How to lead in uncertainty – a Scandinavian approach to life
From a young age, growing up in Denmark, the Scandinavian way of life was modelled all around me. At the time, I did not truly understand the role these values would play in my life. Desperate to leave what seemed a very small place back then, I was eager to experience the wider world. Little did I know that these philosophies – of preserving the environment and natural resources; embracing new ways of thinking, creativity and innovation; openness and transparency; compassion and equality; and trust – would profoundly shape the way I lived, how I worked, the environments I would build and how I would lead throughout my life.
One of the key values I have always held, informed by Scandinavian culture, is the value of quality. Quality of life, of the people in it, the materials we use, things we chose to buy and how we behave. Within Scandinavian culture, the ultimate sustainability is to choose quality, so it lasts for a lifetime – it is this value that is one of the cornerstone of our ethos at Work Club.
The alignment between Scandinavian values and Scandinavian design, is not a tenuous connection – and the philosophy of Work Club being harnessed in these principles is very deliberate. One of the guiding principles of Scandinavian design is to establish harmony with one’s environment and to create things made to last. The aim is to compliment the art of living well through simplistic environments filled with quality items that enhances the lifestyle.
I take pride in having a personal relationship with all of our suppliers at Work Club. All the wood, leather & concrete throughout our spaces are all untreated, so they develop a patina over time, which means they wear naturally and will have a story to tell.
From our boardroom tables made from timber from Danish ferry wharves to the most ergonomic chairs in the world we source from Humanscale. Original Vintage rugs from India, Law Library books filling the shelves dating back to 1890 to the lighting designed especially for us by a Danish-Aranian architect outside of Copenhagen.
We have our own scent – created by Air Aroma that carries stimulating top notes of grapefruit to promote creative thinking, whilst stress-relieving orange evokes feelings of happiness.
Having worked across a vast array of industries and furniture design, over the last 20 years I have focused my energy on workplace experience & design theory, harnessing my passion for creating greater connected human ecosystems.
In Scandinavia, it is not widely believed that there is a ‘work culture’ – work is not a separate identity. It is life and you bring your whole self to work in order to be a full human. This is how I have always approached the work I do and it was integral to the environments and community I wanted to build with Work Club.
In my role as CEO at Work Club, how I show up for the team, our partners and the Work Club community is very important to me. I try to be authentic on all fronts and face every day with consistency in the values I demonstrate and the expectations I have of others and myself. At Work Club, we have a unified approach that you show up and take pride in what you do.
The world we’re living in is a different place to what it was 18 months ago. Permanently shaped by the global pandemic, we are all forced to stop and reassess our values. It has been a time of great reflection for me and a time that I have never felt more resolved and grounded in the Scandinavian values instilled in me from birth. Those same values that have helped shape and mould what Work Club is today and all it offers.
I am incredibly proud to see that at this time of great change, in the face of an evolving work culture and the new norms of hybrid work, remote work and the need for adaptive and collaborative spaces – Work Club was built for this.
Now more than ever, I think being a leader in any organisation requires a wholistic approach. Authenticity and communication within teams and communities are more important than ever. Having transparency around decision-making so trust is built, principles are understood and consistency is seen and felt. It has never felt more important to me that partnerships are integral to every organisation and having long-term views that create win/win scenarios – for clients, team members and all stakeholders.
Of course in these uncertain times, we as leaders are called upon to be agile, open to change but trust your direction and have confidence in our vision of the future we want to create.
I am often asked about my Scandinavian heritage and values we hold as they relate to happiness, success and contentment in life and work. According to the 2020 World Happiness Report, Denmark, Norway and Sweden have ranked in the top ten happiest countries in the world since the report started in 2016. This does not surprise me at all, encompassing philosophies that include:
Pyt – being able to accept situations that are beyond your control, no matter how difficult;
Hygge – a Danish and Norwegian word for a mood of coziness and comfort with feelings of wellness and contentment;
Lagom – a Swedish term for a lifestyle that encourages balance and moderation;
And perhaps one of the most important to me:
Lykke – the Danish word for ‘happiness’ which isn’t a destination, but a habit. To be truly happy, you have to be actively involved in the direction of your life. Strive to experience gratitude, joy, moderation, accomplishment and contentment.
Whether values and philosophies have been instilled in us from a young age or whether we choose to adopt them as we grow and learn – I have enormous respect for people that have the courage and belief to follow their own path, to show up time and time again in whatever they chose to do. In forging your own path, sometimes you must go against the grain and sometimes, others will not see what you see, but we must continue to show up, and be the courageous and the curious.