About the Author
About the Author
In 2008, at the pinnacle of his career, Kees van der Graaf decided to take early retirement from consumer goods giant Unilever. Kees's career at Unilever spanned more than 30 years and culminated with him becoming the president of Europe and a member of the Board and Executive Committee. During his final years at Unilever, he completely overhauled the European business and brought it back to growth.
Since retiring, Kees focuses his time on a number of activities that he views as priorities. In addition to spending time with his family, his top priority is to participate in activities that support the FSHD Foundation, which he and his wife RenÃ©e founded in the hopes of finding a cure for FSHD - a disease with which his son Bart is afflicted. Kees also spends a significant amount of time at IMD, where he is an Executive-in-Residence and Co-Director of the IMD Global CEO Center - Leading in a Connected Future. Additionally, he serves on a number of business and societal boards and has his own consultancy - Los Gravos BV - through which he advises companies and institutions. In addition to delivering several public speeches, Kees has advised a number of international fast-moving consumer goods firms on complexity management. All of Kees's activities are aimed at raising funds for the FSHD Foundation.
My main purpose in life
My main purpose in life, as I discovered at the executive retreat in 1995 with C.K. Prahalad (Chapter 1) is to find a cure for FSHD and to support RenÃ©e, Bart, Diederik and Michiel in making their lives as enjoyable as possible. Next to that, I want to contribute to creating a better world by increasing the awareness of the up-and-coming generation of future leaders of the importance of taking responsibility for the impact business is having and should be having on the environment.
- Care - for my family, my friends, the planet and the people on it.
- Take responsibility - for my decisions and for those areas that have been assigned to my charge. This requires courage so as not to shy away from making difficult decisions.
27 things I want to do before I die
- Integrity is at the heart of being a trustworthy and credible leader.
- Deliver on your promises, and only promise what you can deliver. If you cannot deliver on your promises, analyse why and inform your superiors about what happened and more importantly, what you are doing in terms of corrective measures.
- Keep things simple. We all tend to have a fantastic ability to make things complex - we love to make things complicated. In my view, a leader needs to be relentless in weeding out unnecessary complexity and become world class at managing the necessary complexity - Kees's law.
One of the exercises change agents and consultants often conduct during a session to create alignment in a team is ask you to write down 27 things you want to do before you die. The time they give you is always short, so the list is never complete or completely thought through. What it does, however, is establish a list that you can share with other team members. The lists tell a lot about the individuals and they become the launching pad for creating alignment among team members.
Since I first created my list, I have toyed with it, tweaked it, grouped it under related headings. It has now grown beyond 27 things and it is not in order of priority, but it does provide some good insights into what drives and motivates me. Below are a few of the things on my list:
My current activitiesIMD
- Sailing my own boat down the Belgian River Maas, through the French canals and down the Rhone to the Mediterranean, through the Black Sea and then back home up the Danube.
- Attend the farewell tour of the Rolling Stones.
- Be a buddy to Bart wherever and whenever he wishes me to do so.
- Organize the Winter Olympics in the Netherlands together with Sarajevo.
- Meet "admired leaders", such as Kofi Annan, to learn from them for the benefit of the younger generation.
- Co-Director, IMD Global CEO Center: Leading in a Connected Future
- Ben & Jerry's
- Grandvision BV
- 3M Holdings
- Founder and President, FSHD Foundation
- Supervisory Board of the Muscles for Muscles Foundation
- Chairman, Supervisory Board, University of Twente, Netherlands
- Consultant, coach, facilitator
- Guest speaker, lecturer
- "Making the most of corporate social responsibility." McKinsey Quarterly, December 2009 (with co-authors Tracey Keys and Thomas Malnight).
- "Kericho: A Sustainable Tea Plantation." IMD case no. IMD-3-2080, 2009 (with co-authors Tracey Keys and Thomas Malnight).
- "World Food Program." IMD case no. IMD-3-2081, 2009 (with co-authors Tracey Keys and Thomas Malnight).
- "Unilever Ice Cream Europe." Five-case series on complexity, IMD-3-2082/2086, 2009 (with co-authors Tracey Keys and Thomas Malnight).
- "The Power of Chinese Medicine." LCF Insights, 2010-003, IIMD Global CEO Center: Leading in a Connected Future (with co-authors Tracey Keys and Thomas Malnight).
- "Recasting Business around Relationships not Transactions." LCF Insights, 2011-002,IMD Global CEO Center: Leading in a Connected Future (with co-author Thomas Malnight).
| About the book
| Introductory chapter
| Stories and anecdotes
| About the author
| Foreword by Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever
| Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands
| What others have to say about the book
| Book reviews
| Case studies
| Complexity cases
| CSR case
| Tomorrow's Challenges
| Follow Kees
| On linkedin