For this MAD story, we took to the rooftop of the Amsterdam public library to interview two interesting people from Stichting Blikverruimers. This foundation actively contributes to more young people in supervisory boards in the Netherlands and will be joining us on our MAD event, later this autumn. We discussed public leadership with two of the board members, Nienke and Samuel, of this groundbreaking organisation. We asked them questions about the organisation, about the ambitions of the overall foundation, and about their personal motivation.
What is stichting Blikverruimers?
Blikverruimers is a foundation that promotes and contributes to more diversity in supervisory boards in the Netherlands. We are especially aiming to see more young people in supervisory boards, because in our opinion, the current members of many supervisory boards are quite old and therefore they do not represent an organisation and society as a whole. With more young people, there is more diversity.
We train talented young professionals to join supervisory boards in order to diversify the boards. We educate our candidates through our academy and we give them the opportunity to do a so-called traineeship with a supervisory board of an organisation of their interest. We connect the young professionals with experienced supervisory board members and they receive special courses and seminars in order to prepare them to be part of a supervisory board. Then the young professionals can undertake a traineeship at one of the supervisory boards under the supervision of the experienced board member.
Nienke emphasizes the importance of those traineeships: It’s so valuable to undertake a traineeship. I have experienced this myself as a participant of the program of Blikverruimers. During the training sessions you learn about supervisory boards, but when you undertake the internship, you really see how a supervisory board is working. That is so valuable. If you are interested in being a member of a supervisory board, you already have some experience from the internship. Plus normally you cannot even gain this experience at such a young age. It is generally impossible for young people to join a supervisory board. You learn so much from your mentor, from other supervisory board members and from the courses.
Barely anyone of 26 can say they have been part of a supervisory board. We have one girl in our organisation and she became a member of a supervisory board when she was 21. We have to say, though: she is an extreme exception. Normally this is absolutely not the case.
What is the mission of Blikverruimers?
Essentially we want to make a social contribution by connecting young professionals and seniors with each other and improve the societal view and role of organisations. And with that we are really innovative. No one else attempted to do this yet. Diversity is key in our organisation.
How many young professionals joined your organisation?
The first year, we had 11 participants. This year we already have 20 participants. But many more people applied to be part of this program, so we had to make a strict selection. We have 5 criteria on which we base our selection process: You need to have working experience from 3 up to 10 years. This is the period where you are still exploring your professional life and you can still be surprised by things that are considered normal by older professionals. We require you to be socially involved and you need to be able to demonstrate this. Besides, you have to be enterprising and ambitious. You need to be creative and you need to have strong reflective capabilities. And there are so many people out there who fulfil all these requirements. So the selection process is really hard for us.
Everyone within our organisation has a strong drive to improve the world. That is a significant characteristic of our organisation and it is key to its success.
How did you find members of supervisory boards?
That actually went surprisingly well. People are really willing to work together with us in order to change something in the supervisory boards of the Netherlands. We also received a lot of attention from different media outlets.
What did you think would be the biggest burden in making this organisation bigger?
We thought it would be hard to find supervisory boards where they would be open for traineeships. However, when we had found the first board, more organisations started to offer us traineeship places.
The administrative world is still a very conservative world though. It is a job that mostly is executed by people who already had a long career. To break those habits is our job.
What are the next activities for Blikveruimers?
In September we start our academy again!
What are the future steps of Blikverruimers?
We want to run our academy on a yearly base, but we will probably not extend the academy too much. We work to see a handful of people in supervisory boards after passing our courses and to create a network in which knowledge sharing and innovation are key.
What would you advise the young professionals interested to participate in the program? And what would you advise the older ones?
For the younger ones: if you fit all five of our criteria, please apply to our program. We do not really have to motivate you anymore if you apply to those criteria. For the seniors who are already members of supervisory boards: please be open minded and dare to work with young professionals and to teach and coach the young professionals. And challenge yourself! Your experience is very valuable.
Stichting Blikverruimers will be present at our MAD event on 23th of November, where you will hear more about their ambitions, social contribution and inspiring leadership. Blikverruimers will contribute to the plenary session of the event, but also facilitate one of the more intimate break out-sessions where you can discuss public leadership and your contribution to society with representatives of this very inspiring organisation. See you there?
Lisa’s first vlog from One Young World Bogota, Colombia
Being the colorful, energetic and proactive person that she is, Lisa van der Heijden (in the red shirt) was one of our very first EPIC apprentices. During her apprenticeship the Public Leadership Foundation (PLF) linked her to One Young World(OYW). OYW is a UK-based charity that brings together the brightest young leaders from around the world during a annual summit, empowering them to make lasting connections to create positive change. Next year the summit will take place in The Hague and we are hoping to play an active role. But before that OYW 2017 is taking place in Bogotá, Colombia next week, and guess who is going? And she’s going to vlog and blog for the PLF!
