Satirist and author Freek de Jonge speaking at the 2016 RSM Leadership Summit
Satirist and author Freek de Jonge speaking at the 2016 RSM Leadership Summit

The process of creating an inclusive community in businesses and organisations was described by an international CEO, by academics who gave their observations from research, and by a satirist who used engaging humour to show the necessity for trust. These varied contributions came from the stage at the annual RSM Leadership Summit on 7 October, organised by Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM).

The capacity audience at the Van Nelle Fabriek in Rotterdam heard from Dean of RSM Steef van de Velde how the concept of inclusiveness and a ‘we’ culture – which some politicians have recently interpreted narrowly as walls, borders and  becoming less open – can actually improve the productivity and opportunities of success for all kinds of organisations.

‘Focus on listening’

More than 400 members of the business and business school community listened to Professor Dirk van Dierendonck’s five key principles for changing the culture of HR and leadership ‘from me to we’:

  1. Happiness results in performance.
  2. Motivating through empowerment.
  3. Leading with humility.
  4. People need people.
  5. Building on respect.

The higher up the hierarchy in an organisation they are, the more leaders should focus on listening, he advised.

‘It’s impossible in a day’

Guest speaker was Stefano Rosso, CEO of the fashion manufacturing and distribution company OTB Group, the parent company of the fashion brands DieselMaison MargielaMarniViktor & Rolf, Staff International and Brave Kid. He told the audience that the family-owned and -run Group is in the process of succession as his father, Group founder Renzo Rosso, nears retirement. Stefano’s role is to turn his father’s revolutionary entrepreneurial thinking into a ‘constant evolution’ in preparation for the future, and observed that it’s impossible to transform a ‘me’ model into a ‘we’ model in a day.

Break-out sessions

The pace of the day then changed, with a choice of eight interactive break-out sessions conducted by RSM faculty, asking participants to actively explore aspects of moving towards the culture of ‘we’ for businesses.

Back in the plenary auditorium, Dean of RSM Steef van de Velde presented three RSM alumni with prestigious Distinguished Alumni Awards. The awards went to :

  • Business Achievement Award: Christine Lim (International Full-time MBA 2010).
  • Entrepreneurial Spirit Award: Roos de Wit-Goedhart (Executive MBA 2009, MSc BA Business Society Management 2003 and Bedrijfswetenschappen doctoraal BSM, 2003).
  • Social Impact Award: Debby van der Schuit (MSc International Management/CEMS 2010).

‘What is your purpose?’

Dutch cabaret performer, satirist and writer Freek de Jonge launched the final plenary session of the day. His absurd and anecdotal style threw new light on the issues of getting from ‘me’ to ‘we’. It requires basic trust and intrinsic discipline he said, and he performed an animated anecdote about helping a drunk marine pilot steer a ship carrying chemical waste to illustrate building trust, concentration and focus.

“Organisations exist to do something you can’t do alone,” said Daan van Knippenberg, professor of organisational behaviour at RSM, and final speaker of the day. The key to effective leadership is uniting people towards a purpose but it must be based on values. Companies that cannot clearly formulate, define or articulate that purpose face a challenge to convincingly communicate what they are doing and why they are doing it.

To find out more about the presentations, read the full report or explore photographs and videos of presentations and break-out sessions at the 2016 RSM Leadership Summit, see  our Leadership Summit webpage.

Prof. Daan van Knippenberg will lead a two-day executive education programme on values-based leadership in December.

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top-ranked business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers.

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Erika Harriford-McLaren, Media & Public Relations Manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at

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