The story of Axel Enthoven

“As an industrial designer and concept creator who likes to keep a good balance between reason and emotion, the confrontation with a very down-to-earth insurance expert was a serious challenge”, says Axel Enthoven.

“Should I focus on the rationality of our experiences or rather use emotionality as an inspiring factor? This was the big challenge for us in our journey of Young Leaders – Inspiring Mentors.”

Finding the right kind of advice

“Before embarking on this journey with my mentee, I asked myself an important question. What would type of advice would I like to receive as a 25-year-old? What would I expect from an inspiring mentor who, in terms of age, could be my father?
The answer: probably, the credibility of my mentor would have to convince me. As a 25-year-old ambitious leader, I would be very curious about my mentor’s disappointments, failures, missed opportunities, wrong timings and other related experiences. You learn much more from your disappointments and setbacks than from successes.”

“My mentee and I discussed many topics. How luck and coincidence may influence one’s career. How a leader sometimes has to follow his gut feeling, but never should abandon analysis, research and statistics. How upbringing and education define your leadership.”

Many, many questions

“We asked ourselves many fundamental questions and ended up with nuanced answers.
How strong do coincidence and self-evidence exist?
Do you believe in predictions? Or do you follow your intuition?
Does your partner have a say in how you fill in career?
Are you going to follow the mainstream or do you have the guts to swim against the tide?
How does intuition interact with emotion and reason?”

“As a 71-year-old mentor, I stood in front of a young leader who could be my son. Luckily,
our conversations were no monologues, but very open exchanges of thoughts. The topics we discussed in our meetings, alternately at my or his office, were always – intentionally – very different. We discussed experience, doubts and ambitions.”

Nowadays, people of age have young minds and young adults think wisely. This fact helped strengthen the relationship with my mentee.
My Young Leader was young, but very passionate and very attentive, and fuelled by a genuine curiosity.

How to bring emotion into his area of expertise, which always requires a rational output?

Managers of today have a strong sense of responsibility. They also put great value into their quality of life. Even extremely ambitious professionals realize that a healthy work-life balance is essential.

I find it hard to draw conclusions from our journey together. I find it even harder to describe them.
My focus as a mentor was sometimes far away from my Young Leader’s professional role. How to bring emotion into his area of expertise, which always requires a rational output?
We struggled with the thought from time to time. Was ambition and a desire to reach new goals an obligation, or a free choice in his current role?

Knowledge about the past and the exponential growth of information today and tomorrow make it very difficult for the current active population to control the information in the right proportions. We exchanged knowledge about the past and predictions about the future.

Decision making will become more complex in the future, since information is getting to us too fast and in gigantic doses. I sincerely hope that my Young Leader will not experience what is predicted in the beautiful book ‘Homo deus’ by Yuval Noah Harari and that he will not have to make room for future impetuous and emerging generations too soon and at too young.

Thanks Gil, thanks Greet, thanks Olivier. It has been a fascinating experience.