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Professor of Practice and Philips CHRO Ronald de Jong: ‘We hire character’

Fast-changing developments in a globalized world force companies to act, while exponential growth in technological advancement has reduced the average lifespan of companies. The resulting financial, economic, and monetary crises are mainly crises of value and require solutions of responsible leadership, said Professor of Practice Ronald de Jong, member of the Philips Executive Committee during his inaugural address on March 9. Preceding his speech, a symposium on the subject of 'Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century' was held.

There was also a ‘Food for Thought’ meeting with students. De Jong told them that passion, authenticity, sense of responsibility, and the ability to formulate a goal are essentials for good leadership: ‘We hire characther.’

During the symposium, Philips CEO Frans van Houten showed how his company made a daring choice and change of policy by creating Philips Health Technology in order to help 3 billion people improve their health. He said leadership needs to be innovative, courageous, and geared to making impact.

‘To preserve the planet and protect mankind’

Alumnus, economist, and former president of the SER (the Dutch Social and Economic Council) Herman Wijffels also pointed out the responsibility of new leadership for the wellbeing of people. He said that relevant leadership and business nowadays should not be about making money, but about being relevant to the lives of people. ‘Our main objective should be how to preserve our planet and protect mankind. Our society cannot continue to deplete resources and continue to create inequality among people.’

Erkko Autio, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at TiSEM, eleborated on how digitalization, which is transforming itself faster and faster, has an impact on innovation and the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The leadership of the future should realise that it is redefining society with tremendous speed. Digitalization is offering many opportunities, for instance, in the sense that we can act immediately without a long road of preparations and plans like we did in the past. He added that entrepreneurship in the digital era demands lifeskills.

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Ten lessons

At the end of the symposium, De Jong held his inaugural speech, in which he announced his willingness to coach two students with their start-ups. Other experience he wanted to share included: staying in contact with the world around you, listening to your clients, never overestimating the value of strategy, which should never become a strait-jacket, trusting your intuition, and daring to decide. Philips’ decision to build the health technology company required courage. Consider the consequences for your choices for the stakeholders, realize what their interests are. Be ready for adversity, be prepared to fail. Build and leverage authority, but avoid using ‘power’. Power erodes; the more you use it, the more you lose it. Develop your own wisdom, formulate your own lessons. Finally, redefine the notion of ‘value’: a recent report from Credit Suisse states that the globe’s richest 1% own half the world’s wealth, highlighting the growing gap between the super-rich and everyone else. Conventional economic thinking needs to be transformed beyond merely finding justification for this enormous and increasing inequality, De Jong stated.