Time flies. It only seems like yesterday that I received the news that I will be one of only 12 ambassadors to represent The Hague during this year’s One Young World Summit in Bogotá, Colombia.
PLFs core mantra about Making A Difference, or being MAD, really hits home! During the first conversation with OYW they immediately reacted enthusiastically to the whole MAD idea, and my fellow ambassadors decided to use MAD as the main theme during our presentation in the Peace Palace last week. The media asked why we had made this choice, and this is just the beginning of everything. I love every minute of this experience and I love being MAD.
I can’t believe that I will be on a flight to Bogota this week. That I will be on board a KLM Dreamliner on my way to a country that’s so different from ours, and where public leadership may be even more challenging then here. Public leadership demands courage, and this courage is context specific. How do you show courage? In Colombia, safety and freedom of speech have not always been taken for granted. It’s a place that has experienced more than its fair share of challenges, and people who used to be enemies are now working together on a solution. Working together making the country a better place to live and to thrive. Precisely the people who used to be on different sides in conflict now need to have the courage to let the past be the past and embrace each other in the interest of the country and its people.
I look forward to meeting fellow MAD people from around the world. I look forward to hearing all their MAD stories, but at the same time I am scared. I feel fear of the fact that we sometimes have a filter in our head that normalises what is not normal. A filter that makes us unable to feel the grief, pain, and horrors that is so real to so many people out there. But in a couple of days someone representing different realities and pain will stand in front of me in the person of a young leader who is able to tell her challenge in front of the entire world. Real challenges that are not comparable with the ones in The Netherlands.
We are going to Colombia to Make a Difference. We are all going there to be MAD! But what is really required to make a difference is my question? It starts with dialogue, engaging in conversations with people I have yet to meet in Bogota. It’s about listening, watching what’s happening in the world. It’s about a hand on someone’s shoulder. Together we will connect. We will do our best to work together across borders, nations, cultures, religions, politics and ideologies, and together we will make the world a little bit better.
No matter how many sessions we have in preparation for this trip we will never really be fully prepared for the One Young World summit. But, we are ready to take on what comes our way. We are ready to listen, to share and to be open minded. Confronted with issues of war, hunger and prosecution, I appreciate all the people who are prepared to take on the responsibility of showing public leadership. I admire their courage because these people are really MAD!
Making A Difference is not easy. It’s a constant process of connecting and working with others. One Young World Bogotá is only the beginning for me. The beginning of something very beautiful.
Check out Lisa’s first vlog here!
“In 2015, the NVVB, Erasmus University and FUTUR took the initiative to organize a MAD event. Approach; How do we motivate as many people as possible to make a difference to their environment, institute or society and thereby to discover and learn their own leadership skills. The result was an energetic and inspiring day with students, (young) professionals and academics who came together and shared experiences.
This day gave so much enthusiasm that we decided to continue the movement and establish the Public Leadership Foundation. Meanwhile, the movement has grown into a serious Public Leadership Forum with professionals in or around the public sector, students and the scientific world who work together to make a difference.
I consciously say a difference and not the difference. If you have the dream to change the whole world tomorrow, you will quickly get out of energy and get disappointed. Any small difference in your immediate area is a step forward. A colleague who helps you in advance, a family member who helps you or just someone on the street who needs a smile. Just remember, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.
In recent years, I have been able to contribute to a few of these small steps, by connecting people or just challenging them. The foundation has grown with new members help develop the movement to the next level. From my new working context at Disgover, I continue to make a difference for an even more beautiful world. Although I “formally” leave the board, I continue to support the MAD movement. Also by making (small) differences; by sharing my umbrella with someone who has forgotten his or hers; by challenging my colleagues to pushing boundaries; by continuing to learn and to be inspired by others. Do you join the MAD movement!?”
– Florus van der Linden
The Young Climate Summit is one of the guestspeakers during MAD2017. Get a sneak preview on their story (in Dutch, subtitles available)
The Public Leadership Foundation is proud to announce that this year’s MAD event will be held on the 23rd of November! #MAD2017 is all about getting inspired to be MAD (Make A Difference) in our lives, institutions, and society as a whole. The purpose of this annual event is to bring students, (young) professionals and academics together to connect and learn from each other and get inspired to show public leadership.
- For students, (young) professionals and academics
- About Making a difference through EPIC leadership (Energy, Purpose, Identity and Courage)
- On 23rd of November, 12:00 to 18:00 pm
So what to expect? During the event, you can join the conversation in small-scale meetings, get inspired by the MAD stories of other public leaders or put your own leadership skills to the test in a serious game. Check the sneak preview of one of our guest speakers: the Young Climate Summit.
