Two childhood inspirations have permeated the assorted job and managerial model of Olli-Pekka Heinonen, the sometime Finnish politician, policymaker and general public formal: schooling and songs.

As he plots out system in his new position as director-basic of the Global Baccalaureate procedure to start with introduced far more than half a century ago, he is drawing on the two these influences. He will take in excess of a complex global organisation as it seeks to grow and fulfill the transforming requirements of youngsters and culture in an period seriously disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“My father was a instructor and I was born and lived in an apartment in a major school,” he states. “I also studied in the [Turku] Conservatory [of New music] and for a yr was a songs instructor.” Heinonen, 57, then qualified as a attorney and — at least as he describes it — almost each phase in his specialist lifetime has been guided by requests and nudges from other folks.

He was questioned to become a parliamentary adviser, then minister of schooling at only 29, prior to he had been elected an MP. When that had happened, he turned minister of transport and telecommunications. From 2002 he spent a 10 years functioning Yleisradio, the Finnish point out broadcaster, but later on rejoined govt as point out secretary to the prime minister.

The only situation for which he ever used was his final publish as director-basic of the Countrywide Company for Instruction in 2016. That set him in cost of a school procedure held up as a showpiece all around the globe, judged by benchmarks this sort of as the OECD’s Programme for Global Student Assessment, for its perception in balancing powerful educational achievements with lifetime outside the house school.

“My philosophy is that you should really not area your rely on in setting up things,” Heinonen, states. “There will be surprises and you should really just go alongside with what evolves. The only situation I have used for was at the Company. I felt it would be a excellent time to return to the crime scene of the subject of schooling.”

He cites as one particular of his best achievements the time period as schooling minister in the mid to late nineteen nineties, when he granted autonomy to cities, educational institutions and instructors by themselves. He stresses the groundwork had been laid in excess of the preceding two a long time by demanding all instructors to have masters’ levels. That boosted their competence, embedded a tradition of frequent pedagogical investigate and bolstered their superior standing and regard in culture.

Critical leadership lessons

  • Grant autonomy — in Heinonen’s circumstance, he devolved schooling decisions to cities and instructors by themselves

  • Embrace the ‘humble governance’ notion and accept that leaders do not have the ideal responses

  • Management is not about one particular human being, it should really be spread in the course of a corporate or organisational procedure

  • Interaction to generate rely on with team and stakeholders is essential

“My technique was to include all people in the process,” he states. Influenced by his government’s model of “humble governance”, he embraced the strategy that “at the major you do not have the ideal responses, you have to entail men and women in co-building them. Management is not about a human being, it is a good quality that should really be spread commonly in a procedure. If you emphasise the position of one particular human being, you are failing.”

He states he learnt humility, but also the have to have to connect far more. “I’m not by character an individual who needs to be in the highlight. I have realized to do that. We Finns at times connect as well little. We attempt to be quite precise and depart other things out, but speaking to generate rely on is central.

“In the beginning, I had the strategy that currently being in a leadership situation meant you should really seem, communicate and costume to seem like a leader,” he states. “That won’t operate. You have to have to be you, the human being you are. Authenticity is so crucial, and the integrity that will come with it.”

Just one of his best frustrations came as minister of transport and telecommunications, when he struggled all through the spin out of Sonera from the Countrywide Postal Provider. Its shares rose sharply and then collapsed all through the IT bubble. “It didn’t go as efficiently as I hoped,” he states. “I realised how hard it is to combine the globe of politics and organization. I should really have included all the companions even far more strongly to discover a typical solution.”

He then took a crack from politics, partly reflecting a have to have to “balance work with loved ones and restoration time”, as he states. “I learnt to often have far more of all those things in your lifetime that give you energy than get it away. Constantly make certain you have a reserve to cope with surprises. If you do not have that type of spare energy, they [excellent and poor surprises] will get you.”

He took cost of the point out broadcaster, and designed his identity as a supervisor, drawing parallels with his encounters as a hobbyist trumpeter major a jazz band. “You generate one thing new with a shared melody that all people appreciates but with a whole lot of area for improvisation. It is the exact in an organisation: you should really have a couple guidelines all people is dedicated to and depart area to generate new things with all people through listening and connecting.”

He established about collecting a combination of survey knowledge and own diaries and interviews from the Finnish general public to have an understanding of their values and attitudes, which discovered how various they were being from all those of most of his employees. “You can have a stereotypical view of things. That led me to genuinely attempt to have an understanding of our citizens as shoppers.”

A few concerns for Olli-Pekka Heinonen

Finnish conductor Sakari Oramo conducting the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
Sakari Oramo

Who is your leadership hero?

The quite superior degree Finnish conductors Sakari Oramo, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Susanna Mälkki. I had the satisfaction of viewing them in motion in rehearsals and in live shows. It is marvellous how these industry experts can generate a link on the spot, give feed-back and make expert musicians do one thing jointly that you want them to do and do it in a way that they are providing their ideal.

What was the to start with leadership lesson you learnt?

I performed songs from a quite young age and a quite early lesson was when I noticed how crucial internal drive is to leadership: currently being capable to generate internal drive for a team of men and women to achieve one thing jointly.

What would you have carried out if you had not pursued your job in schooling and politics?

New music would have been one thing I would have looked to do, I would also have genuinely relished currently being an educational researcher. The capability to inquire about and understand about new things, try to discover one thing new and through that to make a variance.

Seeking back again on his encounters, he concerns the idea that leadership centres on decision making. “Actually implementation is the system,” he states. “The way you are capable to implement things is a quite significant strategic choice. Instructors won’t obey mainly because somebody states they should. They have to have an understanding of why and have the internal drive to do so. We should really be chatting far more about the notion of imperfect leadership: to acknowledge uncertainty and generate learning paths for the much larger procedure to discover the solution.”

The IB procedure is nowadays utilised by far more than 250,000 students in almost five,500 educational institutions all around the globe. It has extended sought to educate students in a extensive range of subjects with broader comprehending of the idea of awareness and the use of task and team-primarily based work together with “high stakes” closing prepared exams.

To lots of, that reflects the aspirations of lots of nationwide schooling reformers to get ready for this century’s difficulties — although some IB instructors bemoan that whilst they like the principle of the qualification, they are discouraged with the organisation powering it and its slow tempo of alter. Like other examination bodies, it was criticised for how it modified its marking methods all through the pandemic.

Heinonen is self-assured that the IB embodies an technique — also mirrored in the Finnish schooling procedure — in which “competences are turning out to be far more central. It is about what you do with what you know and how to educate for an unsure future we simply cannot predict.”

He sees “strong determination to get the IB heritage into the new era” by team and instructors. “It’s not the system, it’s the implementation,” he states. “We have to have that much larger jazz band making an attempt to participate in the exact tone and improvise.”