Business & Leadership

Pierre Nanterme (Accenture): "Yes, Leadership = Learnership"

As there are a thousand Hamlets in a thousand people's eyes, so are our visions of leadership unlimited. In this exclusive interview with Leaders League, Pierre Nanterme and David Rowland shared their vision on leadership in the current business environment and its secret ingredients, as well as how to handle ambiguity and uncertainty.

As there are a thousand Hamlets in a thousand people's eyes, so are our visions of leadership unlimited. In this exclusive interview with Leaders League, Pierre Nanterme and David Rowland shared their vision on leadership in the current business environment and its secret ingredients, as well as how to handle ambiguity and uncertainty.


Leaders League. How do you define leadership and its secret ingredients?
Pierre Nanterme. Nowadays we need to be exceedingly curious and global to be leaders. The notion of leadership has quickly evolved as the business world has changed due to the 2008 financial crisis. In the past, being a leader meant being a strong manager with great expertise; however, now new qualities are demanded. Leaders must fully understand and experience the evolving world in its entirety while also remaining incredibly locally focused, as it is indeed important to master and understand the local markets. Moreover, we must stay connected with the world, refresh our own information and adapt it to the new world – in one word, embrace novel ideas.

Leaders League. Would you say that Leadership = Learnership?

P. N. Yes! Leadership = Learnership. We must constantly learn so as to understand what is occurring around us. Personally, I consider myself to be a great learner: I read all the time and I try to remain extremely curious. But the most important is to then convert this novel information into execution. Learning is the bridge between understanding and execution. I have been working at Accenture for thirty years and I thought I knew a lot of tricks, but I realize that I still have so much to learn. This is the importance of one’s surrounding team, we must learn as a whole and from one another.
David Rowland. The first secret ingredients of leadership are suppleness and flexibility. In a rapidly changing environment, leaders must accompany the change. When I think of the greatest leaders of today, they are individuals who are constantly reinventing themselves and their approach. This is very different from leaders of fifty years ago. Today's leaders must be flexible and evolve quickly in their profession. Next is to successfully become a symbol of motivation for one’s whole team. The abilities to set up the right team, to make the right choices, and to motivate and support the team are all necessary qualities attributes of leadership.

Leaders League. How do you deal with ambiguity and uncertainty?
P. N.
Managing ambiguity and uncertainty is something I enjoy. Again, this world is becoming very complex, and unfortunately – or fortunately – there is no easy answer to an increasingly ambiguous landscape. We are certainly not in a world where everything is white or black. Hence, the solution is not reduced to do or not do. You have to be comfortable with ambiguous situations and know how to manage the uncertainty because it is the nature of our world. The most important is to make decisions that go in the right direction. Managing ambiguity and uncertainty is, therefore, knowing to demonstrate agility, suppleness and flexibility.

Leaders League. Is leadership an individual or collective notion?
P. N. Collective, of course! But leadership works collectively only if each member of the team exhibits strong individual leadership. This is particularly true in larger structures. Effort must be collective in order to lead the company in the right direction. Making the best group decision is an appeal to the best leaders from all departments, marketing, legal... Therefore, what we try to do first is assemble and develop the best individual leaders, while retaining a collective environment that allows us to make the best unified decisions.
D. R. Yes, leadership is definitely a team sport, without a doubt, and I think it is difficult for a team leader to build an effective team if he or she does not unite strong talents exemplary of individual leadership. In this way, there is a greater collective impact in terms of leadership in the organization.
P. N. I would also like to emphasize the importance of the diversity of individuals composing a management team. It benefits the organization to have a team that is as diversified as possible, whether in terms of experience, age or gender, for example. The best is to have a wonderful mixture of leaders who bring strong individual leadership into a favorable environment wherein collective leadership may be cultivated.


This article is dedicated to our fortnightly newsletter “Leaders Wisdom Journal”. To Subscribe.

Other articles of the same issue:
The H(app)y Mr. Schmitt
25 Innovative Leaders (Part I)
Accelerate: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving World
Wisdom on Innovation
Video: Laws that Choke Creativity by Lawrence Lessig (Source: TED)



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Accenture's CEO and CFO interview by Leaders League Group

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