman who could keep a stiff upper lip like this. So when she walked around the house with her panties on her head, which she thought was a powerful hair band for her make up routine…. Yes, even with her large and ugly panties on her head, Yvonne was a lady.

For me, a curious little girl, watching her take so much happiness in caring for her until her death at almost 90 years old was such an inspiration. But there are more powerful lessons of course to take from Yvonne’s panties.

  • She made of every small routine a moment of great joy and beauty. And she was always available to pause for great conversations. In fact, we could almost read in this long exotic routine (it could sometimes last the whole morning), an invitation to connect at a deep level. It is also possible that this activity was for her the source of her growth mindset and unwavering inner confidence.
  • Because she was never ashamed to stand up for her tastes and different way of life, she could gain our total respect.
  • No matter how weird her practices looked to us, they were not defining her negatively. On the contrary they were making her even more beautiful and lovable.
  • Overall, her most valuable insight was never to feel uncomfortable with our personal tastes and our difference. And, be proud of all those little habits that make us a better human being every day (e.g. more focused, creative, etc.) – as long as they do not self-harm or harm others.

As we will continue to be in the dream for the next few weeks, I will try to provide many anecdotes in the same vein. The story continues… Feel free to share with all of us your own anecdotes on Twitter or Facebook, and let’s extract powerful learnings from them.. There are so many seeds of wisdom coming from our ancestors.

Together with the blog posts on the Dream, they will prepare us for the powerful conversations to discuss the necessary transitions, we saw in the “Alternative Change Strategy” article.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on

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