Twenty years after his own EMBA graduation, Peter Bodmer, Chairman and CEO of BEKA Group, told the 58 graduates of the “Embarkers of Change” class that having a strong sense of moral integrity was their most important currency, especially during times of crisis and uncertainty.
“Decide what you stand for and stand for it all the time. That’s not a plea for stubbornness or a lack of tolerance but for guidance towards your inner compass,” he said.
One mistake many people often make is believing that careers should be linear. While it’s important to have a strategy for both your personal and professional lives, be aware that sometimes the best opportunities come along when you deviate from the original plan and embrace change, he said.
Understanding what really motivates you is also vital to avoid making decisions that are driven by ego rather than what will truly bring you fulfilment, he added.
“We expend an enormous amount of energy on measurable goals such as titles, positions, etc. There is nothing wrong with this in principle but it’s not enough in itself. Success in the classic sense doesn’t [necessarily] equate to fulfilment. I had to learn to understand what really drives me, what I enjoy, and where the meaning of life and my actions lie,” he said.
Echoing this theme, IMD President Jean-François Manzoni advised the graduates to focus on the process of achieving their goals rather than the outcome.
“Focusing on what you control, rather than linking your happiness to the achievement of goals you don’t control, will be much more satisfying and fulfilling for you. It will also help you to remember that, when in doubt, it’s generally a good idea to do the right thing,” he said.
Professor Vanina Farber, Dean of the EMBA and and elea Professor of Social Innovation, praised the class for challenging the status quo and advised them to recognize the power in the community they have created. “The friends you’ve made in this program will continue to be a source of strength and resilience, your safe space,” she said.
“Embrace a vision of leadership that stands firmly against violence — leadership defined not by force, but by the transformative power to effect meaningful change. This is leadership that lifts others up and strengthens the community,” she added.
She advised the class to work intentionally to create equal opportunities for others. “Use what you have learned to foster profitable and impactful businesses and a fairer society.”
The power of leadership to change the world
Susanne Wille, Member of the board of executives of Swiss public broadcaster SRF and Director of the Department of Culture, and one of two EMBAssadors, told her class that the graduation stood as a testament to the impact of the program and a reminder of what they are all capable of as leaders when they join forces.
“We look the same as we did. But we are no longer the same,” she shared. “This transformation, this significant change within us is a mission, is a privilege. And I think we all know it is a responsibility.”
Her co-EMBAssador, Pierre Wüst, an executive director at J.P. Morgan, spoke of how the program had helped him to challenge his biases, particularly when it came to his preconceptions around impact investing and diversity.
The class was made up of 28 nationalities and people who had very different backgrounds and experiences. While this had made group work more challenging, it had ultimately made it more enriching.
“It is, or will be, part of your job description to make sure you build the best teams around you. Don’t go for the easiness of uniformity. Go for the challenge of diversity; not only of gender or skin color, or education, or nationality. Make sure you go for diversity of opinions, of opposing views, and ultimately take the decisions you think are best, having heard all the arguments. You will do much greater good to our society and to the world,” he said.
In closing, he urged his cohort to lead by example. “If you do what is right, other people will look up to you, and do the same. This is the true power of leadership, a multiplier effect. Never underestimate the great power that you have to change the world.”