Opening minds. Touching souls. Energizing business. That’s what Antwerp Management School stands for. As a business school, energizing business is, of course, a goal. Opening minds is also obvious. How can your mind not be opened after numerous classes and field trips? But what about touching souls? Associate Dean Jesse Segers argued at the graduation of the Master in China-Europe Business that, while touching souls is facilitated during the program, it’s after graduation that it really starts to take effect. He shared his perspective with the help of leadership insights by Professor Gianpiero Petriglieri.
The current generation of recent graduates is called “nomadic professionals” or “Generation Flux,” because they never stay in a position for long. “Nomadic professionals are people whose careers are very mobile and often unfold across organizations and sectors and cultures – and yet, at the same time, for whom work is actually very self-defining, very important to who they are. They are often portrayed as winners in the field of work. They are the talent that companies fight for. They are the people who are going to be the ‘global leaders’ of tomorrow,” (Petriglieri, 2014).
"Although they are small in number, nomadic professionals have an enormous influence on the evolution of business."
In fact, only a small group of people are nomadic professionals. Many graduates of international programs will strive to become part of this small group as their education has prepared them for an international life. And although they are small in number, nomadic professionals have an enormous influence on the evolution of business.
However, being a nomadic professional will challenge your credibility as a future leader. The Edelman Trust Barometer of 2017 once again showed a decline in CEO credibility in all participating countries. Today, on average only 37% of CEOs are considered very credible. There is a disconnection between leaders and their followers.
"Today, on average only 37% of CEOs are considered very credible. There is a disconnection between leaders and their followers."
While leaders’ reference points are the global economy and their nomadic peers, followers are much more locally focused. “Followers often feel neither understood nor represented by those so-called leaders. Elites who have this nomadic existence are often perceived as impermeable. And when leaders have an existence that is undesirable and inaccessible, they get resentment, not trust,” (Petriglieri, 2014).
One way to solve this credibility issue is by making sure your people want to follow you. For that, you must be perceived as committed and not as someone who will be there for just a few years and vanish as soon as another challenge appears. In order to show commitment, you will have to suffer a loss. You will have to give up your mental and sometimes physical nomadic existence to show you take the job and your people seriously. Otherwise, you will lose your followers and therefore your identity as a leader. (Petriglieri, 2014).
"In order to show commitment, you will have to suffer a loss (...) to show you take the job and your people seriously."
Nomadic professionals gain their identity by living in several countries and therefore becoming more creative and culture-conscious. A lot of your peers live the same kind of life, and you may be attached to the endless possibilities this offers you. You had to go through this process to become a global leader, but it’s not what your followers need from you. “While becoming a leader may require you to demonstrate flexibility and mobility and all that, being a leader requires you to demonstrate commitment. And flexibility and commitment are relatively strange bedfellows,” (Petriglieri, 2014).
"While becoming a leader may require you to demonstrate flexibility and mobility and all that, being a leader requires you to demonstrate commitment."
Leaders need to find a place where they can come home to, where they can find the peace to recharge their batteries. This, however, doesn’t have to be a physical place. When you’re able to find it within yourself, it gives you the energy to stay connected to yourself and your followers in an even more committed way. It’s not only about the physical but also about your emotional presence. As a result, a true global leader is able to live between a local and a global home and not use one to escape the other.” (Petriglieri, 2012)
When Thich Nhat Hanh was forty, he traveled to the US to share his insights into the suffering of the Vietnamese people caused by the Vietnam War. Because of suspicion from both the Vietnamese and US governments, he fled to France. He stated that he found his true home in himself because he didn’t belong to any country. For years, he kept dreaming about his home country. At a certain point this stopped, as a result of the very intense spiritual process he was going through. “The feeling that we are not accepted, that we do not belong anywhere and have no national identity, can provoke the breakthrough necessary for us to find our true home.”
"For international leaders, this means that a person can only become a leader when he or she has found his or her “inner” home."
For international leaders, this means that a person can only become a leader when he or she has found his or her “inner” home. This is the only way that he or she can connect sincerely to his or her people. When you’re truly present with your people when you meet them, because you really see their value, capabilities and needs and you’re genuinely interested in them, you can be accepted as their leader.
Achieving this new identity isn't only about winning or changing things. It's also what you consciously leave behind as a person that makes your identity as a leader. Maybe you will have to choose to stay in one place, in the here and now, for a while. “So don’t shy away from loss. Don’t be afraid to give up your [mental] nomadic existence at a certain point. But do make sure it isn’t a simple loss. Make it a sacrifice, a loss for a bigger purpose. (Petriglieri, 2014) That's why you should embrace the struggle to achieve your identity as global leader. Make your choices conscious and meaningful.
 A Vietnamese Buddhist monk, poet and human rights activist who was a source of great inspiration to Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.
"Don’t be afraid to give up your (mental) nomadic existence at a certain point. It's also what you consciously leave behind as a person that makes your identity as a leader."