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The Mind of a Leader I: The Complete Transcripts

The Mind of a Leader I: The Complete Transcripts

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The Mind of a Leader I: The Complete Transcripts

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Lançado em:
Sep 23, 2014


Thirty-four famous international leaders and experts within business, politics, art, sport, philanthropy and more - including Philip Kotler, Anita Roddick, Michael Dukakis and Philippe Starck - are united in a timeless and universal project about leadership, ethics and visions. The modern topics discussed in each chapter of The Mind of a Leader are closely related to the issues raised in the 26 chapters of Niccolò Machiavelli's controversial strategic masterpiece ‘The Prince’. The multi-cultural project examines different aspects of modern leadership and encourages future leaders to be strategic, but also responsible and humane when achieving ambitious goals. The project reveals the participants’ personal views and not their knowledge in terms of Machiavelli.

The Mind of a Leader is an outstanding training and development tool. Each chapter features questions, conclusions and practical hands-on advice in regards to both individual and organizational success. A fascinating journey to the inside of successful modern organizations and leadership minds.
Lançado em:
Sep 23, 2014

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The Mind of a Leader I - Benjamin Holk Henriksen


Chapter 1: Fortune & Ability

In chapter I How many kinds of principalities there are, and in what manner they are acquired Machiavelli specifies that principalities are either new or they are hereditary. The new principalities are either entirely new or they are annexed to the hereditary state of the prince who acquires them. They are acquired either by the conqueror’s own army or by the arms of others, or by fortune or ability.

To what extent do Machiavelli’s thoughts apply to the roles and responsibilities of modern leaders from different countries, cultures and trades? What criteria determine success or failure? What is the impact of fortune and ability on a career?

Philip Kotler (USA)

Distinguished Professor of International Marketing,

Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

Management Guru & Best Selling Author

"You know, I can’t imagine a career where luck and personal abilities did not both work, because let’s take the following: in 1956 I received an invitation to go to Harvard for some post doctorial work in mathematics. It was a program that chose very carefully only 15 people teaching economics in business to train them to even a higher level of math and if that did not happen I would not have met Donald Jacobs, who was going to eventually be the dean of North Western University business school, and I would not have probably gotten into marketing, I would have stayed in economics and so on. So luck and coincidences play a lot cause that was not planned by me - it just happened.

Personal abilities, I have been always a left brain person. By that I mean a very analytical, studious in a sense, but engaged in the world seeing what’s going on and then I developed my right brain side which is called the creative side and the one that synthesizes a lot of things, puts them together, builds new frameworks, so it’s a combination of luck and personal abilities."

Bengt Baron (Sweden)

Fmr. CEO & President, Vin & Sprit (Absolut Vodka)

Olympic Swimming Champion

Well I think of course it’s a combination I don’t know whether it’s luck but I think there are several occasions of coincidence in ones working life, I mean I have never been an active career planner in any way, on the contrary I have been driven very much from the opportunities of taking on challenges and also trying to add to my own toolbox to learn more from every opportunity I have been given in my working life. And so far I have been quite lucky on the one hand getting provided with opportunities, and skillful enough to actually take the challenges and move on and in my works so far, touch wood, I have been successful enough to be given opportunities to move on. If we go back to the sporting life it’s a lot of hard work to build skills and to be prepared for that one day, but for that one day I think there is a significant amount of luck involved as well to actually be at your peak that one day. So I think it is a combination, I think I have been fortunate, but I also think it’s a skill to take on challenges and be brave enough to take on challenges.

Pat Boone (USA)

Entertainment Legend

Political Commentator

By the time I graduated at the age of 23 with honors from Columbia University I had my own network television show, very successful, on ABC television - the youngest guy ever to have his own show. I had a successful recording contract, a number of hit records, and already made several movies, successful films, performed for queens and royalty and millions of fans, and I had four children. At 23... And at that point I stopped and asked myself and prayed Am I going to take a teaching job now, like I thought I was going to do? No, I have got these contracts, I have to honor these contracts, three to five year, seven year movie deal. I better see where all this goes before I accept a teaching job or apply for one. So my point is I did not make all this happen, it happened to me and the doors opened and I feel it was clearly the response of God to my young prayer. That I wanted my life to be useful to him and to other people and so I have always had that sense that my talent is no great talent, I can carry a tune, I can sing and I enjoy it, and people have enjoyed it, but that’s almost the platform that was given to me from which I could do other things that I consider more important in the long run than just entertainment.

