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Of Jean-Pierre Bal, selected quotes (excerpts), about leadership, craftsmanship, environment, talent and other fields; taken from letters, speeches, conferences, discussions, ancillary news, and other writings and communications of his.


(2015) “Your dream, vision, ambition,... should be like a featherlight box, as if carried at the tip of the fingers." (his leadership message, and also used for an ad about his 'other' and by now highly acclaimed malletier arts-and-craftsmanship activity). 


(2015) “If by thinking over and over again you sort of convince yourself that the lack of financial means, or an unfavourable climate or context, or whatever human or other circumstance prevents you from starting a project or take an initiative, then tell me how you handle or what you do with your inner drive or ambition that made you envision your project in the first place? (...) So, render yourself a service: don't stow it away in some remote drawer of your mind, don't transform it into something ugly, don't blame the world, and so forth. Instead, work on your self-leadership, get to grips with yourself, I mean that if you abandoned your initiative then learn all you can from that, while avoiding the "I want the perfect answer or best alternative, and I want it now-now-now" kind of mind-trap that somewhat typifies the contemporary way of living of rather many people. Besides, if you leave, abandon, or sell your newborn project within a few years of existence, you will never experience what organizational growth and adaptation are really about, perhaps even less get to know your own true potential for transformation. You'll quite simply miss the leadership and entrepreneurship coalescence." (from a discussion with would-be entrepreneurs who were asked to comment on the " Milestones in Leadership Education" communiqué)


(2014) Should I be stating this: “our 21st century is full of toxic garbage of all sorts and natures, resulting from mankind’s inventions or irresponsible erring... Do something about it!” Or should I write a poetic exposé that conveys the message in a more gentle, say more civilized way? (...) a pivotal question arises: “what's our civilisation all about?” Perhaps a question to be answered on one's own, but only if one feels and wants to do so. (from his letter for i2LN and program in leadership and Nature: "Leading with Earth at Heart")


(2014) "You are what you learn from your experiences and from your education" (excerpt from a recent white paper, to become a chapter in a future book of his)


(2013) "At times leading can be an endless tightrope act; a continuous walking, and cautiously, to reach the safe destination, the goal. But if that end-destination is repeatedly moving, then the progress becomes a journey, a voyage. Coping,  time and over again, with such degrees of unpredictability, that is part of the state of being a leader, not to say that leadership implies a form of preparedness for managing multiple uncertainty factors" (excerpt from a forthcoming paper on altered continuities in leadership) 


(2013) "The nowadays gradual impoverishment of the quality of education in various societal strata or groups, and in many places around the world, plus the burst of numerous distractions and artefacts that tend to stall the intellectual maturity process amongst certain groups of young people, contributes to the emergence of millions of actors living artificial lives. In other words: we are confronted with the mesmerizing disappearing-act of millions of leaders. (excerpt from a paper on leading a purposeful life, for a forthcoming seminar-course) 


  (2012) "The human factor in leadership (...) a unique flow, composed of a person's intellectual agility and interpersonal sync, plus operational dexterity; along with the deeper current: the quality of the person's vision and character (...) That confluence of abilities represents a merger of past experience with new knowledge, becoming an enhanced flow of expertise, while continually interfacing with the connecting boundaries, in other words: the broader environment factor in leadership" (for the DR Leadership Journey Programs introduction)


  (2012) "(...) In leadership it matters enormously to keep one's mind open to many things; to not get stuck in managerial tasks, to dare new ideas even if another domain - for instance the arts - would be the terrain  of conceptual expression or testing ground of how people perceive and interpret a vision, how it inspires them" (excerpt from the "Year 1538" leadership, legacy, and visual arts commentary -- May 2012)


  (2012) "A major challenge in education, in learning, and in all of the professions, is that there is far too much viewing, hearing, and copy-pasting, being forms of information processing, and far-far too few reading, listening, and authentic writing, being forms of experiencing subject-matters. Not to mention reflection-before-action (...)" (excerpt from a forthcoming paper on the challenges in education -- Jan. 2012)


  (2011) "On top of its unique foundations, the particularity of our leadership school is that the programs and courses are mainly personally-oriented ones. For example, all of the participants study at their own individual pace, whether online, on-campus, or in tailor-made blended learning modes. We prove that we really groom leaders and leadership educators one by one". (in a conversation with state administrators, on the school's educational approach   -- May 2011)


  (2011) Question: "The school has grown fast, in its specific niche. What would be the next phases, how do you see its future?  Answer: "I have never seen a robust or centennial type of tree grow to its fullest maturity or adult stage in just a few years. It keeps on growing, year after year, twig by twig, branch by branch, all of it to be somewhat trimmed by the seasons, the forces of nature, the environment (...)." (in Milestones in Leadership Education, Jan. 2011) 


