Connecting and serveant leadership: the vision of Anthony Duffeleer

Connecting and serveant leadership: the vision of Anthony Duffeleer

25 May 2021
Gerrit Sarens
Gerrit Sarens
  • Anthony Duffeleer became CEO of the Parisian scale-up Augment in mid-2020. Looking at his track record, this is, without doubt, an atypical step in his career. Anthony is anything but the technical expert in this field. On top of that, a major strategic turnaround had to be made in a short period of time to keep the company afloat.

    How does one go about this as a leader, knowing that the company is going through turbulent waters?

  • How does the company work, and who are the people?

  • Anthony prides himself on taking time to get to know the business and the people. This is what we call connective leadership.

    Despite the urgency of the strategic changes, he took his time for the above-mentioned necessity. "Reculer pour mieux sauter", as they would say in Paris.

    His golden rule? Be careful with the speed at which you approach things and adopt a rhythm that works for everybody.

    1. The key message would be to listen and to look around a lot. How does the company function? Who are the people? How do the people work?
    2. Then ask a lot of questions and question many things but positively and directly.
    3. Avoid the word 'change' and do not throw every existing thing into the bin straight away.
  • What do you use the collected information for?

  • While listening, you collect a lot of information, but what do you do with it?

    • To bring 'people on point,' i.e. to put the right person in the right place
    • So that people can detect, develop and use their talents
    • To achieve the greatest compatibility
  • How does Anthony perceive his role as a leader?

  • Anthony has an unambiguous interpretation of the concept of serving leadership.

    • "I like to be an umbrella": we walk through the rain together, but I'm the one holding the umbrella. Not only when it's raining hard (read: when things are bad), but especially bringing calm and giving people comfort so they can do their work in the right conditions.
    • "I am the one in charge, but not the only one making decisions": everyone should be able to make decisions, knowing that there is always an umbrella protecting them from possible rain.
    • “I will use you, but use me as well”: as a non-experienced CEO, he needs the skills from all employees, but conversely, as a CEO, he is always fully at their disposal.

    We agreed in our conversation that a serving leader who is respectful, who can have difficult conversations, who names things, and who argues decisions, gains credibility.

Struggles of a manager

Managers are

  • new in this role

    and

    • lack self-confidence
    • don’t know how to go from being a colleague to being a boss
    • need to loosen up on the command & control leadership style
    • must let go of the (technical) expert status
    • cannot give or accept constructive feedback
    • feel pressure to perform as manager
    • have difficulty building relationships
    • want to be liked by everyone or want to be the ‘bad boss’
    • play the hero
  • are struggling

    and

    • stay too involved in operations
    • have trouble prioritizing
    • cannot delegate
    • fear conflict situations
    • disconnect from the team
    • deal with flawed strategic thinking
    • do not relate to higher management
    • lack clear communication skills
    • remain not self-aware
    • avoid difficult conversations
    • miss political antennas
    • ...
  • capable of more

    and

    • need mental preparation as successor
    • need to be able to lead big changes ahead
    • need to learn to be emotionally resilient and in control
    • need to learn to make big decisions fast without all the information
    • must become persuasive presenters
    • need to learn how to cultivate their own personal brand
    • need to learn how to lead by example
    • manage by trust, not by fear
    • need to overly develop empathy
    • ...
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