The Knowing Self Knowing Others Podcast

16 Self Aware Leadership with Jeroen Kraaijenbrink, Strategy and Leadership

March 13, 2023 Dr Nia D Thomas Episode 16
The Knowing Self Knowing Others Podcast
16 Self Aware Leadership with Jeroen Kraaijenbrink, Strategy and Leadership
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Show Notes Transcript

What does Amazon say about Jeroen?

"Jeroen Kraaijenbrink is an accomplished strategy educator, speaker, writer, and consultant with over two decades of experience, extending from academia through modern business and industry. He empowers people and organizations to discover, formulate, and execute their future plans by providing innovative tools for expansive and forward-thinking strategy making and both personal and organizational development. In doing so, he enables individuals to realize their greatest ambitions and organizations to effectively achieve their business goals and mission through ongoing, effective strategy techniques.

Drawing from cognitive psychology, humanism, martial arts, Saint Benedict, and an extraordinarily wide range of other sources, he has written innumerable articles on strategy, sustainability, and personal leadership, as well as authored five books: The One-Hour Strategy, Strategy Consulting, No More Bananas, Unlearning Strategy, and The Strategy Handbook. He is an active contributor to Forbes, where he writes about strategy, leadership, and how to embrace and harness the complexity and uncertainty—and the opportunities—of the global marketplace that the world has become. 

He has a PhD in industrial management, teaches strategy at the University of Amsterdam Business School, and has helped significantly improve the strategic planning of many midsize and larger companies across the engineering, manufacturing, healthcare, and financial services industries.

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NDT  0:10  
Hello and welcome to the knowing self knowing others podcast, the fortnightly podcast that explores self awareness, leader effectiveness and leadership at all levels. Join me your host, NIA Thomas, as we talk to today's knowing self knowing others guest

listeners today I have with me Jeroen Kraaijenbrink, and you're on is an expert in strategy. And I think when we're talking about strategy, we can't but talk about relationships and how people work together. And your mom has written a really interesting book, the strategy handbook, the secret sauce to daily business success. If you are interested in strategy, please do go on to wherever you usually buy your books and have a look at it. But without further ado, I'm going to hand it over to you to introduce yourself.

JK  1:08  
Thanks, Nia. Thanks for this wonderful introduction already. Indeed, I'm a strategy person in quite a number of different roles. Actually. My first career was in academia. So I have a research and teaching background. And like 1314 years ago, I decided to move more to practice. And what I'm currently doing is mostly consulting and mentoring. So I'm helping companies set up, define their strategy and also execute it and coaching mentoring individual employees, executives, entrepreneurs, from a strategy perspective to rethink their business and prepare for the future.

NDT  1:49  
So there's certainly a lot in there about relationships and how people work together.

JK  1:53  
Oh, yes, very much. And especially if you look at the way I work with them, especially in my consulting, for me, strategy works only if it's a very participative process. Because it is all about people. It's all about relationships. And of course, coming up with the strategic plan is good. It's an intellectual exercise. It's important, but much more important is the social engagement that you're creating through the process. So you're absolutely right, it's very much about relationships.

NDT  2:37  
How do you define self awareness?

JK  2:39  
Yeah, I don't have a crystal clear definition. If you're, if you're asking also, I'm not a psychologist or anything like that. But for me, self awareness is not just knowing yourself, it's not being just aware of who you are, and what your strengths and weaknesses are, or who you really are something like that. For me, self awareness is much more about being being in control of your thoughts. Being able to decide, decide about your thoughts maybe. And rather than just having this instinctive Animal Response, that you're able to sort of wait for a second and decide what is my What should my response be, to really, really being in control of your own mind that that's, for me, the most important part of self awareness.

NDT  3:36  
These schools of thought that talks about that split second before you react the changes a reaction into a response. And that's, that's really interesting. How you describe self awareness is very much that giving yourself that thinking time before you respond with choice.

JK  3:55  
Yes, very much because otherwise, it just injustice is in air quotes, if you just know yourself, which, which is a challenge, as well. But if you just know yourself, there's not not so there's not so much effect. So it's very nice that you know, there's but how are you using this? And I think self awareness is it only helps if it has this control idea built into it?

NDT  4:30  
Do you think there is a relationship between self awareness and leader effectiveness?

