Author: publicleadershipfoundation

Small leaders with a big P; why leadership is public

Perhaps you know them from your own experience. From a job you once had, an organization where you are working a bit too hard, a football club where you are training. Or who knows even from the news you are reading: The big leaders who always manage to get into the spot light. Talking big money and getting things done, making great careers, letting other successful people be part of their own success (why give space to failure?). You may wonder sometimes, hearing their stories, what it really is all about? Perhaps even what their contribution is to making the world a better place, apart from all the material stuff for a happy few. We might call them “big leaders with a small P”. Those are the people who often are the leaders, because they want to be, for their own position.

Then, talk to others and ask them whom they see as the ones that truly make a difference in this world. The ones they consider to be an example of great leadership, focusing on a bigger purpose. If you would make a list, it’s probably a safe bet that people like Mandela, Ghandi, Obama and mother Theresa are on it. One by one inspiring people, who have achieved great things, often sacrificing themselves but being able to collect a lot of followers by acting as an example. Leadership for the public good. Those people we might call “big leaders with a big P”. And let’s be honest here; they inspire us, we need them, but they are also a bit out of our league.

That’s why we shouldn’t forget about all those others who on a daily basis work hard on making a difference, too. Those are the other ones we meet, wherever we go. Certainly, they often don’t make it to the news, but they do contribute to our neighbourhood, the classroom, the team at work, or just by providing a hand at the bus stop. By small and sometimes big initiatives that matter to all of us – and undoubtedly to themselves. But never for their own sake or the sake of success itself. Let’s call those people the “small leaders with a big P”. A big P for Purpose. And small, not because they matter less (on the contrary), but because they are the ordinary people – as we all are – who care for the things that simply matter to all of us.

Despite the distinction just made here, this is not about dividing between good and bad leaders. Rather, this is much more a plea for leadership, regardless the formal leader-roles. Leadership we all can show and often do – regardless if we are big or small leaders. That leadership is public leadership. It’s part of our lives – something we meet every day. Just sometimes we have to be more aware and dare a little more. Let’s use and elaborate this leadership, to make a difference, for the public good.

So, definitely, let’s not forget about ourselves and the role we play in leadership. Each in our own way we can be MAD; making a difference. Let’s contribute to the MAD movement. We don’t need to wait for the leaders. We can show public leadership with a big P.


– Ben Kuipers

Vacancy EPIC apprenticeship: enabling future leadership

Public leadership is about adding value in your (work) environment, achieving something in society, for a better world. Small things can make a big difference in any environment. Would you like to experience how you can make that difference? Are you a (master) student or Young Professional and would you like to develop yourself on the four essential aspects of public leadership: Energy, Purpose, Identity and Courage? Join our EPIC apprenticeship from February until June.

General programme

  • March: Insights on EPIC leadership, your own leadership style and your interaction with others
  • April: Creation of a personal development plan and intervision on your goals
  • May: Assignment on inclusive leadership within a governmental organization (input for thesis if needed)
  • June: Defining your own EPIC leadership and presenting your lessons learned

During the apprenticeship a coach will help you reflect on your EPIC leadership.

Availability for 3 to 4 days is needed in April and May.

Experiences EPIC apprenticeship 2017

Lisa van der Heijden: By being EPIC you not only focus on your own actions and competencies but also on these of others around you. By helping and understanding them you can change things and exercise public leadership!

Dahpne Hubert: By being more aware of another person and your ideas about that person, you become more sensitive to your environment and you will be able to build a lasting relationship.

Eline Elsgeest: you don’t need a strictly defined plan for your life and execute it to be EPIC. By knowing yourself and your qualities, your leadership can bloom anywhere.

Yosha van Droffelaar: being EPIC means letting go of all the restricting perceptions you may have about yourself and constantly challenge yourself to grow. By doing this you will find the energy to keep inspiring yourself and others around you.

Want to join our programme?

Please sent your motivation and cv to before 23th of February. Want to know more about the progamme before signing up? Click here or contact Giulietta Marani: 06 29496612. Selection will take place end of January.

Cooperation PLF and BECIS: citizen autonomy in a digital society?

The Public Leadership Foundation and BECIS join forces to organise a Public Leadership Challenge (PLC) in 2018! At this event, themed around the ever growing digital society, professionals, students and academics from various disciplines and backgrounds will show us which kind of leadership is needed to tackle the challenge at hand.

