Interview: Dr Pierre Casse, Leadership Chair, IEDC-Bled School of Management; Professor, Moscow School of Management (Skolkovo-Russia)

Author: Tina Drolc, MBA

Dr Pierre Casse is the Leadership Chair at IEDC-Bled School of Management and a professor at the Moscow School of Management (Skolkovo-Russia). He spent five years in Africa as a sociologist, 18 years with various International organizations (OECD, FAO, World Bank) and has been a Business School professor at IMD (Switzerland), Kellogg (Chicago), Solvay (Brussels), IEDC (Slovenia) and SKOLOKOVO (Moscow). He is a social entrepreneur, has created his own foundation in Belgium, published about 15 books and has been a consultant to many organizations. On the occasion of IEDC’s Annual Presidents’ Forum 2021, which celebrated the 35th anniversary of IEDC-Bled School of Management, he received a Doctor Honoris Causa Award.

IEDC’s Annual Presidents Forum 2021 is celebrating the 35th anniversary of IEDC-Bled School of Management. How would you describe the role of IEDC in Slovenia, in the region and internationally?

I really believe that this business school, IEDC, is a jewel. I have been teaching in many business schools in the US, France, Germany, Russia, Belgium, etc. and I can confirm that IEDC is a jewel – a small and yet extremely powerful and effective school promoting new ideas including in leadership which is my field. In the past, we had three main programmes: leading yourself – how you can lead yourself so that you can have the life that you want; leading a creative team – reinventing leadership so that teams can produce great results; leading an organization which is basically trusting people and giving them something meaningful to do. In addition, we have been advocating something that is critical i.e. creativity. We can learn so much from artists – imagination (to squeeze your brain and come up with something different), invention (translation of a great idea into something good and useful) and innovation (the ability to sell your idea to other people). It is amazing to see that so many people do not realize that we are getting into a new world that requires what we call resilience!

Your areas of expertise include organizational behaviour, the global market and cultural differences, international negotiation and strategic leadership. With the crises of the last two years, it looks like the world will change in the coming years. What kind of leaders do we need for this change to be a good one?

We have to understand that we are facing a major crisis in the world. Therefore, it is a turning point in human evolution and that is why IEDC and other business schools and universities, must have a good look at what ideas and tools should be given to the leaders in this very different, challenging world. Leaders must enhance their ability to learn how to learn. That includes: firstly, the ability to make a sound and quick diagnosis: what is working and what is not working? Secondly, to invent – to come up with new ideas, how can we improve? Thirdly, to execute and implement those great ideas and be flexible enough to adapt and adjust according to the reaction of the environment. However, there is something even more powerful than learning how to learn, it is to promote the unlearning process because there are many things, which are part of our mind which are obsolete today. They are not good anymore. The world is changing in such a dramatic way that some of the things, which are part of our mental programming, are not in line with the requirements of our time! We have to learn how to get rid of those things which are no longer good for me, for my organisation and society

What kind of political leaders do we need for positive change?

We have two major problems with public leaders: one is corruption and the other is incompetence. Power corrupts, it is in human nature and we cannot change it. We can control it, we can make sure that it doesn’t go too far and that the people in power do not stay there too long. I do not talk only about corruption in the sense of money, but also about the corruption of the mind. Corrupting people with fake news, ideas which are not right, lying, manipulating…. And if we have incompetent and corrupt public leaders, we all suffer. However, why is it that the good people e.g. in Slovenia, Belgium or even Switzerland, are not in the leadership positions? My answer would be: who would like to expose himself or herself to the scrutiny or the attacks of social networks and media? The good do not want to expose their lives and families to such scrutiny

As a leadership guru, who is the best leader of all time for you and why?

Yes, there are good public leaders including in our times: great competence, ability to create a team of people who are dedicated, competent and in control of their corruptible drive. One public leader is, without any doubt at least in my mind: Angela Merkel!  If I look at business – Steve Jobs was clearly a great leader. The impact he had on the world was (still is) stunning! Regarding social leadership, there is a very special man in Congo, Dr Denis Mukwege, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018. He is saving lives, fighting for the women who are suffering from a terrible war that nobody controls (or wants to control)

You spent five years in Africa as a sociologist, 18 years with various international organizations and you are also a social entrepreneur. How do you see the role of social entrepreneurship in emerging economies such as Africa?

I loved my five years in Africa and at that time, in 1965, I was teaching in a training centre. What I was telling the young people there was that if you and the next generations would like to live well, you will need to reinvent yourself. If the young generations in Africa could invest time and energy into the new technologies that would be fantastic! However, the pressure from many industries (and governments) from Asia, China, America and Europe is to maintain Africa into a minor role in the world economy. That is not good for Africa! What is good for Africa is to start to play a leadership role by inventing and using brand new technologies. The new African generation can do it with a minimum of support from international leaders.