  (2011) "What drives the world? Business? What will drive the world in 2025? So, let's talk about vision, or rather quality of vision, and character, or rather quality of character. Then what is the quality of character of our society? What is not happening or taking place in for example education, taking place today, towards the future?" (on revisiting, in 2011, the "Mind of a Leader, a New Psychology of Leadership" article in BizEd of AACSB, 2002) 


  (2010) "My role of executive president at the Institut Supérieur International de Leadership INSIL remains subordinate to the training, coaching, and grooming of leaders, leadership learners, and educators in the field. It has been that way during my executive directorship at THIERRY as well. Many leaders and authors have long stated that the key or foremost component in a leader's agenda is that of grooming other leaders. By the very nature of it, or naturally I would say." (to a question asked by a government official, September 2010).


  (2010) "On renewing the introduction for the TERRA programme, some eight years after its pioneering launch, the message has become more pressing still. It is in today's society, in the here-and-now, every day, as well as in the coming years, almost relentlessly, that individuals and societies alike have to act upon all of the crucial environmental challenges and crises that can already be envisioned today. Such as the many impacts of climate change, the rapid changes that are occurring, amongst a series of issues arising. Many foresee this 21st century to be one of, mildly stated, continuously straining life environments, and at all levels of our worldwide societies. Changes will increase exponentially in the decades ahead, and the manageability of local, regional, and global factors will be highly complex (...). (in "On the prospect of, in retrospect", July 2010). 


  (2010) "That the time dimension can be a very tricky one for leaders, and people in general. On occasions one witnesses situations of not backing into the past, into the habitual, but rather of backing into the future, on being paralysed by the sight of the wave approaching, or on backing away from it, in the present, while it cannot be circumvented.(...) Firstly, let's talk about the wave. That is about vision, the quality of the vision, about what you're aiming for in the future. For what is it that you undertake in the present, today, in that regard? Are you perhaps burning the boat of the past? To the right avail? (...) In the leadership continuum, in continuity, what or how much is there to be identified as being of the past, the present, the future? (...)" (on a March 1993 ASTD article review by Prof. Bal; and revisited in March 2010). 


  (2010) "I will support the renaissance of Haiti, in the same way I undertook it five years ago after the devastation caused by the southeast Asia tsunami: countless and pro bono hours and resources invested during several years for providing the educational means for the grooming of new generations of local leaders. (...)"  (to United Nations staff, re. Haitian earthquake Jan. 2010)  


 (2009) "Repairing on old object is like mending an organisational problem (...) Most often the key to success resides within. On deciphering how the object, how the organisation, was built, how it has acquired its present shape, the human element comes to the forefront (...) initial aims and goals, and actual outcomes, become overwhelmingly obvious -- if time is given to such a process. Nowadays, in crisis-prone environments, solving internal challenges with external solutions is faster, more convenient, or cheaper. But I doubt these "quick fixes" would really last. Can you replace a piece of brass by a steel equivalent, seemingly as strong, unless you really know all of the reasons why the brass one was used at the very basis? (...)" (with staff and visitors of a museum, about the TV broadcast of Jean-Pierre's craftsmanship hobby - Oct. 2009).


 (2009) "Individuals, organisations, life in general, go through cycles of adjustment, sometimes caused by external events - trigger events. One should seize those moments as an opportunity for rejuvenation, the process by which one accelerates the readiness for "things to come", say for the next decade."  (in open conversations with government officials, in relation to the upcoming structural change of the school  -- May 2009)


(2008) "Take a cube of pure clay, place it on a stand, attach some ropes in the clay only, and have a few people pull the ropes at a distance... See the brick plus the stand tip off, possibly falling over, amazingly...(commenting on a picture of his workshop about the nature and strength of visible and less perceivable forces - cfr Lewin's Force Field Analysis method - that come into play in vision-setting and change processes -- September 2008)


(2007) "Let us not forget that embedded 'deep down' into the origin and root-meaning of the word leader are the notions of selection and election (...) And of talent or skill, of trust, of dedication or community merit, and, last but not least, of loyalty" (from his personal research papers on leudance -- August 2007)


(2006) "My major work of art?.. It is found in another field, where many people are involved during the work, the field is leadership, the art of leadership. That one work takes a lifetime to make, it is a shared one, with all the people, the artists, that contribute to it. It is dynamic, vibrant, it cannot be affixed onto a wall. It is the Thierry Graduate School of Leadership" (in an interview for a French classical arts magazine, in relation to his paintings -- April 2006)