Are you ready? Come share your MAD story on the 23rd of November and subscribe here! (By the way; there will be no entrance fee, because inspiration is for free)
My name is Yosha van Droffelaar and I am currently doing an internship at the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom relations and I am also one of the apprentices at the PLF. One of the projects I’m working on is the generation research.
Reflection Focus Groups
There was a pleasant ambiance as the participants of the first focus groups of our Generation Research slowly began to consume the breakfast we catered in the early morning silence at the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom relations. Despite the fact that it is always difficult to make statements based on a small number of participants, that particular morning of May 18th I nevertheless noticed that the outlined generation profiles appeared to closely match that which the focus groups revealed. And although our objective is to question generalisations, a first impression of the focus group would, for example, suggest to me that generation Y corresponds well with the generational ‘stereotype’: creativity, authenticity, openness and innovation are of great importance to them. Yet, they also, seem to decidedly dislike status, contrary to expectations. I wonder though if this was not just a socially desirable answer.
Where generation X mainly left a pragmatic and realistic impression, generation Y and the babyboomers appeared to have a more idealistic mindset. Generation Y and the babyboomers mostly care about the same values: meaningfulness, creativity and innovation. This in contrast to generation X, where values such as solution mindedness, growth and development took center stage.
Notably, amongst the babyboomers values such as cooperation and connecting stood out. In the context of connection it is worth noting that all three generations indicate to greatly value meaning and significance. This provides an interesting starting point for the continuation of our research, since every generation is likely to interpret these values differently.
Tensions and Stereotypes
Although we will only further explore the possible existence of intergenerational tensions during future focus groups, I noticed that about generation Y especially negative statements were made. Generation Y would be lazy and pampered, not used to working hard, individualistic and rude.
American author and researcher Jessica Kriegel confirms that persistent stereotypes chiefly exist with regard to generation Y (Vleugels, 2016). Surprisingly, Kriegel set out to demonstrate that millennials are fundamentally distinct from other generations with her thesis. She discovered, however, that there was no consensus whatsoever, and that many conclusions were based on assumptions, not on actual differences. Kriegel goes as far as to suggest we should stop using terms as ‘millennial’ and ‘babyboomer’ altogether. According to her, these labels are tainted by negative stereotypes, and moreover legitimise age discrimination (ibid.).
Occupational psychologist and emeritus professor Human Resource Studies Rob Vinke, on the other hand, suggests that the distinction between different generation is not a problem in itself, but that the focus on negative characteristics is one all the more. Vinke asserts that organisations can only function optimally when the pros and cons of each generation are known. His advice is therefore to strive for sufficient diversity within your organisation (Vleugels, 2016). Our research adopts a similar conviction.
However, there also exists a counter-message concerning generation Y. Nadine Ridder (2017), for example, discloses, in reaction to the frequently expressed negativity, that generation Y does not think that highly of themselves at all. Luckily, we are more or less done with the ancient Dutch ‘doe maar normaal, dan doe je al gek genoeg’ [just act normal, that is weird enough already] mentality. Generation Y has learned that a bit of confidence helps a person get further in life, and that we prefer to reflect on ourselves so as to continue growing and developing. ‘This self-reflection and online validation gets often associated with egocentrism, since we are busy with ourselves all day. That is correct, because we were taught: a better world starts with yourself’, said De Ridder (ibid.). Additionally, she expresses that generation Y is not pampered, instead they achieve great things at a young age, because they believe in theirselves thanks to positive stimulus from their parents. Ridder concludes by saying that the discussion now is mostly about dealing with millennials in the workplace, whilst the question people should actually ask themselves is: ‘How do I, as a non-millennial, learn to survive in a millennial-world?’ ‘We millennials need our doubtful mentality in life: in an ever-changing society we have no idea what the world will look like in a few years time’ (ibid.).
Although there is no consensus on generation theory here either, there is nonetheless plenty to think about. It is important that we continually reflect on any assumptions and that we are aware of the influence of above-mentioned stereotypes.
Do you want to engage in (new) public leadership activities? Are you a communication talent with experience in WordPress?
The Public Leadership Foundation (PLF) is looking for a ‘Firesoul’ with great communication & wordpress skills to strengthen our movement!
The purpose of the PLF is to encourage, identify, develop and support leadership in the public sphere. We are setting out to be MAD (Making A Difference) through EPIC leadership (Energy, Purpose, Identity and Courage).
The PLF is a young and ambitious foundation. We want to anchor public leadership in society by connecting public, private and third sectors based on shared purpose. Last year we organised multiple events and gave workshops at several congresses. This year the first (four) EPIC Apprentices started with their development program. Next year we want to continue growing, both in The Netherlands and Europe. Therefore, we need YOU!
We are looking for someone who can:
- Develop our website, publicleadership.foundation
- Bring our communication to the next level!