JK  4:35  
Oh, definitely. They're in a positive relation, as well. Because I think first you have to think what what is leadership? Leadership is all about people. For me. It's about understanding people listening to people and helping other people to act in a way that's productive, useful, good for them, good for an organisation and so on. And the only way to do that I think is if you're, you have to be aware of what other people people's concerns are, what they're thinking, what their needs are their respiration and so on. But that start with self awareness. Because if you don't know that from yourself, it's very hard to try and understand other people. And also what a good what for me is a good leader is someone that is not just reacting, but responding that has this thought through controlled response, rather than this primary first respond to which is often out of fear or uncertainty. And we don't want that and especially for leaders, we don't want them one that they probably shouldn't be the example to, to show to stay calm when there is some crisis when something has happened when something unexpected happened, yeah, definitely, there needs to be this new self awareness. And if I extend that from an individual level to an organisational level, because, as you know, now, I'm a strategy person, and I look at companies as a whole. And for me, also, their self awareness is critical. Oftentimes, strategy is about starting outside, in looking at the world around us see all kinds of trends and certainties, and so on opportunities, threats, but the true core of strategy for me is inside the company. So what are the company's core assets? Core Competencies? What are you really good at as a company? So also being self aware in an organisational sense, is critical for strategy for leadership.

NDT  6:43  
That's a thought that I have to say that I haven't explored. The the idea that there's individual self awareness, but then there's a collective self awareness that links to organisations, I worked on a little bit of strategy when I worked at Great Ormond Street Hospital. And as you're saying that I can really see that self awareness or organisational awareness to be able to determine what your vision your mission, how you're going to pull that together into something that's actionable, achievable, and you do that through your organisation. So that's a, it almost feels like that could be a whole different podcast,

JK  7:21  

NDT  7:29  
Do you think effective leaders can be found at all levels of organisations?

JK  7:34  
Also, very definite, yes. And there should be because, for me, leadership has nothing to do with your position. Recently, I wrote a an article for Forbes on there's no difference between managers and leaders. And that's exactly about this point, where, for me, a manager, a leader, whatever we call them, their role is to guide help facilitate a group of people to get something done. And that applies at all levels in the organisation. And luckily enough, we also have effective leaders at all levels in the organisation, also, because the skills needed to be a good leader, and whether it's self awareness of or other skills, also, that has nothing to do with position. I don't know, I don't see that leaders higher in the hierarchy have are better equipped to do that are better self aware. I haven't seen that. Of course, there are exceptions. There are examples. But generally, I think at all levels, you need good leadership, and there is good leadership in in many organisations,

NDT  8:43  
listeners, we will make sure that there is a link to the article that Jerome has just mentioned in the show notes. So if you want to go and click and find out a bit more about that, we will make sure you've got access to it.

Do you think leaders at the most Tegid level of organisations have greater self awareness than leaders at other levels of organisations?

JK  9:10  
Unfortunately, not. Okay. I kind of answered that question a little bit in my previous answer. You, you want that because their responsibilities are bigger, the impact of what they're doing is greater. So the more self awareness you have in important positions, the better. But I'm not sure whether that's the case in practice. As as I already mentioned, I don't think self awareness or any other sort of general skill like like creativity, empathy, intelligence, are necessarily correlated to position. Think position is very much dependent on a specific set of skills that may or may be quite an independent from from self awareness. Think at all levels, you have self aware leaders, and I've also experienced Clients were the problem of the company. Because when they, when they hire me, there's usually a problem there or a general question. They're stuck, they don't know how to proceed, they want to develop a new plan, they're not sure whether that's the right direction and so on. But also quite frequently, the cause of the problem is somewhere at the top in the organisation, where people have not been able to, to do what's needed or have not had the right skills and the rights, the right background to do so. Good. In many cases, that's, that's a different day, they have the skills, but sometimes there's that level people actually lack the skills and also very much lack the self awareness, because of their position because of their history. I don't know why. But they might have lost or not have the the self reflection, self criticism. And then it becomes a real problem. Because if the people in power, do not have the self awareness, you're kind of stuck, because who is who's correcting that or who's helping them. So sometimes, in some cases, I've seen companies where the lower or the mid level layer, or just below the top, has more self awareness than then the people actually at the top.

NDT  11:19  
Oh, when I developed my research, I developed a framework of the different levels within organisations. And that senior management to strategic Do you think that there's something about the weight of expectation on the strategic level leaders that the stress and the expectation that we have of those individuals, that makes it that much more difficult for them, to have that reflection time that opportunity to be more self aware?

JK  11:46  
Not really sure. And also, I'm not saying it's better developed at the lower levels, it's just that I don't see that it's really better developed at the top either. So I don't permit there's no big I can't see a difference at the companies I've worked with. But thinking about explanations here, maybe pressure expectations, and the challenge, and also is maybe, also for me, to see whether they're self aware, because I think the main issue there is being able to show your weaknesses, being able to show that you're not confident, because being in the top of an organisation is a lot of pressure to know it all to be the strong leader. Because if you are weak, if you are uncertain, then that kind of projects to the rest of the organisation, and everyone gets uncertain and feels uncomfortable and anxious. So I think the pressure to at least pretend kind of a lack of self awareness, maybe maybe putting it a little bit too extreme, but you have to put up a certain face, keep up a certain image as a CEO of a company. And I think the bigger the company, the bigger the pressure is to to be the strong leader that everyone wants you to want you to be.

