Interview with Cyril Legrand by HEC Magazine
Interview with Cyril Legrand, founding trustee and CEO of Oxford Leadership, speaks about leadership development in the context of the 4th industrial revolution: Leadership 4.0.
Oxford Leadership is often mentioned as a pioneering leadership consultancy. In what way?
Cyril: The consultancy was one of the first twenty years ago to focus entirely on leadership in order to accelerate the transformation of organizations through the alignment between people, purpose and strategy.
Our Oxford Leadership tribe has been built based on deep beliefs:
A strong social commitment with the intention of raising the level of consciousness of the decision makers of multinational companies. We help authentic, socially conscious leaders transforming while performing during turbulent times. We believe that leaders of large organizations, when they decide to become part of the solution, have the power to make a difference contributing to a more humane, equitable and respectful society. This allowed us to work closely with groups such as McDonald’s or Unilever.
A humanist commitment: you have to grow the person before to develop the leader. We have developed our own proprietary tools from experiential learning methods, often avant-garde, that lead to enduring behavioral changes inside-out. Thanks to our large database of executive leaders, we have perfected a ‘total intelligence’ development model, which supports a person potential’s fulfillment. Currently, we can hear a lot about the introduction of mindfulness meditation in companies. More than 10 years ago, we already were doing this with our partner clients, such as Telefonica or Akzo Nobel.
Our belief is that in order to receive, you have first to know how to give and care. If you don’t get what you want, you have not given what you should. We dislike dogmas and preconceived recipes and bet more on the collective intelligence of our clients. We always engage in co-creation with them and favour the transfer of our know-how and collaborative methods to their teams. The German group Metro is a perfect example of this, especially in relation to our cooperation in the cultural and operational transformation of the company. For more than two years, we gave the voice and the power to the 150,000 collaborators of the company in more than 30 countries.
Oxford Leadership supports purpose-driven organizations and leaders. What is your own purpose?
Cyril: I have built my executive leadership “signature” around a simple 4P formula: Potential, Pace, Progress, Path. How can I help my clients optimizing their potential? What is the relevant pace to support them effectively? How to ensure there is a virtuous learning loop for continuous progress? What is the right path to optimize learnings and experiences.
My purpose, what gives me energy and a deeper sense of meaning, is to support top executives and top teams to find their X-factor in order to care, dare and share with maximum impact, transforming business for good.
Today, leadership is spoken about a lot in the context of the 4th industrial revolution. Can you give us more details?
Cyril: We live in a new environment in which digital technologies especially offer opportunities for development and exceptional disruption, without precedence. We live in an exponential world. As such, we are talking about the 4th industrial revolution. What type of leadership do organizations need in order to survive or accelerate their development in environments that continue to be more complex and globalized? What kind of leadership is more adapted to mobilize, drive growth and transformation in a context where ambiguity and uncertainty are the norm? Which of the new leadership practices have a strong operational impact and what truly makes the biggest difference? For practical reasons, it has been decided to unite all of these themes under the title of Leadership 4.0.
Therefore, we proposed that our clients (mainly global organisations with a long and strong industrial and cultural heritage, such as Maersk or BASF groups) collaborate through a participatory action research approach in order to understand and define together what it means to be a leader in this particular context. A lot of literature exists on the impacts of technology and indispensable digitalisation, as well as numerous reflexions on innovation and transformation, but little exists on the practices needed for a leadership 4.0. Consequently, we have focused on this with some twenty global companies.
What were the first conclusions that you were able to make from this study?
Cyril: The study began more than one year ago. It is still running and will continue in an iterative manner. I am inviting all interested companies and leaders to join us.
We are still at the early stage but there is already a strong consensus among our clients that Leadership 4.0 could be defined by the ability of leaders to rapidly align & engage hyper-agile empowered and networked teams with clarity of purpose and fierce resolve to perform while transforming.
We are observing that some fundamental aspects of leadership will never change. Leadership will continue to be personal above all else. It is all about relationships. The conversation IS the relationship. The quality of our conversations defines the quality of our relationships.
Leadership 4.0 will be increasingly social. I would like to highlight the importance of the most critical theme emerging from our first round of research: the alignment of personal purpose with business and social intention.
Story telling is not enough anymore. It is all about story living, making purpose habitual and credible for all employees as it becomes both a way of working and a way of living.
In order to respond more directly to your question, six additional themes have emerged from the study, as you can observe on the graphic in this article. It would take too long to try to explain them here in detail. Do not hesitate to visit our webpage in order to access the research’s content and results. We intend to deploy this year through our research partners a series of collaborative sessions dedicated to the detailed outcomes of the research and the HOW TO of the Leadership 4.0.
Do any elements deserve special attention?
Cyril: The future does not need your leadership, it needs OUR leadership, that is, a more distributed, collaborative and benevolent one. There is a strong need for simplification and agility. Some groups have already followed this path. L’Oréal is an excellent example: we have developed a global integrated leadership development program based on this for the managers of managers.
The notion of collective intuition is going to take on a preponderant importance. A high performing team is a team that consistently makes better decisions, faster, together. In these fast-paced business environments where operational excellence requires the ability to permanently adapt, it is necessary to re-evaluate the learning and feedback processes that enhance collective intuition complemented by the teams’ analytical skills. This capability allowed our partner NXP to truly make a difference for its main client, Apple, and to be at the heart of the Apple Pay system today.
In order to maintain this position, what are the innovations that you propose to your partner clients today?
Cyril: The work on purpose and meaning has become so strategic for our global clients that we have formed an alliance with the renowned Black Sheep Studios (the BBH creative production arm) in London. The complementarity of our know-how offers a unique value proposition. This is a very powerful combination where we facilitate personal change to bring purpose to life and accelerate business performance while crafting the key messages & language and creating the emotional assets for the successful roll-out and embedding of such work across the organisation.
We have modified our protocols in executive leadership coaching and mentoring, adding tools for example from the latest advances in epigenetic practice. We have gained in term of impact and time to embed behavioural changes.
We have developed a unique model of executive support for leadership & management teams based on our work on collective intuitive intelligence. An effective collaborative framework leading teams to better decision making and group work.
We propose to embed purpose-driven behaviors as a way of living & working throughout the whole company through an experiential digital learning platform and emotionally evocative creative communication that bring the Purpose journey to life. This provides a cost-efficient way to scale-up the company purpose to the wider employee population (50k +).