Jaap Schaveling, 25 years of cooperation

"There is no university with such a beautiful and extensive estate. We should count ourselves lucky for that."

October 27 2022

"The reason to apply for a position at Nyenrode 25 years ago? The combination of teaching executives and the uniquely beautiful estate!" Speaking is Jaap Schaveling, Professor of Cooperation and Leadership at Nyenrode Business University. The jubilee started as program director at Executive Education back then. "Back then, we were also called the finger-painting club." 

At the time, Executive Education's program management was still located in the Plesman building. For Schaveling, this was the perfect office overlooking the water. "In spring, you saw swans swim by with their hatchlings. Nyenrode is one of the most beautiful universities. There is no university – worldwide – with such a beautiful and extensive estate. We should count ourselves lucky for that."

Working together successfully by listening and asking questions

As professor of Cooperation and Leadership, Schaveling knows better than anyone what cooperation exactly means: "Cooperation means helping each other. At times, good cooperation means encouraging each other to demonstrate leadership. It is like a marriage, helping each other out by supporting the other to stand in his or her strength." 

What you should definitely not do, according to Schaveling, is set aside or even lose your identity for the sake of working together. "You were not born into this world for no reason. Offer your personal added value and don't run away from who you are." 

When asked what the most important skills for a successful cooperation are, Schaveling responds thoughtfully: "Listen and ask questions. Seeing and questioning each other sincerely. When I have groups reflect on how they work together, I often ask; how many questions have you asked each other in the past ten minutes? Questions like; what do you mean? Please, do explain? What do you need from me and what do I need from you? And what do we as a team mean to others? What impact do we want to make in society? Asking and listening helps working together better."

When asked if there is anyone in Schaveling's life that he works best with, he replies firmly, "the first thing that comes to mind is my wife Ellen. She always sees the positive side of things, where I more often see the downside. She brings out the best in me and lets me do the same with her."

Self-knowledge crucial for a successful cooperation

To work together successfully, self-knowledge is key. Schaveling: "To what extent do my old ways determine my behavior in cooperation? Everyone has their own window onto the world. We call it transference. You need to know this window well in order to be more open to other people's ideas and behavior. And to be able to honestly answer questions like; to what extent do I support others? How do I contribute to others? What have I done so that others come out better?"

Schaveling encourages everyone to go out and look for the inspirer in yourself. "Too often do I hear at Nyenrode a demand for inspirational speakers or lecturers on leadership. But then we look in the wrong direction. Instead of looking towards others, outwards, we need to look inwards. Ask yourself the question: what am I on earth for? Who am I? What do I really want? What are my core values? And do I have the courage to live up to my answers?"

Science is being amazed at what you don’t know

In November 2017, Schaveling was appointed professor at Nyenrode. "It was absolutely not my ambition, but emeritus professor Willem Burggraaf encouraged me to write a 'real' book, a dissertation. Then others encouraged me to take the next step." 

Schaveling experiences the professorship as a great responsibility, "especially the social role weighs heavily. After all, you are a moral beacon in this world. You are actually never announced as 'Jaap Schaveling', but always as 'Professor'. As a result, listeners assume you are always right in this role." But for Schaveling, the essence of science is precisely the assumption that you don't yet know, or will never even know. That amazement, that curiosity, that putting yourself in perspective, is of great importance in this world.

Sustainability as a base for good leadership

In addition, Schaveling carries the theme of sustainability deep in his heart. For him, it is the basis of good leadership: "The estate is a very concrete implementation of Nyenrode's intrinsic values, namely the relatedness to life. We are all part of nature." 

Stewardship requires long-term thinking and our moral compass is essential. This is something that Schaveling feels is still missing from many in the journey towards a sustainable inclusive society. "Nyenrode can be a leader in how we can foster a sustainable and inclusive world. I like to see how quickly Nyenrode is taking good steps in this direction."
Prof. dr. Jaap Schaveling is Professor of Cooperation & Leadership at Nyenrode Business University. He is part of Nyenrode's Faculty Research Center for Strategy, Organization & Leadership. Schaveling has been working at Nyenrode Business University since 1997.

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