A holistic view of leadership

“Today’s leaders have to invest in their softer qualities such as awareness, compassion, curiosity and resilience.”

August 18 2021

The world around us is changing. And business is also constantly in motion. The composition of organizations and teams keeps changing. Employees are more self-aware than they were a few years ago. They want to be able to contribute as a person to the organization they work for and to the world around them. This requires a new type of leadership, with hard competencies giving way more and more to softer skills.

Yuri van Geest, author of the management book ‘Exponentiële organisaties’ and co-founder of Conscious Learning Tribe, had been considering with the idea of developing an innovative leadership program since October 2019: “A program that goes far beyond technology and organizational innovation. On a psychological and spiritual level, there are still steps to be taken, as leadership is about much more than simply making money. It’s about making the most of your team’s abilities and qualities. A good leader makes sure his team is robust, that everyone loves what they do and that people have room to grow and develop.”


Van Geest believes that we can no longer ignore the ecological and social crisis either. “The COVID-19 pandemic has made us realize how vulnerable the world is. More and more people suffer feelings of loneliness and uncertainty. As human beings, we need to connect, work on solutions for complex issues together, operate as a team. Breath in Leadership, in which we provide a holistic view of leadership, looks at these issues from as many perspectives as possible. We don’t discuss them and then decide which of these perspectives is better or best but want to look at how each of those perspectives can give us something to hold onto.”
Personal growth, awareness, and commitment

While developing the program, Van Geest compared 100 existing leadership programs in the Netherlands and abroad. “What stood out was that the programs often had either a rational approach or a spiritual one. This program unites those two by giving participants insight into, for example, ancient teachings, personal growth, and art, as well as technology and organizational models. The common thread of the program is that you cannot develop technology if you do not change as a person and as a leader. Personal growth, awareness and commitment are important elements of the program, necessary for the betterment of yourself, of organizations and of the world around you.”

Strengthening the foundation within yourself

It is important for participants to have a clear understanding of how they want to make a difference as a person and as a leader. “That requires self-reflection,” André Nijhof confirms, professor of Sustainable Business and Stewardship at Nyenrode. “You first have to strengthen the foundation within yourself by considering what social issues you (want to) stand for. It is all about commitment. As a society we need leaders who make a difference, who have the courage and guts to stand up for certain issues and generate change.”

Softer competencies

Van Geest adds that he believes that male competencies are overvalued in many programs. “Fortunately, this is beginning to change. During Breath in Leadership, we provide sufficient room for softer qualities such as compassion, intuition, imagination, curiosity, and resilience. We integrate these with harder competencies such as commercial acumen, fanaticism, and a focus on results. Leaders from around the world – including Douglas Rushkoff, Azeem Azhar, Daan Roosegaarde and Spring Cheng – share their knowledge and vision of leadership. All of these leaders have found a way to combine soft and hard competencies. Experiencing that, noticing what it does to you as a participant, and discussing these experiences with the other participants, is what Breath in Leadership is all about.”


Next, a number of professors, including Nijhof, will discuss the subject matter with the participants in more depth. “Experts play a role during the program, but only to a certain extent. We specifically want to delve deeper into questions, cases, and challenges that participants face in their daily work. This makes it an organic process, with an agenda that is much less leading than in other courses. I too never know exactly in which direction a class is going to go. This is pretty exciting, but mostly I’m really looking forward to it.”

The Breath in Leadership program consists of 7 modules (16 days in total, 13 offline and 3 online) and starts on 25 November 2021. The kick-off is at Nyenrode Business University and the program is concluded on Ibiza. The program can be followed both online and offline. Find out more about the complete Breath in Leadership program here

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