Theme: Autonomy of citizens in the digital society

At this PLC, the impact of technological development on our society will be at the centre of attention. On the one hand, the new digital revolution with breakthroughs in fields like nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, robotics and 3D-printers, is providing us with amazing opportunities. On the other hand, there are questions to be asked! For example, the question of autonomy is getting more pressing since technology is framing more of our decisions. To what extent can citizens develop themselves unhampered when algorithms are nudging and registering our behaviour? People seem to get less critical about the information they consume and share, the web is  (unintendedly) creating bubbles of like-minded people without too much diversity of thought, private and public organisation are actively influencing our behaviour through nudging… Is the freedom of choice and the autonomy of citizens under pressure? In any case, the ever uprising technological development is presenting our society with a challenge: how to ensure the autonomy of citizens in the digital society? This question will be the focus point of the Public Leadership Challenge the PLF and BECIS are organise next spring!

Stay posted!

Interested in the cooperation between BECIS and the PLF and the theme of the upcoming event? Want to join the conversation about leadership in the digital society? Sign up for our newsletter (by sending an e-mail to and keep an eye on our Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook to stay updated!

Relive #MAD2017

Thursday 23 November, just after 1 pm. Moderator Giulietta Marani opens the MAD event by asking the 60 people attending this annual conference on public leadership who considers him- or herself a public leader. The yes- and no-diagram on the screen behind her start growing and when all the votes are in, we see that just over half of all participants don’t see themselves as leaders.

On the 23rd of November, around 60 MAD people gathered at the Timmerhuis in Rotterdam, to join the Public Leadership Foundation’s annual conference on public leadership. And what an afternoon it was! Kick started by an opening vote on who considered him- or herself a public leader (50% of all  participants!), 4 MAD leaders took the stage to pitch on how they Make A Difference through EPIC Leadership:

  • For Energy, Eduard Schmidt shared the story of Stichting Blikverruimers, who are diversifying advisory boards, by promoting the inclusion of young talent. The energy and persistence with which Blikverruimers is breaking open the world of advisory boards provided an exciting kick off of the event.
  • For Purpose, Dutch young civil servant of the year Teun Meulepas pitched his MAD story about the importance of purpose in leadership, illustrated by the stories of people he met on his journey cycling from the Netherlands to Capetown.
  • For Identity, Linde Nieman of the Young Climate Movement explained how her organisation represents the voice of young people in the climate debate, by taking action and presenting their own climate agenda.
  • For Courage, Deloitte’s Louise van Loon inspired the audience with her pitched about the importance of mistakes: to make a difference, you have to dare to fall down once in a while! Or as she put it at the beginning of her pitch: “Chase your sparkle, even if it’s scary and no-one believes in it”.

It was just the beginning of an exciting edition of the MAD event, that continued to inspire us with four different workshops. With topics varying from the use of EPIC leadership while dealing with complex issues like how to create inclusive organisations (Abigail Norville) and finding new innovative ways to tackle societal problems (Louise van Loon) to leading by inspiring (Diantha Spekman), participants applied new ways of leadership thinking to concrete challenges within our organisations and society. Furthermore, a group put their leadership to the test in Eduard Schmidt’s serious game about managing cutbacks in the Dutch prison system.

In the third round, it was time to join the conversation in small scale meeting sessions. Besides the MAD stories of Blikverruimers and the Young Climate Movement, topics like personal leadership development, the importance of purpose in leadership and gender equality were discussed in groups of five to seven people, to share ideas and come up with new insights.

When – at the final wrap up – moderator Giulietta Marani asked the audience the same question as at the beginning of the event, the amount of public leaders in the room had doubled! A clear sign that the stories of MAD leaders taking initiative, the workshops given by our amazing partners and the conversations about being MAD through EPIC leadership managed to inspire all of us to move forward and keep Making A Difference. It made that we as a Public Leadership Foundation look back with excitement: thank you all for making #MAD2017 truly MAD!

Check out more information about the #MAD-event here. The 25th of January the Public Leadership Foundation organises a #MAD Follow-up to further explore MAD Leadership. Contact us by if you want to join this movement!

Check out the photo’s of #MAD2017:

Throw Back to an EPIC Beer & Pizza meeting

On the 3rd of November the PLF board organized an EPIC beer & pizza meeting at De Ceuvel, to brainstorm with MAD people on public leadership and the way the PLF can enable MAD leadership. The venue was well chosen: an award-winning, sustainable planned workplace for creative and social enterprises on a former shipyard in Amsterdam North. On the former shipyard old houseboats have been placed on heavily polluted soil, the workspaces have been outfitted with clean technologies and it has all been connected by a winding jetty. Around the houseboats phyto-remediating plants work to clean the soil. The former industrial plot is a thriving community of entrepreneurs and artists, where all involved have lent a hand to build Amsterdam’s first circular office park.

