Effective leadership: The art of getting decisions made in Sweden

The decision-making dilemma is no joke but something of a riddle for managers new to corporate culture in Sweden. The course Effective Leadership in Sweden gets straight to the point and assists managers in getting their team to do the same.

Effective leadership: The art of getting decisions made in Sweden
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“How long do we have?” asks Nils Hallén when asked to clarify the dos and don’ts of leadership in the Swedish workplace.

Hallén has two days to explain, as course leader for the Efficient Leadership in Sweden course, run by Företagsuniversitetet on May 27-28th.

The course provides an essential introduction for managers from any industry.

“It’s primarily for non-Swedish leaders who are quite new to their position,” Hallén says. “They might either come from a Swedish organisation or an international company in Sweden.

Content also covers a broad foundation of leadership skills, from the characteristics of a well-functioning teams to resolving conflicts and best-practise communication.

But the unique starting point comes from distinguishing differences in the daily workings of a Swedish office. “We start with an angle of what you would encounter in a Swedish environment that you might no be familiar with,” Hallén adds.

“For example, there is a deep-rooted need to make sure you have everybody on board – no matter where you are in organisation – it’s the most efficient way to manage us in Sweden.”

With extensive international experience over the last ten years, Hallén has had time to reflect on his home country’s way of working.

The former CEO has a background in HR, travel and education and set up his own consultancy nine years ago.

Getting to grips with the democracy of decisions is just one a number of cultural concepts to contend with.

“One thing that is noticeable in Sweden, compared to other cultures, is our willingness to compromise,” he adds. “I am raised with compromise being a good word – something you should aim for. But others see it as some kind of defeat.”

However, Hallén maintains that Sweden is open to individual styles of leadership – it’s all about getting the basics right. “No matter who you are as a leader it’s important to understand the people around you.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to agree with them, but you do have to adjust and grasp why they react as they do.”

Participants will be equipped to return to their offices with both theoretical foundation and practical examples of the specifics require by leaders in a Swedish business environment.

“I would like them to leave with reflections on themselves and the context of their work,” Hallén says. “ They will also have tools they can used in their everyday lives as leaders and models to understand what is happening around them.”

Nils Hallén on…

…. his own leadership style.

“My goal is to make the people I manage as efficient as possible .To do that I need to spend a lot of time trying to figure out what motivates them. I listen to them and ask a lot of questions to find out the obstacles they are facing and coach them the best way I can. “

….inspiration Swedish leaders.

Ikea founder: Ingmar Kamprad: “He is very clear as a person and a leader what he stands for and what his values are.

“He has created this image and it’s really clear when you go to IKEA to either shop or work you know exactly what you get. I think that’s impressive. “

Children’s author Astrid Lindgren: “She represents doing what you believe in and standing up for your values. Aside from her famed children’s books, her satirical Pomperipossa saga in 1976 created national debate on the Swedish tax system.

“Although she was a devoted Social Democrat she contributed to their demise in the general election that year.”

Click here for more information and course bookings.

Article sponsored by Företagsuniversitetet.


‘Tradition, culture, and religion are not a Swedish Bermuda triangle’

Following the unofficial closure of the Christmas holiday season in Sweden, contributor Ruben Brunsveld reflects on the transformation of religious traditions into cultural ones.

'Tradition, culture, and religion are not a Swedish Bermuda triangle'

While it may be too late to say god fortsättning to all readers of The Local, I’ll allow myself the opportunity to do so anyway.

From what I’ve been told of course, the post-Christmas greeting can only be said until the 13th of January.

Which is also the last date for the Christmas tree to leave the house, the Advent “stair candles” to be taken away, and the star to be removed from its prominent place in front of the main window.

These are just a few of the many traditions that enrich Sweden’s cultural landscape.

Coming from a country (the Netherlands) that has lost most of its traditions, I have a lot of sympathy for all the unwritten cultural norms that govern Sweden, even if they might make the integration process a bit more complicated.

Just when you know the words to the famous drinking song Helan går, they change the order of the verses or it is a different song that needs to be sung for a different occasion.

Nonetheless, it is nice to see that so many people uphold and respect longstanding traditions.

But do they know where these traditions come from?

My suggestion to put out the “stair” candles a bit earlier this past year was met with harsh criticism because it was not yet Advent Sunday.

And behold on Advent Sunday, the candles appeared in windows across Stockholm as if the conductor of a symphonic orchestra had ordered them with a stroke of his baton.

But once I started asking my Swedish friends what Advent stood for almost all of them where at a loss for words.

More then any country I have lived in before, Sweden seems to be governed by a magic triangle of traditions, culture, and religion.

Although the balance shifts, the content remains the same based on tradition.

The religious symbols, services and icons are upheld but they are largely stripped of their religious meaning to be recast in a cultural model.

Traditions stay, but religion becomes culture.

Somehow they seem to blend as easy as gin and tonic on a Saturday night at Stureplan; it becomes a “religion-light” cocktail.

The Christmas choir in Katarina Church was introduced by a reverend but it was not a real service, nor did he give his blessing at the end.

The story of the birth of Jesus was told, but without due explanation or a sermon that would put it into the context of the 21st century.

It was as if it was an ancient relic to be admired, rather than a story that could have value for today’s society.

But maybe it is not “religion-light” after all.

Maybe it becomes the exact opposite: culture “extra strong”.

Because, as confusing as it might be for the outsider, it is exactly this mix of traditions often based in religion but recast into culture that seems to be such a strong part of Swedish identity and a building block for a cohesive society.

Tradition, culture, and religion do not create a Swedish “Bermuda triangle”.

On the contrary.

However you value them, one thing is sure: traditions are very much alive in Sweden.

So although I cannot stand another piece of Julskinka I am already looking forward to Easter!

Ruben Brunsveld is the Director of the Stockholm Institute for Public Speaking (StIPS), which offers training in Intercultural Communication, Public Speaking & Negotiation Techniques