The leadership of relationships

I have developed this conviction over the past few years, and in particular since the COVID crisis, that we had all the conditions to develop an exceptional civilisation. Its main mission will be to solve all of our problems through global collaboration.

And, to this end, one of the first pieces of the puzzle to put together, is to create links between the initiatives that are going in the right direction.

For the force for good, whose role will be to accompany the growth of an exceptional civilisation, this will mean putting the focus on developing quality relationships.

In order to inspire us, I will use the precious recommendations coming from previous sessions of Together-Ensemble, which called for better relationship management.

But before that, there is a point I want to make following yesterday’s article on conflict management. It is that my children, at the end of this weekend’s conflict, have not become the best friends in the world.

Conflict does not act like a miracle. Yet, if it is well managed, it will help to preserve the essential relationship and, to make it a little more resilient.

And this story reminds us that to achieve more and more global collaboration, it will be key to stop damaging essential relationships.

This is why, the most impactful skills in a more benevolent world are the capacity to focus on relationships, and to preserve them at all costs.

This requires from all future co-leaders to develop a form of leadership in their relationships with others.

And to start this new series, we will see how this could be done in the field of work.

Recent studies have shown that positive relationships in the workplace will have a considerable impact on morale, well-being, engagement, satisfaction at work, but also results and innovation.

This is why in our organisations, we need to make a shift of focus from business outcomes, asking from all of us to value more:

  • Social human-centric organisations, which provide support and development opportunities. This requires conviction and courage to build an organisation that is really human-centered and to re-humanize work.
  • A culture of sharing and transparency, valuing responsibility, open attitude, maturity and no dominant individuals.
  • As well as new behaviours, such as openness to ideas, humility towards the perspectives of others, deep listening (which means listening to understand), cross-silo collaboration (vs competition), risk taking. Finally, trust and authenticity (real interactions, dropping of the masks, banning all the buzz words), as well as less politics in favour of strategizing. People responsible and encouraged to take risks for breaking through silos, challenging the traditional ways of working. Value of cross-fertilisation, interdependence and synergies. Teamwork in self-organising teams should be encouraged. It produces even better results due to less formal discussions. A sense of security, we belong, we are being taken care of. As well as of agility, we feel empowered to let go of slow bureaucratic processes or ineffective practices for instance and develop our own solutions. Visibility to positive stories about decentralised and effective leadership.
  • A new role for leaders as facilitators of the power and of the limitations of self-managing teams. Less egocentric management, practicing letting go and humility. Asking questions as the powerful tool to improve management.
  • New forms of contractual relationships emerging between employers and employees. Can the employer reduce fire-fighting, and let necessary time for instance? Can employees feel more accountable about their tasks and the common purpose? Rules and roles which can be (re) negotiated as a flexibility tool. Real discussions need to take place at an early stage. People in projects from A to Z and making them work in a collaborative way. Less Taylorism.
  • Collective meta-thinking and visibility on how a particular work contributes to the higher purpose (more strategic alignment) and, regular open collective reflection on how we work. Making every voice heard. Much more space for the informal, by valuing side-chats and networking (to gain influence), and optimisation of the ‘margins’ of meetings (where a lot of work usually happens). Participatory processes to stimulate critical thinking and, moving from thinking to actions. But also, rewarding the informal and horizontal work.
  • More structures to serve solving our problems and supporting collective growth, instead of making them the rigid end. Removing hierarchical and organisational barriers.

These were some of the outcomes coming from two sessions of Together-Ensemble with about 200 colleagues from the European Union Institutions.

Experts, who contributed on 27 August 2020 on the future of work, were Leandro Herrero, Max Uebe and Michele Zanini. And, on 23 September on the topic of Self-Organising Teams, experts were Céline Schillinger, Alexandre Gérard, Dace Kalnina and Zornitza Venkova.

I will continue providing examples in the coming days on how to develop a form of leadership in our relationships. Follow me as I will discuss future of democracy, of education, of mobility, how to overcome populism, or conversational leadership.

Photo by Castorly Stock on

The bio of the expert speakers can be found below:

Dr Leandro Herrero is the CEO of The Chalfont Project, an international firm of organizational architects. Pioneer of Viral Change, a people Mobilizing Platform in organizations, he is the author of the book, ‘Viral Change™ (2006, 2008) and its follow up ‘Homo Imitans, the art of social infection; Viral Change™ in action’ (2011). He has also written 4 other management books on leadership, change and disruptive management innovation.
Dr Herrero is a psychiatrist by background who, holds a Master’s in Business Administration and is a Fellow of several management bodies, including Executive Fellow at the Centre for the Future of Organization, Drucker School of Management. 

Max Uebe is Head of Unit “Employment Strategy” in the European Commission’s Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, where he focuses on questions around the Future of Work (in particular platform work), youth employment, long-term unemployment and Public Employment Services. 
He has spent more than 6 years in the Cabinets of Commissioners László Andor and Vladimír Špidla (both Commissioners for Employment and Social Affairs).

Michele Zanini is the cofounder of the Management Lab. He was previously an associate partner of McKinsey & Company. Together with Gary Hamel, he has recently written the book “Humanocracy: Creating organisations as amazing as the people inside them”. 
Zanini’s work has been featured in Harvard Business Review, the Financial Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He holds degrees from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and the Pardee RAND Graduate School.

Celine Schillinger is a global Engagement influencer. Celine designs & implements new leadership strategies at a global scale that enable corporate change and boost business value.She has won many awards some of which are the Knight of the French National Order of Merit (2017), Best Achievement of Operational Excellence in Pharmaceuticals & Life Sciences (2017),  40 Women to Watch Over 40 Honoree (2016), Most Impactful Emerging Initiative Award (2015), Best Use of Social Media for Healthcare Award (2014), 

Alexandre Gérard is CEO of Chronoflex, one of the most famous French pioneers currently in the implementation of “freedom-form companies”. In this regard, he is one of the leaders in the field of managerial innovation. In 2009, after being hit hard by the crisis and forced into numerous redundancies, he decided to adopt liberating management. Management putting its employees in a position of freedom and responsibility that allows them to surpass themselves on a daily basis while being happier at work. He is the author of the best-selling book only available in French “Le patron qui ne voulait plus être le chef”.

Dace Kalnina has worked in the European Commission since 2006 (DIGIT, TAXUD). With a solid background in learning and development and expertise in internal communication, she has been working with staff engagement and cultural change questions since 2013.

Zornitza Venkova is an information and communication officer in DG HR, from where she has recently led the Coronavirus Internal Communication Task Force. She has experience in public diplomacy at the national and international level and a long career as a TV journalist covering European and World Affairs.

3 responses to “The leadership of relationships”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: