The need for meaningful connections has never been greater. And leaders are fully aware of that in a full-blown pandemic. The key to moving forward is to connect. Within the organisation, and beyond. That’s what Dr Marianne De Backer, the Belgian senior executive at Bayer, and Frederik Anseel, management professor at the UNSW Business School in Sydney, during the first Leaders Meeting Paris Web Talks. On 20 November, even before the start of the working day, almost 150 business leaders were inspired by the insights of the two leading speakers.

There are different ways to shape meaningful connections. But the core, according to Marianne De Backer, is in the cooperation between organisations. As a Belgian senior professional in the pharmaceutical industry, she is well aware of this: “The challenges within our sector are numerous. There will never be a single pharmaceutical company that can tackle all the challenges on its own. Businesses need to work together, network, and form companies to be successful.”

She likes to refer to the ‘Silicon Valley way of life’, which can be a source of inspiration for meaningful connections in the Belgian business world. It’s where an open-minded mentality and the will to connect are the norm. And from there, great dreams arise. She challenges Belgian entrepreneurs to dare to dream bigger in our country as well. Are we going to be talking about The Belgian Dream soon?

But meaningful connections are, of course, also to be found in the authentic relationship between a leader and their immediate environment. As a behavioural psychologist, Frederik Anseel emphasises the importance of listening to each other: “People want to make a difference in this world. They want someone to notice them, acknowledge them, and listen to them. That’s how they get the feeling that what they’re doing counts.”

And that listening also helps companies to move forward. “Those that respond to what is going on there improve their functioning, acknowledge their mistakes, and tackle these,” explains Anseel. However, this also means that a leader sometimes has to dare to be vulnerable, he adds. “This creates transparency, commitment, and trust between employee and manager.” According to him, strong leaders are leaders who adjust their organisation week after week, without touching the trust of their employees.

The message of the guest speakers at the LEADERS MEETING PARIS 2020 is clear: working together and listening to each other makes us stronger and helps us move forward. This forms the core of truly meaningful connections. By bringing business leaders together online during this humanitarian crisis and giving two interesting speakers a platform, LEADERS MEETING PARIS 2020 has already made a meaningful contribution.