Stephan Glasmacher spent nearly the last three years inside the World Business Dialogue organization: As a team member from 2017 to 2018, organizing such wonderful guests like Tavi Roivas for the World Business Dialogue conference in 2018, and as managing director from 2019 to 2020. Now he moved to Berlin to start his master degree in ‘Public Economics’. Obviously, he already found a new initiative he supports: Aid Pioneers. Here he writes about what insides he learned since leaving the World Business Dialogue nearly 3 months ago.
Responsible Leadership is about hands-on!
What is Responsible Leadership about? What is the core of Responsible Leadership? For me, these have been probably the most frequently asked questions of this year (maybe except the question of a vaccine). And I’ve struggled a very long time to get close to an answer. But I think I’ve taken many steps forward – at the WBD as well as at Aid Pioneers. If you want, join my Responsible Leadership journey of 2020, summarized in the following words.
My Responsible Leadership journey started at the WBD…
At the beginning of 2020, we, as an organization, decided to choose Responsible Leadership as the main topic of the World Business Dialogue of the year. Why? We felt it was time to redefine the role of a modern leader. Against the big challenges like digitization and climate change (to name a few), we wondered how a leader can deal with them in a sustainable and responsible way. Until today, I think it was a right decision to choose this topic. But at the beginning, we, especially me, made one big mistake: We looked at the topic from a theoretical and philosophical perspective. One can say that we tried to analyze it as a highly academic issue.
After we had reflected on it (with your support!), we changed the approach to a very more applied one. In our podcast, we started to only focus on topics and problems that triggered all of us right at the moment, and we started more interactive talks with experts and members of you, our community. When I look at the WBD’s content today (and also listen to it), it’s very impressive to me how the current team led by Mareen, Simon and Moritz raised the content to a higher level.
My first learning during my journey was a negotiation: Responsible Leadership is not about theoretical and academic analyzes.
…and continued at Aid Pioneers
A few months ago, I left the World Business Dialogue team after, all in all, 2 and a half years in order to start my master’s degree in Berlin.
At that time, a school friend of mine told me about a new NGO called Aid Pioneers. It’s run by young people, primary students, who have the mission to help children in crisis regions in order to reduce their suffering. He explained how they built up an airlift between Berlin and Beirut within 10 days – from scratch. So less than 2 weeks after the explosion in the city, children could be supplied with relief goods like clothes, cuddly toys and school supplies. This was all done by an organization that hadn’t been officially founded at that time.
I felt there was a similar spirit within the organization that I already knew from the World Business Dialogue. There are a few young people who pursue a vision which is bigger than themselves, with the aim to improve young people’s lives and to bring the world closer together.
So there was only one opportunity: Joining the team of Aid Pioneers.
Until today, I am fascinated by the high effectiveness and pragmatism the team faces challenges – be it the collecting of donations for the children, the transport between Berlin and Beirut with all its logistical issues or the cooperation with on-site partner organizations. Beside Beirut, we are going to start new projects around the globe. In Greek refugees camps, children live under inhuman conditions, not only in Moria – they need the help of all of us. So we are hardly working on an airlift to Athens.
Note: As soon as we have established an airlift, every organization that supports our goals can use our way of transportation. Isn’t it effective, pragmatic and even environmentally friendly if several aid organizations can use one ‘transportation platform’?
The core of Responsible Leadership
Did you notice it? In the last part, I wrote about everything except Responsible Leadership. Because I think that the easiest way to talk about the topic is by using concrete examples. And I think that these examples should speak for themselves. In the second part of my personal Responsible Leadership journey, I recognized that one way of Responsible Leadership – and maybe even the core – is the following: There are conditions in the world you cannot accept – for example, because other people have to suffer. You could complain about these conditions and say: Someone should do something about it (e.g. politicians, people with power). Wouldn’t this be only cheap talk?
The better way is to ask yourself: How can I improve this situation? How can I make a real, measurable impact? Who may support me? And then do it. That’s all. We as Aid Pioneers didn’t even need an official organization – our official foundation was in the mid of November 2020.
I think Responsible Leadership can be defined in more than one way. I’m convinced that it has to be defined by action. Personally, for me, Responsible Leadership is about finding pragmatic solutions for a global challenge like children’s suffering in crisis regions. But in any case, there is one truth: Responsible Leadership is about hands-on.