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Tuesday, 18 November 2014 00:00

Spiritual Business Leader - Part IV

Written by  Srinivas Rao
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Spiritual Business Leader - Part IV

By K.Srinivas Rao

Continuing with our exploration about role of Spirituality in Business, let us explore one more Business leader who had been leading companies in a highly successful manner.

This leader is

Lars Kolind

Following is the description on his Linkedin page:

Besides being a lifelong scout, I'm entrepreneur, board member, professor, author and philanthropist. 

I live in Denmark but have extensive leadership experience from most parts of the world. I have built on average one new company every year since 1998 plus turned around companies and made them world leaders within their fields. 

My book "The Second Cycle - Winning the War against Bureaucracy" was published in 2006 by Wharton School Publishing. It has been published in eight languages and its Danish version became national business book of the year 2006. Another book UNBOSS, co-authored with Jacob Bøtter in 2012, is available in English, Danish, Dutch and Chinese in 2015. My latest Danish book "Bevægelsen" is available in

I'm still highly involved in World Scouting and sit on the World Scout Committee even after my chairmanship of the World Scout Foundation. 

I'm currently chairman for and members of several companies, such as Jacob Jensen Design A/S.

Passion: Transforming mature businesses and organizations into agile, innovative and growth-oriented communities.”

The following quotations are extracted from the public knowledge-base of the “Spiritual Based Leadership Research Programme” are © 2006 by the Global Dharma Center (GDC). GDC retains the copy right to all excerpts from this knowledge-base.

Talking about  his spiritual theme, Mr.Kolind’s says  :

“I believe that the theme of my spirituality would be: “Love God and love your neighbour”.

Talking about Spiritual purpose, Principles and Values, he says

I must admit that to describe what I am doing and what I have been doing, I can simply say that I am trying the best I can to live a Christian/Lutheran life. Which to me means to do something for the poor, to do something for the underprivileged, to try to do to other people what I hope that they would do to me, and all of that.

He talks about incidents in his life when his spiritual thinking helped him get wonderful results. Most of these incidents are from the time when he headed Oticon, the hearing devices company from Denmark which is a $ 1.5 Billion company.


Talking about a situation where he had to down size the company ‘Oticon’ that he worked for, Mr.Kolind said as follows:


“We were forced to reduce staff very dramatically. On one occasion we cut away 10% of the staffovernight. I was really under pressure to determine which principles we should use to make thedecisions as to who to lay off. I took the decision, which no one understood, that we would not fireanyone over 50. Neither would we fire people who were so essential that we didn’t think we couldsurvive without them. But other than that, we would let those people go who we thought wouldhave the best chance of getting another job quickly - even though these were obviously the ones Iwould have preferred retaining.”

He was further explaining how he owned the decision and infact implemented it..

“Normally someone in my position would let the department heads talk to the people. But I didn’t do it that way. I talked to every single person that was to be laid off and told each of them that they were going to be fired and that we would work with them to get a new job the best we could. I was experiencing all their bad feelings as I was confronting myself with the doubts and fears of all of these people. To me it would have been an act of cowardice to let others do this for me. I made the decision. Then I explained it to my managers - and I explained to those being fired why I had chosen to do what we were doing”.

Talking about the reactions of people around him after the whole episode is completed, he said like this..


“But once it was done, people said “wow” and reallyrespected my decision. I maintained a number of the people who were fired as very good friendsbecause they respected that it was necessary. It turned out that we managed to work with almostall of them to get new jobs”.

Very often there are many discussions about the purpose that a company should work for. Many companies simply have Vision statements which talk about being leader in their market nationally and internationally. While talking about the purpose of Oticon, Mr.Kolind had the following to say:

“We came out of a tradition where our tag line was “Leaders in hearing technology.”

We were so oriented to hearing technology, that we forgot almost everything else. I could see thatthis was not right, that we were far more than a technology company


What inspired me was the fact that we were dealing with people who had enormous personalproblems due to lack of hearing. I was so conscious that we were making money serving thesepeople who were in such a bad condition, so I asked myself, “What is our role?” This was whatled me to see that fundamentally our job was not to align two theoretical curves, which is the wayyou normally assess whether hearing care has been successful or not. Our job was to add to thequality of life of those we served and to help them to live a decent life. So this is what led us to

phrase the essence, the vision of the company to be: “Help people with impaired hearing to liveas they wish with the hearing they have.”