Mads Øvlisen (Denmark)

Member, United Nations Global Compact

Chairman, Royal Danish Theater and LEGO

Fmr. Chairman, Novo Nordisk

What role did luck what role did ability play in the development of my career? I am not certain that I have a good answer to that, but if you had asked me to what extent I myself have been able to control my career, my development, I would probably have told you that about 50% were things that I thought I controlled, and 50% were things that others controlled. I believe personally that you have a lot of influence on your future, I believe that you must take responsibility for what you want to do with yourself, but it’s also very clearly that there are many things you have no influence on, biological, societal etc. If I look at my situation I think it’s quite typical - if we go back to your terms about luck and ability, I think it’s about a yin yang situation, about being at the right place at the right time without really knowing when the right time is, but preparing yourself. When I say that I believe that you can and should influence the way your future develops it because I think you can make some conscious choices about the abilities you want to acquire, about the things you want to stand for and not stand for, the moral choices you make, things you have made important in your life.

Michael S. Dukakis (USA)

Fmr. Democrats Presidential Nominee

Fmr. Governor of Massachusetts

Professor of Political Science, Northeastern University

I am not sure I would call it luck but there are circumstances which can either help or hurt you. I mean when I began getting involved politically as a young law student I happened to live in a community just outside of Boston which was in the process of transitioning from what had been an overwhelming republican community to one which was at least independent and is now very solidly democratic. If I had lived in another community that had not been in that transition then I am not sure whether I would have run, what I would have run for, and whether or not I would have been successful, so that fact that I happened to grow up and live in that community and it was my political starting ground I suppose was either luck or circumstances or something. But that’s important, if you are going to achieve good things particularly in public life it takes an enormous amount of work, not just on your part, but on the part of thousands of volunteers who work for you because they want you to be elected, and without that kind of grassroots organization and literally thousands and thousands of volunteers who worked for me, I never could have been elected. Not as a state legislator and certainly not as a Governor.

Poul Nyrup Rasmussen (Denmark)

Fmr. Prime Minister of Denmark

President, Party of European Socialists

Member of EU Parliament

Well first of all I would say that you cannot separate it from luck: skill, yes, but also the concrete circumstances in a society and in my case I would say that without living in a welfare society where I was a part of the time where you have equal access to education, equal access to economics, studies at universities, equal access to chances you can say, probably I would not be a former Prime Minister of Denmark I will say. So you see it’s the right man on the right time, it’s skill but it’s also circumstances in the society, in my case, which have been decisive and of course also this special construction which is characteristic for the Danish society.

Machiavelli was definitely right in stating the impact of luck and abilities on a personal career. Witnessing the effect of the two notions we may also conclude that we have a choice as human beings. We build and structure the society and determine what we want to do and stand for. How we want to shape our abilities while waiting for fortune. But just how much are we able to compensate for either luck or abilities and what does it take to be recognized as a leader?

Tony Visconti (USA)

Music Producer

(David Bowie, T-Rex, Thin Lizzy, U2, Morrissey etc.)

Well I think leadership is a matter of not necessarily being born as a leader, there are people who are born to dominate, that’s different from leadership. I have worked with very dominant personalities and after a while they are so much about themselves, me, me, me, me, me, that it’s very tedious working for a person like that. So I think that proper leadership takes skill, it takes skill and that skill is trial and error, you could probably take courses in leadership I know that colleges will offer courses in leadership and it’s questionable because who is teaching it you know. I think the best way to learn about leadership is from other leaders, if you observe Presidents of corporations, in my case record companies, or leaders of a band. A lot of record producers they are all leaders, they are all leading a session going in a certain direction, so I will say learning skills is very important and you might learn the skills inadvertently or you might, in my case make a study of it. I mean, you can be born with qualities, but I am positive you could learn them and acquire them and apply them I am very, very sure about that because I know it did not come to me naturally.

Franz Beckenbauer ‘Der Kaiser’ (Germany)

Soccer Player, Captain (World Cup Winner) and Coach (World Cup Winner)

President, FC Bayern München

Chairman, FIFA World Cup 2006 Comittee

Leadership - yeah leadership, you are not born as a leader so you have to work hard to be a leader, to be recognized, of course you bring all your talent and all your knowledge, education and character in this point I would say, and then maybe if you are lucky you get recognized as a leader. In my life I was very early, I was forced let’s say from the management of Bayern Munich and also the head coach to take over the responsibility, I was 20, 21 when I became the captain of Bayern Munich, so I became very early the responsible for the team, then after Uwe Seeler, when he resigned as a captain of the German national team, I became his successor, so automatically, I never did too much effort to be a leader I think it’s the wrong way. In my way, it was very simple to be recognized as a leader.

States thus acquired have been accustomed either to live under a prince, or to exist as free states; and they are acquired either by the arms of others, or by the conqueror’s own, or by fortune or valor.

Niccolò Machiavelli, 1513

Richard Valdemar (USA)

Organized Crime Expert

Fmr. Sergeant, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Dept.

