Åke Reinholdsson - Continuous Executive Learning - Meritus - for Sharing and Learning

Åke Reinholdsson - Continuous Executive Learning - Meritus - for Sharing and Learning

The initiative

Meritus is a club of senior HR professionals founded in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1998. The initiative was based on a common interest in core HR fundamentals, a need for cross-fertilization and a willingness to share ideas and dilemmas.
At the outset, many of us (members) were close to retirement but keen to stay in touch with colleagues and the profession. We were ambitious like a think-tank and "shamelessly" invited very sophisticated leaders in business, politics and education to share thoughts, ideas, wisdom and vision. 8-10 seminars a year have deepened our insights and kept us in good professional shape.


The total number of members has been around 50. We have had leading roles in large companies in various business sectors like Banking, Home Appliances, Electronics, Forestry, Media, Defense Systems, IT, Pharmaceuticals, Retail, Steel, Professional Services etc. Leadership usually means an ExCom position in the respective companies. Some of us have also worked in the public sector at central and/or local level.
As most of the Swedish political institutions are based in Stockholm, we have had access to their expertise, e.g. government agencies, employers' associations and trade unions. 
Researchers and thinkers have also been welcomed. All members have been active for many years and have contributed to high level analysis as well as an intensive exchange of views and experiences. And we had a lot of fun too.

A wide range of topics

In addition to direct professional knowledge, HR managers have a wide range of interests and need to be well informed about legal and societal issues such as  
- Education systems, including university level
- Labor legislation, health and safety regulations, public support systems       
- Demographics and other relevant statistics
- Working conditions in relevant countries
- EU initiatives and restrictions i.e. on employee relations
Meritus has helped us to meet these expectations and requirements.
In addition, we have been involved in the development of the Swedish school (sometimes quite problematic). In 2014, we summarized our thoughts on the changing demands on the management team. (see attachment). Some members have written articles and books which they have shared before publication. We have closely followed the development of critical HR issues in Sweden and in the EU.    

Informal meetings

The arrangements have always been quite informal. We still meet for bistro lunches, with or without external guests. All activities are initiated and run by ourselves in a good democratic way. Our guests have enjoyed the informality and have been willing to share openly their experiences, ongoing work and plans, including tricky challenges. We prefer to think that they have received some fruitful thoughts in return, as well as a bottle of good wine. We have never paid a fee. 
We just like to see each other. The number of active members is smaller these days, but there is no real plan to expand. Perhaps we'll gradually move on to more existential issues. Most of us are in our 80s and the energy for deep involvement in future development is diminishing(?).

The President - a key person

Over the past 25 years we have had two chairmen. Hans-Olof Hallinder was the initiator and Per Thorsell followed in his spirit. Both were perfect for the job, dedicated and much appreciated. Obviously, the chairman has a very important role, even when leaders meet and are supposed to get things done. If he or she has a charismatic appeal, it helps, especially with external people, including guest speakers. We have been very lucky in that respect.

For others?  

Looking back, I think we really shared a deep need to stay alive as professionals and that Meritus was one of the ways to get the necessary stimulus to keep learning. From the late sixties to the present day, we have shared and shared frames of reference gained during more than 1000 years of active service in Sweden and abroad. The collective memory is enormous. Senior professionals who wish to remain vital lifelong learners are strongly advised to try something like Meritus. Define the common denominators. Keep it informal. Don't dig too deep into the past, but try to look to the future.  

Stockholm, November 2023

Åke Reinholdsson
Member, and Senior Partner, Global Executive Learning


From the President’s - Per Thorsell - archives

A selection of Topics and Guests during Meritus’ meetings
November 2016 - November 2023:

Nov 2016: Bengt Hansson: The Swedish model for collaboration between the labor market parties.

Dec 2016: Dr. Henrik Grönberg, Professor of Oncology on the leadership challenge of risk factors in different diseases.

April 2017: Manne Didehvar presents the Swedish HR Association.

May 2017: Kajsa Möller, Head of HR at the Swedish Police Authority describes the police's new organization from 2015.

Sep 2017: Sofie Ek, Senior Manager at Netlight Consulting AB, develops her thoughts on a manage less organization. 

Oct 2017: Carl Leinar CEO of Trygghetsrådet TRR on restructuring and adaptation.

Nov 2017: Mikael Brännvall was Deputy CEO of Dramaten during the period 2009-2016. He is now CEO of the industry and employer organization Svensk Scenkonst. Leadership in the artistic production process. 

Dec 2017: Per Ericson, Senior Vice President, Head of Group Staff People & Organization, Husqvarna Group.

March 2018: Discussion on Fake News. B Anders and Per will introduce

April 2018: Anders Öhman presents Handelsbanken's corporate culture / Goals and Means.

May 2018: Stephan Erne, Chief Digital Officer at Handelsbanken presents the effects of digitalization & AI in the financial industry.

Sep 2018: Birgitta Södergren: researcher in "The Swedish Flag Factory" which is a development project to learn more about strengths in Swedish production.

Oct 2018: Marika Lundsten, Ruter Dam on initiatives for female leadership.

Dec 2018: Bo Göranzon, in collaboration with Dramaten in Stockholm, has developed a method for releasing silent (tacit) knowledge, for example within a company or organization.