- Get energy from developing websites
- Want to contribute to the MAD Movement?
- Communicate with courage
And are you:
- A communication-talent (to be)
- Looking for an ambitious platform and an energetic team to work in?
Than we really would like to meet you!
Corinne Sol (+31 6 52390763) can tell you everything about the PLF and especially this position.
Note: A version of this text was published as a comment by PLF Chairman Rune Todnem By in The Sentinel newspaper (UK) on the 20th June 2017 under the title ‘Leadership is all about being MAD and EPIC.’
Every time there is a crisis we talk about the need for strong leadership, and since there is always a real or looming crisis we find ourselves obsessing about this topic. Often assuming that formal leaders perform ‘leadership’, we obsess about Theresa May, Mark Rutte, Barrack Obama, Donald Trump, Jose Mourinho, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and others. We obsess about our own bosses and politicians, and as on the topic of football managers many of us believe we can do a better. However, obsessing about formal leaders only takes the focus away from leadership which is not solely the responsibility of individuals at the top. Furthermore, obsessing about others only takes the focus away from you and me.
When I was two years old, James McGregor Burns suggested that although we know all too much about our leaders, we know far too little about leadership. I am now 41 and this situation has hardly changed as we continue to obsess about individuals. Either individuals we don’t want to be like, or individuals we would like to emulate. However, true leadership is no more predetermined by being like someone else than by age, gender, experience, physical stature, sexuality, nationality, level of education, income, wealth or cultural background. We don’t need a title or someone’s permission to lead. Nor do we have to be charismatic extroverts. In fact, we don’t even have to set out to be leaders in order to provide leadership. Many formal leaders don’t provide leadership, and many who do provide leadership don’t necessarily perceive themselves as leaders. All it takes – and I mean ‘all it takes’ – is for you to be you, and me to be me. All it takes is for us to step up to the responsibility of making our relationships, families, workplaces, local communities, institutions, nations and globe better than what they already are. Leadership is all about the ability and willingness to step up.
So, how do we do this? How do we ‘step up’ as Professor Rosabeth Kanter at Harvard Business School puts it? There is a whole industry out there making a good living of leadership development. Whilst scholars have used tons of published papers identifying leadership traits and categorising leadership approaches, consultants have spent hundreds of thousands of invoiced hours providing leadership advice. Still, we are no better off. Hence, I suggest that when it comes to leadership there is only one right way, and that is our own way. Not Theresa’s, Mark’s, Barrack’s, Donald’s, Jose’s, Steve’s, or Richard’s. Ours.
Here at the Public Leadership Foundation we are facilitating for an individual approach to identifying, developing and supporting emerging leaders. This approach can be summarised by two words: MAD and EPIC. We simply suggest that leadership is all about being MAD – Making A Difference. This is the sole purpose and key ingredient of leadership. If you are not MAD you are not a leader in our book. The way to true MADness goes through EPIC leadership. It’s about embracing and developing our individual Energy, Purpose, Identity, and Courage. It’s about knowing who and why we are. It’s about exploring who we want to be and what we want to achieve. It’s about believing in ourselves and others. It’s about challenging our very own comfort zones and taking risks.
The beauty of it is that we can all be MAD. No one has a MADness monopoly. We can all be Making A Difference to our relationships, our families, our workplaces, our local communities, our institutions, our nations, and our globe. Sometimes all that is required is a word of inspiration, support or correction. Sometimes all that is required is to start college or university. Sometimes all that is required is not to litter. Sometimes all that is required is to take on the responsibility of making something happen. To stop talking and start doing. If we want cleaner streets, let’s clean them up. If we want better education for our children, let’s educate them. If we are not happy at work, look for alternatives. And, if we don’t agree with our politicians, let’s create change.
However, too often we decide to moan and abdicate from the responsibility of Making A Difference… We like to moan as much as the next, but moaning for more than five minutes a day makes us worse than those we moan about. Let’s take back control of our lives and futures. Let’s make sure there is only one side to our beds before getting up in the morning, and that is the right side. What is essential for our individual wellbeing and leadership responsibility is to take control. Imagine there are three circles. One inside of the other. The inner circle represents what we can control as individuals and groups. The middle circle represents what we can influence. The outer circle represents all that we can’t currently control or influence. There is of course no point moaning for too long about the weather being too cold or too hot, because we don’t have divine powers. There is no point in worrying about ever-declining hairlines or wrinkles. Doing so will not as if by magic make the hair grow back or the wrinkles to vanish. So, let’s focus on areas where we can make a decision or influence someone else’s. Let’s focus on growing these two inner circles of control and influence.
When talking about leaders, we are referring to leadership. When talking about leaders, we are referring to you. So, when we are saying “We need MAD leaders!”, what we really mean is that we need you, Making A Difference.