"Once you understand what drives people, you can coach them much more effectively.”

Strategy & Innovation Leadership

“Opening minds to impact the world”: Jef Van Damme, Alderman in Sint-Jans-Molenbeek, fully embraces the baseline of Antwerp Management School. Looking for a solid theoretical framework to generate even more social impact himself, he ended up in the Master Class Business Strategy & Leadership. It turned out to be a ‘mind-opener‘ in so many, even unexpected ways.


Jef Van Damme has been living in Molenbeek for almost 20 years now. A municipality that is facing numerous challenges but that can equally boast of numerous attractive traits and heartwarming initiatives. As Alderman of Public Works, Municipal Property, and Dutch-speaking Education & Childcare, he works closely together with the Molenbeek public administration. After all, policy-making to him is far from a theoretical exercise: he very much wants to see for himself what impact strategic choices have in practice.

After almost 20 years in the field, I felt the need of getting the fundamentals right.

 That is also one of the reasons why he chose the AMS Master Class Business Strategy & Leadership: “I like to engage with my teams, which means that I’m leading people on a daily basis. But as I studied Law and European Politics at the time, I never really acquired the basics of management theory. So, after almost 20 years in the field, I felt the need to get the fundamentals right and master the theoretical framework. All the more so because I’d like to continue in a management position, apart from my career in politics, preferably in the public sector, so I can keep on creating a positive impact.”

 In his search for a suitable training program he considered various business schools and programs. And although Antwerp was not the obvious choice in terms of distance, yet, he ended up registering at AMS: “Both the program and the approach of the Master Class were a match. At AMS, the public sector is top of mind, it’s not just a marketing trick. Right from the intake interview, you just feel that they really want to engage participants from the public sector. What also appealed to me, is that the program is so broad that it touches on just about all the aspects that matter to me. It’s not just about the numbers, it’s also about coaching and motivating people.”

Creating a positive impact on society, that’s my mission too.

 The AMS baseline, “opening minds to impact the world”, hence is a perfect fit for what Jef Van Damme was looking for: “Creating a positive impact on society, that’s my mission too. And the professors keep coming back to that baseline throughout the entire Master Class. At all times, you are made aware of the fact that an organization is firmly embedded within society and that, as a manager, you can actually change the world for the better. Plus, you are given the necessary theoretical frameworks to do so. That is why, for instance, we reflected on ‘purpose’: once you understand what drives and motivates people, you can coach a team much more effectively.”

 More than one prejudice was busted during the training program: “I just assumed, for example, that motivating people in the public sector is harder than in the private sector because you don’t have as many fringe benefits to offer. But surprisingly, ‘purpose’ turns out to be a more important driver than remuneration. The assumption that sectors are very far apart was also effectively overturned. In the Master Class, you end up in a very diverse group, with people from both the public and the private sector. It gets you out of your comfort zone at first, but along the way, you start to realize that we are all facing similar challenges, such as concern about climate change or the well-being of our teams.”

You could just feel the eagerness to learn from each other.

 The training program also strategically makes room for exchanging ideas and experiences: “The faculty is very dynamic. You get handed a lot of theoretical insights. After each session, my head was just bursting with new concepts and ideas. At the same time, the professors are also very practice-oriented: we got to work on our own cases, went on field trips, etc. There were also very open discussions between professors and participants, both during and in between sessions. Never once were you given the feeling “We know best”. You could just feel the eagerness to learn from each other.”

 The Master Class obviously was a gamechanger: “Because I understand now how an organization works and what motivates people, I can do my job in a different, better way. Mind you, it does require a serious commitment, because you have to squeeze in time in an already jam-packed schedule, but every day, I still apply what I’ve learned, consciously and unconsciously. The fact that everyone always showed up and that no one dropped out, already says a lot about the added value of this Master Class.”

 Curious if the Master Class Business Strategy & Leadership is the right choice for you?

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