(2006) "(...) Many resources that we delve, mine, log, transform... are inappropriately called resources - they are non-renewable since they cannot resource themselves by themselves. The true 'resources' better be coined 'renewables'. The other ones we should perhaps call 'unreplacables'. On the subject of forestry, for instance, the speed at which trees are felled in some regions of the world generates nothing more than barren fields. The fact that some of those newly created fields are transformed into areas of intensive agriculture and production of commodities for mass export, causes a competitive imbalance in another part of the world where a similar commodity is produced. One man's gain is often another man's loss (...) on a worldwide scale these revenue-shifts are dramatic, leaving far too many people uprooted, and they occur increasingly faster" (Jean-Pierre Bal quoted during a meeting held in Feb. 2006 with senior corporate leaders and officials of the European Union)


(2005) "No other set of experiences in my career has brought me such a wealth of learning and sharing as the drawing, the initiating, the growing, and the leading of the Thierry Graduate School of Leadership. (...) Leading is an art, the one art that involves the six senses in the relationships with, and in the influencing of and by other people; (...) We all make some errors, have some failures, and some successes in life; it all demonstrates the imperfection as well the courage of human beings, of leaders in particular. (...) I hear some of my colleagues say that leadership is a relatively young domain of study or learning. I disagree. It is as old as mankind itself (...). But the legacy from our ancestors is, sadly enough, rather futile; we repeat our mistakes time and over again."  (in open conversations, and informal Q&A's, with executives and public officials in Brussels -- March to June 2005)


(2003) "By 2025... Imagine how our world will be. Imagine how -your- life would be. And your children's. If you want a better world... Care for OUR world, act TODAY" (his response when asked about major challenges in the two to three decades ahead -- Sept. 2003)


(2003)  "(...) In other words: he is realistic, pragmatic, and uses a good dose of creativity. But his greatest competency is the one our present-day organizations miss the most, the one that is far more stronger than team-spirit: esprit de corps" (about Ernest Shackleton, the Polar explorer, in the foreword Jean-Pierre wrote in August 2003 to "Leadership sous 0° the French translation of "Leading at the Edge" authored by Dennis N.T. Perkins et al.)


(2003) "One of the primary tasks of a leader is to define reality. Ours is a world with dark skies, we want to improve it. I chose the year 2025 as a long-term goal" (about what leaders could do to improve a given situation, and how much time it can take to achieve it - March 2003)


(2002) "The real challenge in our field of education is that leadership is not an exact science, nor are its boundaries precisely defined. By its very nature, leadership generates a continuous state of alertness, awareness, and adaptation of its contents (...) Private and public organizations have expressed a need for a new type of leader. The functional hard-skills of business such as marketing, finance and operations are no longer a guarantee for success. The so-called soft-skills are now equally important, if not more. Teaching those skills is within the realm of leadership education (...) This is were the vast domain of self-leadership actually starts: self-awareness, self-improvement, and the ability to cope with disappointments and failure (...) The most difficult process for the faculty is to stimulate each participant how his or her own personality and conduct influence others. (...) The teaching and learning of MBA course subjects lie within the professional scope of graduate business schools. But in order to expand the scope of leadership as a field of its own, it cannot be part of a business school, because it requires another learning approach and structure” (in "The Mind of a Leader", article published in BizEd magazine of the AACSB, September/October 2002 issue)    


(2002)  "Leaders should focus on the survival of the whole world, by transcending the drive for survival of the fittest " (in a press-statement about leaders, society, and war. There quoting the opening paragraph of his lecture at the United Nations University's International Leadership Institute, Amman, Jordan in August 2002, and his 2001 article. More recently in his "Leading with Earth at Heart letter for i2LN (2014). 



 (1999) “For many leaders, the business world of the 21st century generates three inescapable challenges:

· to be able to face the increasing flows of information and transactions that

  evolve very rapidly;

· to ensure a continuous evaluation process of the leadership vision and


· and a constant sharing of the objectives, by all people and parties



 (...) In daily practice, to be a leader entails:

· to remain alert to changing currents;

· to be flexible, adapting vision and strategies;

· and, to listen, to reflect, then to communicate.


Active listening, consequential thinking, and coherent communication are part of the most elementary competencies in the practice of leadership(excerpt from his speech at a conference held in 1999, "Le Leadership au 21e siècle", translated from French).


Other selection of interviews or articles:

The Mind of a Leader (magazine article, courtesy AACSB)

Naît-on leader ou le devient-on ? (in French, courtesy Vedior On-line)

Leadership sous 0° (in French, from orig. courtesy Wharton School)

Milestones in Leadership Education (compilation of Q&As)

On Environmental Leadership (about Terra program, short letter)

Jalons de l'enseignement du leadership (in French, Q&As)


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