Jan 2019: Torsten Ekström, CEO of Svenskt Underhåll AB, the service company that helps with the day-to-day operations of the national organization Svenskt Underhåll (maintenance)

Feb 2019: Pia Anderberg will share experiences and plans for the work that takes place within the Axel Johnson Group within "People & Innovation".

March 2019: Mats Agurén develops thoughts on leadership in matrix organizations. On the art of leading multidimensional organizations in an increasingly complex business world. Mats received his PhD in 2014 with a thesis on matrix structures and multidimensional problem solving.

May 2019: Lennart Francke. He has written the book "The agile company: shoals of fish or supertankers in a dynamic world?". Lennart has a background as CFO from Handelsbanken and Head of Finance from Swedbank. 

Sep 2019: Ulrika Boethius, President of the Swedish Finance Association. The title of the evening is "In the head of an association chairman 2019".

Nov 2019, B Anders and Marie-Louise on systems thinking. On the agenda is the question of how to get to a future where everyone can be a winner. 

Dec 2019; Jan Moritz, Anders Öhman and Rune Nyberg share their experiences from the major mergers Stora-Enso, Astra-Zeneca and Telia-Sonera.

Jan 2020: Charlotte Gustavsson on board work and HR. Charlotte has a background in Corporate Finance, Broadcasting and Professional Sports. Charlotte took over as Head of
Operations for Styrelseakademien Stockholm on 1 December 2018.

Dec 2020: Zoom meeting with Peter Örn former CEO of Sveriges Radio. The Swedish government presented a plan in 2018 to strengthen democracy. As part of this work, a democracy committee was appointed. Peter is the chairman of the committee.

Jan 2021: Zoom meeting with Karin Sparring Björkstén, associate professor of elderly psychiatry and specialist in general psychiatry, geriatrics and elderly psychiatry on legal aspects of autonomy in ageing.

April 2022: Lise-Lotte Argulander, expert on labor law and work environment at Företagarna (medium sized companies), who will be our guest.

Nov 2022: Anders Forsberg former President of Jusek, Secretary of the Labor Market
Committee, Head of the Parliamentary Administration (700 employees) and Director of the Parliament 1998-2010. President of the World Federation of Chief Parliamentary Officers. Advisor to the British House of Commons. 

Jan 2023: Ulf Lindberg on the Business Regulation Committee. Ulf, who is chairman, talks about opinion forming. He has been honored as Lobbyist of the Year.

March 2023: Åke Reinholdsson on leadership development and learning. Reflect on programs/experiences/events that have been of particular importance to your own development, and we will go around the team and share.

Nov 2023 Magnus Söderström on Kerstin Hesselgren's work. She was the foremost woman in Swedish politics and public administration, also known as Kerstin the First. Magnus will lead the discussion on her importance.




One example of Meritus’ workshops: The Management Team of tomorrow

Meritus has held an internal seminar to discuss the management group of the future. The members, with a combined experience of a thousand years, gathered to share ideas and thoughts on this important topic. They recognized the prevalence of poor leadership in the media and drew from their own experiences of short-termism, slow product development, and communication breakdowns. However, they also acknowledged instances of successful leadership even in challenging circumstances.

The management team of the future will face new challenges driven by globalization, climate change, demographics, and technological advancements. The pace is quickening, mistakes are becoming more costly, and products are becoming more perishable. This raises questions about whether the current human capacity is sufficient to manage the complex systems we have created. Can a limited number of individuals possess the supernatural gifts, reasoning capabilities, and physical and mental capacity needed for effective leadership? The headlines about a lack of leadership suggest that the most important initiatives and decisions may be made by too few people.

The seminar emphasized the importance of teamwork in the face of increasing speed and complexity. The days of the heroic leader are over, and the team is now required for both practical and psychological reasons. Access to others' minds, knowledge, and perspectives is necessary to widen our field of vision, gain strength, and make informed decisions. The seminar emphasized the significance of consultation with employee organizations, especially in times of rapid change, to avoid confusion and mistrust.

The management team should take charge of their own development and encourage the individual development of each member. It is crucial to distinguish between operational and strategic tasks, learn about the basics of how the brain works, engage in mutual reporting, prioritize commitment to the future, and highlight new ideas and technologies. Problems should be tackled early, and transparency and sustainability should be integral to decision-making.

The composition, organization, and agenda of the management team will vary depending on the task, time, and situation. Different perspectives, openness to change, and external participation should be embraced. The HR manager, in particular, has a responsibility beyond the traditional role and should contribute to the team's success and development to justify their place in the team. The stakeholders model is also valued, with a focus on the societal and citizen perspective to drive improvement initiatives.

Shared values, the importance of employees, and the promotion of curiosity, independent thinking, and questioning were emphasized. Management teams should create norms, understand the role of the organization, and take responsibility for their own further development. Finally, the individuals within the team should be carefully selected and prepared to accept the uncertainty and sacrifice that leadership requires.

Each management team is made up of individuals, chosen with care and the best of intentions.  Each has carefully considered what the task entails, accepted the uncertainty and the sacrifice it requires. Less obvious is the readiness to take responsibility for their own further development, for the task of creating norms and role models, for the duty to share experiences and insights.  So please reflect on how you are shaping history, why others should be guided by you and how you are mobilizing for future exciting challenges.


Summarized by Åke Reinholdsson in cooperation with highly appreciated colleagues.


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