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“We need to revolutionize executive education to enable our leaders to contribute to the challenges of the 21st century”

Interview of Hélène Le Teno, Operations Director at Jean-Noël Thorel Foundation

Hélène Le Teno, Operations Director @Jean-Noël Thorel Foundation

Hélène, can you explain to us how the idea of the Heart Leadership University was born?

Heart Leadership University is above all the result of the intuition and certainty of one man, Mr. Thorel, founder & executive president of the company NAOS. After having hired many CEOs and CXOs, he became convinced that although the people who go for an interview have impressive CVs, they do not necessarily have other essential qualities such as courage, empathy or intuition. For Mr. Thorel, it’s obvious: we need to revolutionize executive education to make sure our leaders can contribute to the challenges of the 21st century! Heart Leadership University was born, supported by Jean-Noël Foundation (NAOS-Bioderma shareholder endowment fund).

What should leaders expect?

We offer our leaders three areas of activity. First, a transformative programme called “from heart to action”. They also take part in research activities on 21st century leadership based on the observation that academic research is relatively lacking on this subject, particularly on innovative models of governance suited for purpose economy (from stakeholder capitalism to steward ownership). The idea is therefore to say to them: “and you, what mode of governance do you choose ? We also produce free educational and inspiring content, in order to shape a strong #HeartLeadership movement.

What are the profiles of the leaders in your classes?

In our very first class, the 12 leaders were at the head of companies of different sizes, from SMEs to ETIs, in all sectors, with a common desire: put their emotional and intuitive abilities in practice. In this context, the university offers them a pragmatic and inspiring approach, by providing them with tools and sources of inspiration. Meeting entrepreneurs who are pioneers in their sectors is an integral part of our approach, like the founders of Pocheco, an industrial company in the North of France which put “ecolonomy” in practice, Alenvi a successful social business in senior care, or Ulteria a growing business in the agri-food value chain with a unique mix of business drive and fair profit sharing rules.

Do you think Heart Leadership University could be scaled up in the future?

Yes. We have a momentum. Faced with structures that are becoming increasingly rigid, we are seeing a growing motivation on the part of entrepreneurs to create desirable leadership. If the movement is still on a small scale, it is a safe bet that the trend is growing. The 21st century is challenging humanity in three major ways: ecological collapse, increasing inequalities and human alienation through digital misuse. It is time to reinvent or even create a new form of leadership that takes into account these challenges and brings some answers to them!

How does Heart Leadership University approach political issues?

Our organization is completely apolitical, probably because the founder’s position as a world leader means that he does not position himself on a national political spectrum. Beyond that, if you look at the recent history of universities, they became quite politicized and this is damaging the independence of the research. We prefer to make our university a place of debate where we consider the long term as the scale of action. For this reason, we often invite authors of books with contrasting points of view to come and speak in order to nourish wilder and deeper thoughts . Our ambition is to reflect intensely on the best way to act in a world of multiple shifts and to provide answers to those who want to transform it!

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