Leadership Lessons from Klaus Schwab… Founder of the World Economic Forum

The February 8, 2010 issue of Fortune Magazine featured leadership and success strategies of Klaus Schwab, the man who created and leads the highly successful World Economic Forum.

If you are not familiar with the name and very significant accomplishments of Klaus Schwab, please read the following:

In 1971, Professor Klaus Schwab, then a professor of Business Administration at the University of Geneva, gathered European business leaders in Davos, Switzerland, for a discussion on global management practices.  The success of this first conference led Professor Schwab to create the European Management Forum, which in 1987 changed its name to the World Economic Forum.

Participation in the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting is by invitation only and strictly limited to the criteria and quota of each stakeholder group.  The annual forum is restricted to 2500 participants.

Of the 2500 participants at the Annual Meeting, more than half come from the business sector. With over 900 chief executives from Strategic, Industry, Regional Partners and Global Growth Company Partners, they represent the world’s foremost global corporations in the following sectors: Basic Industries, Consumer, Financial Institutions, Information Technology, Electronics & Telecommunications, Mobility, Energy, Health, Media, and Professional Services.

The non-business participants include:

Government representatives of the world’s top 25 economies and fast-growing small countries, including heads of state and government, ministers of finance and economy, and ministers of foreign affairs as well as governors and mayors of the world’s top regions and cities.

Civil Society leaders from international NGOs, trade union leaders, religious and faith community leaders, cultural and sports leaders.

Thought leaders related to the foremost challenges on the global agenda, heads of the Forum’s Global Agenda Councils.

Academia: presidents of the world’s top universities, leaders of the world’s top think tanks, and experts related to particular issues in the program

Media: publishers, editors-in-chief, top columnists and economic editors

I think you would agree that any man or woman who had the vision, drive and capability to create such an outstanding organization… and the skills and expertise to lead such an outstanding organization… is not only worthy of our respect, but also we should carefully learn from such visionaries and leaders.

What works for this world class leader?  Klaus Schwab suggests:

  • Break The Rules – I wanted to spend only one year studying business, so I went to Harvard’s Kennedy School and cross-registered for courses in the business school.  One day I was invited by dean George Baker to have tea; he wanted to meet the person who circumvented the rules.  We developed a close relationship, and I invited him to be the chairman of the first Davos meeting.  This helped guarantee its success.
  • Maintain Exclusivity – We have a strict philosophy: If someone retires, he or she is no longer invited.  We want to make sure everyone who comes is really an active decision-maker.
  • Keep It Simple – You can manage today’s complex world best by keeping your life as simple as possible.  I do sports every day and have been happily married for nearly 40 years.  People feel I’m the biggest networker, but I don’t go unnecessarily to parties.  If I have to, I go for five to 10 minutes to show respect.

Take the time to thoughtfully relate, connect, and integrate these simple, but profound leadership suggestions into your personal and professional life.  For those who invest the time, a great return on your investment is virtually guaranteed.  If these simple, but profound leadership habits work for Klaus Schwab, surely they will work for you.

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I am a leader, speaker, and author who is passionate about Leadership Excellence and Achieiving Greater Success. I am the author of the books Be An Inspirational Leader(2016) and Presidential Leadership (2013), and deliver keynote presentations on those topics and several others.

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