High-Level Talks - “Every decision is a step in the dark”


On 3 December 2020, MSM organized its first ever High-Level Talk. This exclusive leadership event titled ‘Steering on the longer-term mission in times of restrictions’ was attended by 8 high-level leaders from 7 different countries.

With the High-Level Talks MSM brings together leaders within the MSM global network to share insights and discuss challenges about leadership. This platform provides an opportunity to meet other leaders and to learn from each other.

The first High-Level Talk was exclusively designed for leaders in the public sector and attracted participants from governments and the higher education sector.

The event was opened by MSM CEO Meinhard Gans, who welcomed the participants and thanked them for their participation. Under the moderation of Dr. Huub Mudde, Senior Consultant and the lead of Dr. Geert Heling, Professor of Organizational Behavior, experiences on leadership in challenging times were shared.

During a short presentation, Prof. Heling briefly spoke about the challenges that leaders come across in times of heavy turbulence. Innovation, technology, internationalization and competition are just a few examples that call for attention and require immediate actions. Adding to this, Prof Heling shared his take on volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, or VUCA in short. VUCA describes and reflects on general conditions and situations and serves to enhance strategic significance and insight as well as the behavior of groups and individuals in an organization. It is easy to get submerged in day-to-day activities instead of keeping focus on realizing the longer-term objectives. How to stick to the right priorities when leading an organization, institute or business in our current days?

After Prof. Heling’s introductory presentation, the participants briefly introduced themselves and shared their own leadership challenge(s) during an introduction round, after which the dialogue started. The leaders who attended the online session represented a wide range of countries, including Bhutan, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Pakistan, South Africa and the Netherlands. Challenges highlighted were amongst others, the impact of the current covid-19 crisis, the challenges of industry 4.0 and the need to transform education, as well as ethics in education.

Even though every participant came from a different background, agreement was found on the fact that not losing sight on the long term goals is a true challenge in this current time, but also that it is the main role as leaders to just do that, keeping the long term view. The use of KPI’s in this perspective was also addressed.

One of the discussed topics was decision making. “Every decision is always a step in the dark”, was said by a high-level leader. In challenging times often short-term decisions are being made while long term decisions are needed to build confidence in people. The mission and vision are well known to leaders of an organization, but at execution level people are often distracted from the mission. Good leadership implies to reestablish ownership and to create a culture of trust and confidence. Good leadership is needed to get people on board and to steer the organization in the right direction.  

This first High-Level Talk was well-received by the participants, who also provided valuable input on possible topics for the future. We look forward to continue to expand the High-Level Talks in 2021.