Self-Leadership training for Vattenfall’s International Trainee Programme

– The Quest –

Ask any entrepreneur of a fast-growing start-up what their main challenge is and I bet you that apart from the obvious ones – “how do we attract investment?” and “how do we conquer market share?” – you’ll more often than not, hear them wonder how to attract the right talent and develop a vibrant company culture.

Now, as for well-established medium and large sized organisations, one might think at first that such challenges are not so relevant. The reality is that surviving in rapid-changing markets means for any organisation that it needs not only to attract the best new talent but also to succeed in retaining it, along with all the multi-generational and intercultural clashes that might come along with this. A strong standing organisation is then one that has a well-balanced and developed relation between its actions and vision (IT), its culture (WE) and its individuals (I). So the question is, how do we get there?

ThemeCentered Interaction (TCI)

The Heroes

A great example of an organisation taking this puzzle head-on is Vattenfall – one of Europe’s largest producers and retailers of electricity and heat.

Every year, 25 brilliant young trainees join its International Trainee Programme, where in a series of week-long seminars across Europe they get to learn about company activities, visit local industrial sites, connect with their colleagues and participate in innovative lectures and experimental workshops with personal growth as a centerpiece.

In the most recent of their seminar weeks, this time in Berlin, Vattenfall asked us to provide its trainees with a 2,5-hour Self-Leadership training to help with the management of daily activities and strengthen the sense of purpose and direction within the context of the company.

The Map

Before we start tackling client’s needs and designing an effective training to address them, it’s worth asking ourselves – what do we usually think about when we hear the words “Self-Leadership”?

Now, perhaps the simplest way to start is to say – as leadership is the ability to manage and command others, so is self-leadership the capacity to manage and command ourselves. However, when dealing with today’s major challenges, we also need the capacity to tackle their complexity by having a similarly complex but effective way of developing creative solutions for them. This requires new structures and styles of leadership, where teams have a higher number and quality of personal interactions, and where leaders are able to have a meaningful relationship with themselves (I), their peers (WE) and the vision and purpose of their work (IT).

So whenever we experience great leadership or meet somebody whom we consider to possess great self-leadership, and particularly in the context of a successful project or even a successful career, we notice that there is a lot more to it than fast acquisition of knowledge and efficient performance of tasks – but what is it? We often try to solve this puzzle by adding tangible new pieces – first on the kind of actions great leaders take and the results they obtain (WHAT), then on the habits and processes they use to do it (HOW).

As we explore further, we realise that these pieces not only don’t fit every person and every context, they also never create a full picture. To find a shared sense of truth and common patterns we must go deeper and look at the inner sources which leaders operate from (WHO, WHY).


“The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervenor”

Bill O’Brien, former CEO of Hanover Insurance

The Journey

We started our Self-Leadership training with the Vattenfall trainees by focusing on individual growth considering the 2 types of learning as described by Otto Scharmer (MIT, Theory U):

  • reflecting on the past and looking at our current self with everything that led us here;
  • sensing from the emerging future possibilities, who we are becoming and what is our highest potential.

Through guided journaling and individual reflections, the trainees explored and connected to their talents, passions, purpose, beliefs and values. Serving as a practice for self-expression and active listening, group dialogues were held on how to manifest the trainees’ qualities and ambitions into contributions to the Energy Transition within the Vattenfall context, and together they established a peer-to-peer support system for their next steps towards the future they want to create.

Adaptation inspired by TCI concept

The Treasure

Jonas Salk famously said “The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.”, but I personally prefer the adapted version from our good friend and mentor Matt Clarke (Switched-On Global): “The reward for a job well done is the chance to do a greater job”. This means that one should aspire to do work that empowers individual and collective growth, that strengthens our connections and prepares us to tackle “greater” challenges of the future.

Self-Leadership is in itself a “great” challenge that we’re always excited to dive into, and there is a lot more to be said and done which is obviously not possible in just one training session. However, we’re happy to have gotten the chance to work with Vattenfall and support their mission “to make fossil-free living possible within one generation”. We look forward to future opportunities to help these brilliant trainees find the missing pieces in their personal and professional puzzles.

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