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Leaders of the future: on the move for a more sustainable world

How much you really believe in something can only be shown by what you are willing to risk for it. This is a quote from Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of the book Skin in the game. In recent months, I had the privilege of meeting many people who are actually doing just that: turning their belief in a better, just, healthier, sustainable world into action. They are 'leaders of the future' who are initiating great change within the context in which they work by following their compass and 'just' doing what their heart tells them to do.


Strengthening and connecting

The thrust of the Leaders of the Future initiative is to connect people who are in the process of making social impact and strengthen their learning. We do this primarily by conducting several interviews with leaders of the future. In conversation with them, we always search for moments of truth: situations where these leaders experienced that they really made a difference in terms of building corporate social responsibility. It produces truthful conversations that also generate energy to take new steps. Both for us as researchers and for the forward-thinking leaders themselves.


Showing courage, offering inspiration and facing discomfort

For example, we spoke with Wieke van de Haterd who, within the municipality of Rotterdam, is giving hands and feet to a new debt approach that is proving to be very effective. "Everyone should be able to participate in society," is her firm conviction. Her enormous driving force has brought speed and results, but it has required the overturning of a few sacred cows within the municipality.

Or Wouter Slob, who in his work at the water board encourages the active search for similarities in needs: "we look too much at the differences, rather look for the similarities, and make sure everyone participates," is his motto.

Or, as Eva van Enk, who is building on the energy transition from the municipality of Eindhoven, says: "you have to dare and take people with you in wanting to dare." This says something about the guts it takes to do something different, and inspire others to do the same.

Several interviewees talked about facing discomfort, because where there is tension there is also room for change. If you do what you did, you get what you got.


Making the movement bigger

The next step now is to create a podcast series based on the interviews with practical stories about future-aware action. We'll offer practical tips and tricks for being effective as a leader of the future and share lessons learned from some 25 future-aware leaders we spoke to.

Our goal is to get and keep the sustainable movement going within several organizations and to provide the individual 'pushers' and leaders of that movement with tools and inspiration to persevere in their task and be successful.

In addition, we will organize a dinner in the spring with all interviewed leaders of the future. They can then exchange knowledge and experiences and build a network with each other. At the dinner we will also look for the common threads from the interviews together and jointly design the first outlines of a leadership path for future leaders of the future.

Our intention is to build a leadership trajectory that incorporates the knowledge and skills of all the interviewed 'leaders of the future'. In this we want to share the knowledge we have gathered about what a true Leader of the Future does that leads to social impact, so that future leaders of the future can be even more impactful.