Tracie Mooneyham talked to Stephanie Buri and Rainer Gude, Co-directors of IofC Switzerland, two months after they took over from the outgoing Secretary General, Barbara Hinterman.
How did you discover IofC?
Rainer: When I was looking for work, someone suggested that I talk to Cornelio Sommaruga. He invited me for coffee, tested all my languages and then said, ‘Have you heard of Initiatives of Change? I said, ‘The thing on that mountain?’ He said, ‘We're looking for someone to be the representative to the UN. I think you should apply.’
Stephanie: Six years ago I was looking for a job in Switzerland. I ended up on the Caux website and saw the Caux Palace, and it said ‘a home for the world’. I loved the idea of all these people coming together who wouldn't normally meet. I fell in love with the place and there was a job opening so I went for it.
What are your biggest challenges in taking on a leadership role?
Stephanie: For me the biggest challenge is to not doubt myself so much. In a position of leadership, there is this huge expectation. I'm glad that we are two: being able to say, ‘Let's try that – and maybe fail.’ Not being afraid of learning.
Rainer: The other big challenge is priorities. Everything's urgent and, in a time of pandemic, everything's up in the air. We're dealing with three things that would have been a project in and of themselves: the transition during a time of economic crisis; putting the whole Caux Forum online for the first time ever; and redoing our entire strategy. It’s exciting, adventurous, interesting, scary.
Now that you are co-directors, what does your day look like?
Stephanie: Right now, it’s a lot of Zoom calls!
Rainer: The added value of being two is that we can check in with each other. We can say, ‘I have no idea, let’s try a quiet time and at least clear our thoughts.’ When we signed up for this, a global pandemic was not part of the deal. But when one of us is a little more stressed or down, we can carry each other. On a typical day there is at least one moment of check-in between us.
How do our values influence your approach to leadership?
Stephanie: Those values – and others – guide me. It's a constant, daily challenge to hold up to them. It’s amazing to have those values in the organization that I work for but I also carry them personally.
Rainer: My question is always what does love look like now – whether I'm talking to friends, cleaning the dishes, cooking, writing an email, at work? What does love, honesty, purity of intention, unselfishness look like in how we set up our team or create our strategy? The secret is being able to start again daily and perhaps lots of times a day.
We have plenty of examples where leaders don't know how to admit their mistakes. If you create the safe space you make it easier. Stephanie and I create that safe space for each other, and then we find the right way to be vulnerable and transparent with our team.
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