Erik Slingerland (MBA ’84) leads Egon Zehnder's global Public and Social Sector Practice as a Geneva-based partner, coordinating the firm’s international work with governments, international organizations, civil society, and educational and cultural institutions. He conducts some of the firm's most senior engagements in the multilateral and NGO space, supporting clients in executive and board searches as well as management appraisals and leadership consulting. In addition, Erik is active in Egon Zehnder’s Legal Professionals and Human Resources practices.
In the early 1990s, he established the firm’s first Eastern European office in Budapest, Hungary, and then fostered the firm’s growth in the region, opening offices in Prague; Warsaw, Poland; Moscow and Bratislava, Slovakia.
Prior to joining Egon Zehnder, Slingerland had an international career with Ciba-Geigy (now Novartis), serving in financial leadership positions in The Netherlands, Switzerland and Brazil.
Slingerland holds master’s degree and Ph.D. in law from the University of Zürich in addition to his MBA from Darden.
What do you do in your current role?
I search and assess senior leadership talent, perform board consulting and board member searches, and conduct effectiveness reviews of senior leadership teams. I coordinate and guide a team of about 30 consultants globally, focused on the development and execution of all client activities of our firm outside the private sector such as governments and government-owned institutions, international organizations, NGOs, foundations, universities, and arts and culture.
What’s a typical day like for you at work?
Discussing leadership and governance challenges with clients such as the U.N., Red Cross, World Bank, and various national governments and universities. Identifying and evaluating potential candidates to understand their ambitions, capabilities and potential, matching them with our clients’ needs. A typical day includes international travel, client visits, profound personal discussions with people of enormous diversity in terms of their origin and cultural background, and — ultimately — creating societal (and monetary) value by bringing the right people together.
How has Darden impacted your life?
It has taught me about management and its tools, but more importantly about people, teamwork and leadership; about strategic thinking and about how useless that is without thoughtful and effective implementation; and, finally, about myself and trusting my capabilities. The impact has been profound and lasting.
Why did you choose Darden?
Its focus on case method teaching, its faculty-student ratio, recommendations by alumni friends, and the feeling it left me with after my first visit.
What’s the best advice you have ever received?
When adapting to a new environment, be willing — and happily so — to give 120% of yourself and be genuinely satisfied when getting 80% in return. If you are able to do that, you will integrate anywhere and ultimately reap the benefits. This has proven to be ever so true.
What’s your personal motto?
Think positively and count your blessings!
How do you measure success?
Lasting and sustainable leadership improvements — better CEO appointments, better functioning boards — and their potential to positively impact society.
What motivates you?
Professionally: Attaining success, and the curiosity and urge to understand what makes individuals tick, what makes them excel.
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