This all had a tremendous effect on our employees, customers and dealers. We were not onlysaying all of this; we were living it. We went through the process where we examined every cornerof the company. I asked the question a hundred times, “Does this help people with impairedhearing to live better with the hearing they have or does it not?” We were closing departmentsand initiating projects in order to actually live this”.

Now a days many companies are offering stock options to their employees. Mr.Kolind had different take on this subject.

“I have always argued that shared ownership means that you share responsibility; you make aninvestment. So I have worked against stock options, but I have worked strongly for shares thatpeople pay for. To me there is a tremendous difference between the two. We give them adiscount in the price, that’s okay; but we are now taking joint responsibility to run the company bysharing ownership”.


Talking about the purpose of Business, Mr.Kolind says as follows:

“I have a vision, which I dare generalise, that organisations will survive, develop and prosper ifthey build a very strong culture that ties the staff together – a culture that creates a strong senseof we-ness – not only for financial reasons, but primarily for a common purpose of doingsomething important. This is a key to being successful. If you are serving a purpose and you aredoing it based on some fundamental values, and those values have to do with care and love, thenyou have great potential and you can be successful in almost anything”.


Today the success of Business Executives is talked about only in terms of the money that they earn. Mr.Kolind had the following to say:


“Personal success to me was the feeling that I was doing the right things and we were doing itright. I would not say that money is not important, but for me success is to be able to do right, tohave a good feeling of what you are doing, and to run a wonderful team of people who arededicated.

I must admit that had my work at Oticon not resulted in financial success, I would not have feltthat I was successful. So for me the financial figures are important, but I have never seen them asan end, rather as a means. I knew my work was uccessful and I also wanted to see that itworked financially.

What was also important to me was for the company to increase its reputation among its peers.We were consistently rated very high on quality, management, innovation, financial performanceand employee satisfaction every time you compared companies in any respect; that to me wasalso part of success”.

Talking about the importance of HR in his company, Mr.Kolind said:

“People believe that Oticon has outstanding human resource management and that it is a placewhere you can become a part of a great team. In fact, we didn’t have a specific human resourcemanagement department; we integrated this function throughout the organisation because we feltit was too important to leave to some specialist. It was an essential part of the company”.

Mr.Kolind worked hard to build a wonderful culture in Oticon.


“To summarise the cultural values at Oticon in a few key words, I would say…

·         First of all it was to “focus on your neighbour,” where your neighbour in this respect is primarily your customer. These were the people whose hearing were impaired and were in very difficult situations. So we focused on what we could do for these people.

·         Second, we created a culture in which people were responsible, not only for what they did, but also for what we all did together. So this was responsibility for the whole organisation.

·         The third thing emerged clearly from the first two and how they were implemented, and that was a clear element of caring for your neighbour - your colleague.

·         The last thing was creativity; the culture urged everyone to continuously question what they were doing and to find a better way and new ways to do things”.

Mr.Kolind talks about the role of higher purpose in what all he had been doing.


“I personally have no doubt that being in contact with a higher power increases the quality of one’slife in the broadest sense. This applies to everyone. I have never felt satisfaction in just makingmoney. I am only happy because I started by making a difference, whether it was for the family, orthe environment, or the hearing-impaired or whatever it was, that is what gives me satisfaction”.


To look at the success of Mr.Kolind’s approach, we have to revisit what he wrote on his linkedin page:

“I have built on average one new company every year since 1998 plus turned around companies and made them world leaders within their fields”. 

Talking about the success of his approach in Oticon, he said as follows:

“When I first bought my shares in December 1990 the value of the company was 150 million kroner. When I left in May of 1998, the value of the company was 6 billion kroner”.

There is definitely something good about applying Spiritual approach in business!


Mr.Kolind continues his wonderful approach. He now champions an approach that he calls as ‘Unboss’. Please visit


Also, please listen to Mr.Kolind on this video

Read 8747 times Last modified on Thursday, 04 December 2014 16:31

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