Vietnam Veteran

I have noticed that some of the best leaders, both in the criminal world and also in the law enforcement field came from difficult environments, some of them from war, some of them from poverty, broken homes, some of the elements that we routinely identify with the urban setting produced a kind of person that passed through a crucible. Having survived that kind of thing and being a survivalist in a difficult environment actually improved their ability to think in a leadership kind of way. So most of these people became contributing members to our society but a small group of them identified with the criminal element and they joined criminal gangs, and when they join these criminal gangs they have a very strict purging system and the prison system and the street gang world makes no allowances for any kind of weakness and so, the product you get out of those kind of environments is a person who is very clever at survival and making a living in a criminal way, and so we see them advance in their organizations. And they are just like in the real world, our world - there are charismatic leaders who just naturally spring from this crucible, and people follow them.

Nicolas Winding Refn (Denmark)

Film Director (Drive, Valhalla Rising, Bronson, Pusher-trilogy, etc.)

Well I think when it comes to art luck has to do with it a lot of the time, I mean, I think that when you chose to create you really have to be very lucky in the sense that at the right place at the right time, because there are so many good people out there and art is such an individual obsession. So it is very much about luck. Now after you become lucky your skills and so forth are maybe more part of your evolution you have to become better, you have to learn and work with it, but a lot of it has to do with luck. My situation, I was very lucky, I was extremely, extremely lucky and when I got the opportunity to make my first film I had no prior experience, I was a film school dropout all these classic case scenarios. I had everything against me making a film. But I was lucky and had the opportunity and then of course afterwards you kind of say, well now I know how to make it I have to become better at it. That’s really when your journey begins. But you know I grew up in America I believe in the American dream, I believe that, you know, the sky is the limit and hard work leads to effort and success. However, in art there is a little thing called talent which - that’s God... God gives you talent and you don’t know who has it and I don’t know how you... you get it to somebody else, and I don’t know if I have it even. But that is usually the case that talent, you know, is again the last element of what you want to do.

Björn Borg (Sweden)

Fmr. World No. 1 Tennis Player, singles (11 Grand Slam titles)

"Well, I think you need hard work, I mean, I think it’s very important to put in a lot of hard work with a big heart, I mean you really have to love what you’re doing, because you have to spend a lot of time on the tennis court, you have to do a lot of sacrificing to other things, mainly to really enjoy what you’re doing. Luck - of course you need luck sometimes to win a few points here and there in important tournaments, grand slam tournaments. But basically it’s a lot of hard work, and to be the best in the world, it’s a long way to go, you know, and it’s gonna take a few tears here and there.

You have to learn how to take losses, that’s very difficult in the beginning, because it’s always easy to win, but to loose, that’s a hard thing. So, it’s a learning process, but important is you have to have a big heart for the sport, and it will help if you have people around you, like parents or some friends or coaches to help you and support you."

Marc Soustrot (France)

International Conductor

Associated with operas in Madrid, Sevilla, Geneve and Bruxelles

For a conductor, for the musical classical conductor for opera orchestra you can say that you are really a conductor around 60, not before. Because the repertoire and the music history is so enormous from the eighteenth century till now and for a conductor it’s incredible, it’s a library like Babylon to know everything you know, and you need time, you need experience, you need occasion, you need meeting with people you need to see many different orchestras many different operas and I think that you are not a real conductor before 60. And when you are lucky with your health and body, the beginning of your career is around 60 and if your health is good you can conduct till 80, 85. The way of a conductor is like a good wine, a good Bordeaux, you know, the older the better, and you can look at famous conductors that are 75, 76, 80, 82, I met with a conductor that was 91, 92 and that means that before 60 you are always a student, you know.

Bengt Baron (Sweden)

Fmr. CEO & President, Vin & Sprit (Absolut Vodka)

Olympic Swimming Champion

My recommendation would be to build a skill base so that you are self-confident enough to actually take on challenges and have the courage to take on opportunities. I think many times people become conservative and then don’t take on challenges. That’s the one half of my advice. The other half of advise is don’t plan too much because there are wonderful challenges out there and opportunities out there that will help you grow as a manager and as a person that you can’t plan for and take chose chances.

In discovering the mind of a leader we have witnessed various paths to success and found that some of Machiavelli’s thoughts still represent the way we think and act today. Few leaders have gained their position strictly due to either fortune or abilities, but through a combination. Society gave them the opportunity to improve their skills and the surrounding environment shaped their expectations and made them fortunate. It’s moreover interesting that not all leaders set out to accomplish a specifically defined mission. Their flexibility and openness towards new opportunities made them prosper.

So, in defining the path to success we may say that discipline and access to inspiration or knowledge is considered prerequisite in terms of improving both abilities and fortune.


A) Be familiar with the meaning of fortune and ability.

B) Consider whether your mission defines your choices or your choices defines your mission.

C) Acknowledge the impact of the environment and individual challenges.

