Making Europe’s next generation of business leaders

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Last year, when Oru Ogbo was asked by his employer if he wanted to join a new program to train and support young leaders across Europe, he didn’t hesitate. As a Nigerian who came to the UK ten years ago and was working with PwC, he wanted to share his experience and hear different perspectives.

“I wanted to listen to other people’s opinions on big topics: climate change, geopolitics, misinformation,” he said. “And to be a part of shaping a leadership model for the next generation. I understand that there are some completely different perspectives on leadership, diversity, and how immigrants should integrate.”

Europe101, a free series of online workshops and lectures supported by a networking platform, is joined by a group of volunteers in their twenties from many countries and professional backgrounds. So far, with the launch of the fourth cohort, it has registered more than 1,000 participants. They discuss their own perspectives and challenges; Leadership debate related to purpose, interest and trust; And they made promises to each other, reflecting on how they would change and act in the future.

“We’re using a leadership program to connect generations and empower those young people to be leaders,” says Julia Middleton, who developed the project, which is run by her charity Common Purpose. “Their understanding is that leadership is something static and institutionalized to maintain the status quo. We are trying to make them more fluid in their thinking. They understand that the role of the leader is not just to support.” [the employees] But doing the job.”

Europe101 reflects a wider need from individuals and employers for training and networking across national borders – and at a time when aspects of UK government policy have shifted in the opposite direction, from Brexit to cuts to international remittances and volunteering programmes. .

One example is the UK’s decision to withdraw from Erasmus in 2020, the EU-backed system that focuses on supporting students to spend a year abroad. It has been replaced by the more modest touring programme, which is a short-term placement for Britons, with no reciprocal arrangements for foreign nationals to come to the UK.

“The best thing the UK can do is rejoin,” said Juan Rayon Gonzalez, president of the Erasmus Student Network. They cited benefits such as better communication, team building, cross-cultural understanding and civic engagement. “Erasmus alumni vote more in European elections. It makes them more active citizens.

Other British-sponsored programs were also squeezed. For example, the International Citizen Service Abroad volunteer-led program was launched in 2020. Philip Goodwin, CEO. “We talk about global Britain and opportunities around the world, but there’s no money behind them. That’s a huge waste.”

Such programs can be highly beneficial, but they require expensive time abroad. This limits the range of people who can participate and raises environmental concerns about the carbon footprint of the journey. The coronavirus pandemic has spurred alternative online approaches, forcing business schools and other institutions to adapt.

The development of programs such as Europe101 suggests that the approach will evolve. For employers such as Danny Bisland, manager of the Scottish Football Association, who has nominated several participants, the benefits are clear.

“We’re seeing a big shift from groups to larger community-led organizations,” he said. “Clubs in Scotland have stepped up incredibly quickly to support everything from football to food banks, the elderly, community care during Covid. That just goes on. The role of the youth is very important: they can talk to their peers. We are very interested in promoting the inclusion of youth in decision-making.

Nicholas Kloss, a German mechanic who attended Europe101’s weekly workshops, said the sessions helped him to better understand the importance of considering the perceptions of others. In particular, he thinks the network will provide the greatest long-term benefits. “It’s not what you know that matters, it’s the people you know and the relationships you make,” he said.

Marshall Marcus, Secretary General of the European Youth Orchestra, who sent the participants, said: “There are all kinds of reasons to develop leadership; Young people also feel that our generation has messed things up. They want to be part of the decision.

With so many pressing issues today, such as the climate crisis, he believes the program shows how complex leadership can be. And with culturally diverse participants, the learning experience is even more valuable, he says.

Marcus also said that the dynamic “fluid leadership” idea behind the program is important throughout Europe – and important in the music industry itself.

“We must break away from the old hierarchical style of leadership. When musicians play together, it’s amazing how they can lead, hold and convey the lead at the right time.”

The next challenge for Europe101 and other such “light touch” online programs will be the long-term effects, including maintaining and nurturing the relationships that the participants make.

Arguably, it’s easier to form relationships when people are physically together, sharing experiences over a longer period of time – Erasmus participants, for example, often live and work together.

But since participating last year, Ogbo said he has been in touch with many of the people he met. He left PwC to set up his own education startup, and became an “ambassador” to recruit other young people to Europe101. It sees an urgent need to address society’s biggest problems in its generation.

“We had a general sense that leadership should be polite, and very hierarchical structures were a thing of the past,” he says.

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