Keep Up with the Shift...

Huge challenges are in store for us believes Paul Buysse, Chairman of Bekaert, a multinational steel wire manufacturer. He finds that the current generation displays a lack of knowledge and, to a certain extent, an unwillingness to see the reality that is developing around them.

Sometimes described as the ‘éminence grise’ of the Belgian business community, he has held managerial positions with international companies such as British Leyland, BTR and Vickers, and is a board member for numerous other organizations. His contribution earned him the title of Baron in 1998. Buysse is concerned about the economic tsunami that is heading our way, and the inability of the leading generation to formulate an adequate answer to it. The worldview is changing drastically. The BRIC countries have embarked on a rapid economic ascent. Are our companies ready for that? We are living in a highly complex world in which culture and religion play a major role. Business leaders can no longer turn a blind eye to that. You have to consider things more strategically. “The challenge for our countries lies in maintaining and enhancing our innovative abilities, ‘gold-plating’ the technological advantage we still have in many areas. Belgium, too, must be a gateway to Europe and the world, and thus seize the opportunities that come our way. Among the many possibilities we have in this respect are: the EU, SHAPE, NATO and multilingualism... We must not miss this historic opportunity.”

What will organizations look like in 10 years?
“The mentality has evolved unpredictably in a single generation. It is extremely important to maintain contact with the younger generation. We need to understand what motivates them, what they are thinking and what they expect from the world. The patterns and priorities of life are changing. We are heading towards a paradigm shift. Being culturally driven will become an important dimension. The new social media are opening new doors. A company’s culture, drive, passion, the way in which a team responds attentively to signals from the market and the sense of responsibility are all ingredients for success. Companies and organizations must have an eye and an ear for the market: what are the best products we can make and how are we going to place them on the market? Wanting to be the best, product optimization and doing whatever it takes to bring in customers. Profit then becomes a logical consequence of the passion invested in the work. Thus engagement, drive and passion are huge keystones in the future success of the company. Wages will be important but not as essential and status will clearly be less important in the new generation. The focus will shift to questions like: ‘How good do I feel in my job and how am I rewarded for my work? Can I operate in a team and are the vision and mission clearly formulated? Do I know where we’re headed and am I part of the success?...’”

And leadership?
“Leadership and personality go hand in hand. You can’t be a leader unless you know yourself. Leadership needs that magic touch we call charisma. That’s something that isn’t talked about much, and it’s something that can’t be taught. A collective sense of responsibility, friendliness, courtesy, open and reasoned discussions, fairness, willingness to listen and authority are major cornerstones. It is important that we continue to invest in the development of skills. Public speaking, body language and presentation skills can all help you develop your presence. We need to beware of falling into routines that lead to complacency – we’ve always done well, so why would we change anything? The umbrella we hold up above us to shield us from reality. Leadership is due for a change, because of the rapidly changing world.”

William Strobbe, Director of De Baak Antwerp (


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