D) Prepare yourself while waiting for the opportunities fortune may provide.


How much do you rely on fortune and how much on abilities?

Chapter 2: The Successor

In chapter II Of hereditary Principalities Machiavelli states that hereditary states, accustomed to the line of their prince, are maintained with much less difficulty than new states, for it is enough merely that the prince do not transcend the order of things established by his predecessors, and then to accommodate himself to events as they occur. Due to the antiquity and continuity of dominion, the memory of innovations and their causes are effaced; whereas each change and alteration always prepares the way and facilitates the next.

To what extent do Machiavelli’s thoughts apply to the roles and responsibilities of modern leaders from different countries, cultures and trades? Is mankind still bound by routines, traditions, values and laws? Should a new leader of a country, organization, team etc. extend the line of the former ruler or make radical changes?

Katie Ford (USA)

Boardmember & fmr. CEO, Ford Models

When I took over Ford, I absolutely made decisions rooted in our family heritage, our values. That really is the culture of Ford. So, how we value people, how we treat our talent, how we treat our clients is very deeply rooted. However, every organization needs to be innovative and change and organize - create a new organization with new divisions and growth, and you apply those values to the new situations. I think though when I took over it was much more difficult to change things than to do things the way we had been doing them. However, our values were always there and will always be here. That is part of the organization. People don’t even like to change desks. So, of course, as you make changes, it’s hard for some people to adjust. Other people find those changes stimulating, exciting. It creates new opportunities both for the organization and for them. And so, they really do well in those situations and it’s important to adjust in a way that your employees can take and to make sure that they’re in the appropriate roles. I use our values throughout the organization. But, I created new divisions, new locations, go into new businesses with a base of the values, but applying innovation all the time because we’re in a business that’s constantly changing, and if you’re not ahead and if you don’t keep moving forward, you’re falling drastically behind and becoming irrelevant.

Jørgen Vig Knudstorp (Denmark)

CEO, The LEGO Group

"I think suddenly, when you lead a company that’s defined by its value, and LEGOGroup is defined by its value. It’s had the same owner group for almost 75 years now. It is driven by values and I think it would be impossible to lead the company if you were not in sync with the values.

The way I think about it is that the values is the foundation that remains the same for generations. What changes on top of that is specific goals and objectives and strategies. So, for some time LEGO tried to be a multi-product brand company that sold all kinds of products under the LEGO brand; products that were all supposed to deliver on the core values. Where I have tried to bring the company back is to really focus on the core product, because I believe the LEGO brand is a functional brand where every product must express exactly those values and not just be a fan product or a lifestyle product. That’s a change to me in strategy, but it’s not a change in what do you believe in - if you own LEGO or if you work for LEGO you actually believe in the same values. So, for me it was not a matter of starting to change the fundamental value of what LEGO means. In fact, I think you can’t do it. You have to ask the consumers. You have to ask the customer, What does LEGO mean to you? And we did that over the past two years. And they came back and they said to us, LEGO means building. It means creativity in a systematically creative fashion. And to me that sounded right, but it was not something I came up with. It was something the consumers actually told us. And, therefore, to me to stay true to that was essential. And everything I’ve done over the past two years has been aligned with that. And, therefore, I did not have a value conflict with the ownership. I did not have a value conflict with the employees of LEGO, but we would have conflicts about strategy. We would conflict about pace. We had discussions about whether we had the right leaders. And there’s certainly been times where you have to make some very unpopular decisions where maybe people don’t agree with the speed. They don’t agree with the changes and so on, and sometimes you just have to push through with that. I think it’s quite important in this job that you are not here to be popular. And I actually think most people would not appreciate somebody seeking popularity because then you know a lot of compromises are being made to make everybody happy. And it’s interesting for me, for instance, in this situation where we have now in Billund been relocating jobs to other countries, I don’t sense from the people here that they would like me to not move any job. But, they’re of course concerned I’m going to move their job. And I think what they’re saying is, Please make the right decisions for the company and for the whole, so we know we’re moving in the right direction. Please don’t consider any particular interest. Make the best objective choices on that. And then, we hope, of course, our jobs are going to stay here. So, I think it would be a trap for me to fall into - let me sweet talk this constituency or whatever to make them happy or make me popular. So, I think that’s extremely important that you try to be focused on the values, make the decisions. Whether they are popular or not popular is not really the issue frankly."

Bengt Baron (Sweden)

Fmr. CEO & President, Vin & Sprit (Absolut Vodka)

Olympic Swimming Champion

"As soon as you have groups, larger groups, I think you will have varying personalities, which is part of any diversity which contributes to having more effective groups. But, that also means that in periods of change there are people that are quicker to jump on the change wagon than others and some will try to restrain and then try to hold back. I think you have to accept that.

I think the important part is to build an understanding, to explain where we’re heading

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