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How the Dutch armed forces do it.

Royal Netherlands Army in Mali

(initially published on LinkedIn on January 12th 2018)

I had this morning my first appointment in the Dutch defense organisation, spoiler alert: wow wow wow!!!

The Dutch Defense organisation has a single minded, culture conscious and very mature approach to the question of Leadership. I got my first introduction to how they go about this subject this morning, and the result is: impressive. As a connoisseur, I can't help sharing with you what I have learnt.

All Dutch military personnel undergoing training (at all levels of rank and experience) benefits from the work of their Leadership Expertise centre (ECLD), a department entirely focused on creating and factoring leadership training, coaching and insights in all training and educational experiences at all levels, in the appropriate manner.

Leadership advice and training is dispensed in equal measure as a part of formal training at certain levels, in a programmatic fashion, but also incorporates an individual understanding of needs and tailoring of the approach.

The ECLD proceeds on the basis of an agreed and written vision statement, which is nothing if not well constructed. And they too, think that character is key, and that self-awareness and realising one’s impact on the group weighs heavily on operational efficacity.

"Armed forces stand or fall on leadership"

says Generaal Arco Solkesz who runs the HR division for the armed forces, and was my host this morning, and he reminded me that whilst strong and mature leaders are needed everywhere, operating under fire really brings it to the foreground.

The Dutch armed forces developed over time a culture of colleague-coaches, based on solid deontological basis. Colleague-coaches are members of the forces professionally trained for coaching, part of a central pool on which all leaders in the Landmacht, Marine, Luchtmacht and Marechaussee can draw. Coaching is done independently from the line of command and always confidential, which gives it great value. My unending curiosity will certainly drive me to meet more people of this organisation!

I thank you again wholeheartedly Generaal Solkesz for your explanations and for leading me in such a straightforward fashion to the heart of what has undoubtedly taken decades to found and nurture.

Since I am living in Holland, I am all the more grateful and admirative to see what is done with my tax money, you and the rest of the krijgsmacht definitely have a fan in me!


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