NDT  13:06  
Do you think effective leaders have more self awareness than ineffective leaders?

JK  13:10  
Yes. And it depends on how you measure effectiveness. If you say are self aware leaders more Listen, have they'd have more financial success, create bigger companies have more profit, create more shareholder value? I don't know, maybe, maybe there's even a negative correlation. Maybe you didn't, that needs to be researched there. Because I don't think that self awareness has a lot to do with financial success of a company. There may be in the long run. But financial success can be achieved in many other ways that have nothing to do with self awareness. If you say, do you think good leaders have more self awareness than not a good leaders? Then? I think it's a definite yes. Because as I mentioned earlier, in probably the first question already, is for me, a good leader is someone who needs the skill in order to be able to really understand the people around him or her surely empathy, and be able to respond to the needs, and so on. So there is a relationship to performance in the broadest sense in the sense of being a good leader and having a good company, which is not just profitable or efficient. But for the standard measure of success. I don't know whether there is a there is a big difference

NDT  14:35  
from what you talked about. It sounds that your focus is very much more on corporate entities and businesses and companies. I come from a background of public sector organisations. And I think from what I'm hearing you saying that there is a difference between business because you're talking about financial success, how then does that link to a leader and I self awareness. Whereas when I'm talking about that I'm not talking about financial success. And I think on reflection, our discussion suggests to me that there is a difference. Is that your experience that there's a public sector difference and a private sector difference?

JK  15:15  
There? Yes, there is probably a difference. But it's also an unfortunate difference, which shouldn't be there. That's for me, maybe the mind the main point. And I think many people are saying that nowadays are observing that, that being a strong, good, effective leader, in a commercial company, at whatever level also requires being good people leader, having the understanding the compassion, and so on the same kind of skills that you probably probably want in public sector companies as well.

NDT  15:51  
Do you think that COVID has accelerated that shift? Or has it created that shift? Do you think it's had an impact?

JK  16:01  
Not sure. I don't think COVID has had a very big impact. In that sense. I think if you would ask me two years ago, I would would have been much more optimistic about that, or or more, more certain about that. Because I expect it's it have a big impact on how we think how we act. But to be frank now COVID is it's not over, but it's kind of over for for many people, at least temporary this in this month. And I don't see a big difference. I think it's it's more part of a longer term trend that's already going on for a decade, maybe two decades, where this kind of old fashion model of the strong hero leader is eroding. And we're getting to an understanding that good leadership has nothing to do with that.

NDT  17:01  
Is there anything else that you want to share with our listeners in terms of podcasts, or YouTube's or other book link?

JK  17:09  
Sure, of course, my my personal website, you don't crime And to figure out how to how to type that I think you will put a link there with the correct spelling, because otherwise no one no one will guess. And maybe one last thing, it's it's a book that I wrote a couple of years ago. For me it was kind of a sidetrack but it's called no more bananas. Okay, it's about not going bananas in the collective madness. So stay yourself stay true to yourself, which actually has a lot to do with self awareness. Definitely. Absolutely. Yeah. I've wrote this book mainly for myself in as a first reason to kind of manage my own self. So it's an exercise in self awareness, if you like. But it's also really meant to help other people rethink how they react rather than respond to the collective madness, the all the things going on around us in the world on social media, everything we hear and say, and so that's a way to stay calm and true to yourself. And yeah, if I think that's, that's also a useful source to develop some self awareness.

NDT  18:20  
Oh, we certainly will make sure that that is available via the show notes. I think anything that we can share with listeners to help them develop their self awareness will be very much appreciated.

Thank you so much for joining me today. It's been an absolutely wonderful conversation, Jeroen Kraaijenbrink.. Thank you very much.

JK  18:46  
Thank you very much for inviting me. I enjoyed the conversation as well.

NDT  18:57  
Thank you for joining me your host Nia Thomas at the knowing self knowing others podcast. If you'd like to know more about self awareness, leader effectiveness and leadership at all levels. Please take a look at my website. Knowing self knowing others duck code at UK. You can also join me on YouTube, LinkedIn or Twitter. Make sure you bookmark the knowing self knowing others podcast and tune into the next episode in two weeks time. I look forward to having you on my learning journey.

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