Jan Vanhevel is since June 2009 CEO of the KBC, one of Belgians largest financial institutions with more than 50.000 employees. I meet him in his large office on the 8th floor at the KBC headquarters.
What is changing in leadership?
“Leadership is very much evolving. I see now that the CEO is put more and more in the spotlight. I hate that. It’s not correct. Because leading an organization is more and more the task of a team. The CEO is not the only man. In the past you could decide everything because you had an overview. Now it’s not possible anymore and you need teams. Teams are the source of the success of the organization. That’s new. Also because of the needed flexibility to stay ahead. There’s no longer a strategy or organization built for 20 years. Leadership is “adapting to permanently changes”. That’s not only linked to the organizational growth but also to the ever-changing context and environment. And to stay flexible and manage the complexity you need teams”.
“Defining and communicating the strategy and being committed to it.”
“Most important is to define a strategy: “what do you want to do with your department, organization?” This has to be in line with your shareholder. You have to propose a vision, not only high level, but also workable, executable to put results on the table. You do this with your team. Leadership is about team management. Leadership is not one guy who knows everything. You have to communicate your strategy and continue to communicate that. Not only yourself, but with your management team. The CEO has the end responsibility, but he works in group. The best manager is the best manager of a team.”
“Secondly I was able to manage because I have in-depth knowledge of the business. More than ever before you need this. I don’t believe that today you can run a bank, tomorrow a chemical company and the day after a consultancy firm. Off course in theory it’s possible, but the best results are based on good insight, so that you understand not only on a high level, but on a concrete level the risks, the trends and so on.”
Extract from interview with Jan Vanhevel. The full text: Leadership interview Jan Vanhevel. In the interview he also tells his personal account of his career to the top of KBC.