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Matthias Straub-Fischer is a teacher, KaosPilot and helicopter pilot based in Bern, Switzerland, near the wilderness of the alps. Straight after our video call between Stockholm and Bern he put on his helicopter gear and went out flying over the mountains. Staying true to his philosophy: we should aim to have more fun in life.

“We need to come away from being online 24/7, from always aiming to be productive and effective. It’s creating a burnout for many individuals and communities. We need to learn how to balance in the new world, where we work 50 % and do what we love 50 %. Everyone should prioritize doing things that nourish us as people; be it helicopter flying, yoga or walking around in nature.”

For the past 10 years Matthias served as the Headmaster for the KaosPilots Switzerland, a school for creative leaders, responsible entrepreneurs and change makers, started in Denmark 30 years ago. He was also the first Swiss student to graduate from KaosPilots in Denmark back in the nineties. Together with his team at 7Generations, Matthias today trains young people how to become leaders and entrepreneurs with a focus on sustainability and regeneration.

“Leaders of the future are not bosses; they are more eye-level. Being curious and open to learning together with the whole team is key. Explore each other’s differences and aim to find angles of a topic that the team finds interesting to gain more energy and produce better work. Most problems in this world are meant to be solved by teams, not individuals.”

Don’t aim for ‘perfect’

“One problem can have many solutions, and it is important to give things time to grow and develop. Instead of going away to a retreat to develop something ‘perfect’ you should aim to try stuff, be courageous, prototype and ask 10 different people their opinion to reevaluate your work.”

A key to any team’s success according to Matthias is diversity. To make sure many voices are being heard of people coming from different backgrounds, races, sexes, ages and perspectives. We need to learn from each other to create sustainable solutions for the future.

“It’s one thing to speak about diversity, but what do you do when you realize everyone on the team wants different things? One important lesson is to stop and take a breath rather than push ahead, which is probably the opposite of what most management studies and educations would teach you.”

How do we unteach ourselves the need to always be productive?

“Earth wisdom tradition teaches the importance of teamwork. Masculine energy is more about running and getting shit done. Feminine energy is more about balancing, holding life, and holding the pure potential of any thought or project. Like a big minestrone soup that could contain anything. In our modern world we need to learn how to balance the masculine and feminine. There needs to be a greater reason behind the business decisions we make.”

What traits does the modern leader need to lead a team?

“A modern leader focuses both on growing a business while also growing humanity. We can’t make a profit that someone else loses from. Instead of always focusing on being effective, we need to stop running. Break those old patterns. A leader should teach the team to slow down and ask the questions: ‘What might our typical reflex be now? What would serve us and the people around us? What would serve the next generation or two or three or seven?’”

“It’s important to start thinking more long-term. Some people go on a retreat for two days a year to reflect, but the minute they come back they start running again: back to the same patterns. We need ourselves to remember that there could be another way.”

What is the workplace of the future?

“Imagine if we could create working and educational places that are regenerative. To have more energy at the end of the day than you had when you came in the morning. This is where we really should be pushing ourselves and coming up with new business models.”

“Covid has been a great helper in that way. The old ways of working are not sustainable anymore, and we see that now. We need to try new things, individualized versions of work. Lookdown has been a great time for organizations and schools to find ways to be more energy-giving. We can’t just switch from 8 hours of physical teaching to 8 hours of online teaching; we need to find new models.”

How do we go about redefining leadership in the post-pandemic world?

“For the past 300 years, since the industrial revolution, we’ve been trained to have answers. But we are at a point and time where we don’t have answers, just a lot of questions. Allowing that honesty and trust – you’ll find a way forward. We have very little that we can be certain of today. The only thing we know is that things change and that we need to be open to learning all our lives.”

“We still need leaders and a chain of command when it comes to making decisions. But there will be moments in the debrief phase where we need to switch over to learning mode and reflect on what we’ve done and what we should do next. As a leader I often fall into the trap of business as usual, but my team helps me remember to switch over to question mode instead of needing-to-have-an-answer mode. Leaders of tomorrow understand the power of using our teams and communities to become better. That’s why creating a powerful, diverse team is the key to any organizations success.”

Emelie Fågelstedt

Emelie Fågelstedt

Digital, future of work and entrepreneurship