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  • Writer's pictureOlivier S.E. Courtois

The Power of the Collective

For a while now, I have been back to intensive travel. A week ago, it was a special trip. I returned to London for the first time since 2019, which was before the Brexit and Covid. At the time, I was practically commuting between Brussels and London, not suspecting that this forced interlude would happen. A trip made all the more special by the opportunity to meet my daughter on "her turf" amidst "her tribe" and visit her new apartment.

However, when I set foot in St Pancrace, I had the strange feeling that it was just another day, as if those 4 years had been wiped away with a magic wand. I have this same feeling when I fly back to the four corners of the world. As if nothing had changed. Business as usual.

Thinking about it, I am fascinated to see how, once the crisis is over, the Collective reclaims the abandoned space, a bit like a compressed rubber ball that returns to its original shape in an instant.

The other day, I heard a historical and sociological reflection that I will summarize in a few words: great changes are the product of a whole nation, of a Collective, and the impact of leaders is, all in all, quite minimal. Their actions are the extension of the collective will, and leaders are the emanation of popular expression, democracy or not. There is too much emphasis on the advent of a new leader and his or her impact, and not enough on the power of the Collective. Change comes from the Collective, not from its leaders. Beyond the leadership teams, the Collective inexorably transforms itself according to its own DNA. In other words, whatever happens, France, the United States, China or Russia, to take just a few examples, transforms itself according to the Collective, the fruit of a long heritage, exposed to external transformations.

If we extrapolate, and if we imagine for a moment that it is the same for organizations, the question we can ask ourselves is what the real impact of leadership and management teams is on the transformation of an organization.

It is generally accepted that culture eats strategy for breakfast, and rightly so.

But then, what is the real transformative power of the leader and his/her team? Are our expectations of them realistic? And if the Collective has so much weight, do our human resources policies take it sufficiently into account?

In the end, one of the major skills of leaders is to read the popular will, or rather the will of the different categories that make up the group they lead, and to convert this reading into actions that have the best chance of resonating with the largest possible group, since it is this group that will implement or block the vision that the leader has echoed.

This is a fascinating prospect for all those who are responsible for selecting, promoting, developing and evaluating leaders in their organizat


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