As said: A perfect place to get together with 10 MAD people and to share & brainstorm about upcoming PLF activities and approaches. Over some beers and delicious pizzas, several topics were considered. A couple of ideas the MAD people shared: during our events they would love to learn from failure: a person that has overcome obstacles is more inspiring than a 100% success story. For the next PLC on digital diversity they would love to  focus on education, singularity or loss of jobs in the future. As a board, we were inspired by the energy and the ideas the MAD people brought to the table. We are looking forward to further develop them. For starters, with the organisation of the Public Leadership Challenge on the inclusive digital society!

Do you want to contribute to the MAD-movement? Come to #MAD2017 or send an email to!

This is just the beginning

Being the energetic and proactive person that she is, Lisa van der Heijden 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. In October OYW 2017 was taking place in Bogotá, Colombia, and guess who went to it? Lisa bloged, vloged and looked back an intense and amazing summit.

“Colombia was amazing and at the same time it startled me. After I got back I got a lot of questions about One Young World Bogota and my answer was the same every time: I don’t know yet. And ever since I have kept this feeling.

One Young World Bogota was amazing, because I got the opportunity to meet all kinds of new people around the globe.  I got to see keynote speakers such as Kofi Annan and Muhammed Yunus. They already have showed that they are MAD and they are known for their actions to build a better world

One Young World Bogota was also eye-opening. People from Afghanistan, Jerusalem, Colombia and Kenia who witnessed the horrors of war first hand. Who actually have seen the terror of hate and its consequences. People who survived genocide or being kidnapped by the guerilla.

One Young World Bogota was also really intense. I have never been known as a woman who cries a lot. But everytime I heard a personal story of a young person who, for example, has seen how his father is murdered in front of his eyes, and still was able to forgive this people, made me cry. A young woman who was going to be killed because of her nationality. Read this sentence one more time: because of her nationality! People are buried alive because of their nationality in Kurdistan. It is something we see as something from the past, but this is not true. The world we are currently living in, is not different from the world we lived in hundred years ago.

One Young World made me realize that we are far away from One World. We are treating people less than ourselves, we are discriminating towards other minds and we don’t respect those with a different religion or background. We do not listen to each other. We only listen to ourselves. And this made me sad, it made me realize that we are no better men than those before us. It made me realize that for achieving One World we have to stop thinking in terms of religion, in terms of language and in terms of boundaries.

Of course, One Young World was not only a sad experience. It also showed that a lot of people are already building a better world. A lot of people are MAD! It is up to us to build a better world, not only for our generation, but also for the ones to come. It is up to us to stop talking and to start listening. It is up to us to solve worldwide problems by thinking in terms of one race: being a human.

I do not know what the future holds, but I do know that I want to contribute. I want to contribute in building a better world by creating a better governance structure in which society, private and public sector are coming together to solve boundary-crossing issues by thinking in terms of unity and letting go the boundaries that have been dividing us all these years.”

– Lisa van der Heijden

Check out more of Lisa’s experiences during One Young World – Bogotá:




Generation or Generalization?

A first step to an inclusive organization

On behalf of the project group we would like to invite you on the 3rd of November to join one of our focus groups in the Hague!

Our research
In this research several parties (FUTUR, Ministry of internal Affairs and Public Leadership Foundation) have collaborated and launched the Generationresearch. The main goal is to get closer to an inclusive organization by mapping the most important working values and motivations of civil servants per generation. By mapping these values, public organizations will be able to use the intergenerational differences in their advantage! The focus is firmly on what meaning is given by the civil servants to the dominant working values and to what extent the public organizations take these values into account

By doing the focusgroups we would like to discover if the stated theories meets the reality. According to the theory babyboomers (1945-1960) are workaholics, generation X (1961-1980) is always skeptical and  generation Y (1981-2000) is demanding and avoiding face-to-face contact. We would like to find out if these stereotypes stroke with reality by discussing these values with you!

Interested by joining the focusgroups or do you have any questions? Please contact

MAD Story: Stichting Blikverruimers

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?

Also have a MAD story you would like to share? Contact us here!


Here we go!

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.

Love, Lisa

Check out Lisa’s first vlog here!

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