10 Break-Out Sessions

  • Time: 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

A Demographic Revolution: Young India Takes Charge (with All India Management Association)
Ritesh Agarwal, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, OYO Rooms
Pranjal Sharma (Topic Leader), Economic Analyst, Advisor and Author, India

India is undergoing its economic, technological and demographic transition simultaneously. An old country is becoming youthful and adventurous with the passage of time. Young Indians like OYO founder Ritesh Agarwal are quietly taking charge of Indian ethos by becoming icons of audacious aspirations and tangible proofs of its potential, spawning startups that are becoming most valuable and famous than many legacy companies. How can young revolutionaries find ways to carry the older generation of investors, regulators, workers and consumers with them and what can other economies and founders learn from India’s momentous transition?

Collaborative Advantage Across Generations: Reflecting on the SGS Experience (ISC Alumni)
Former Members of the International Students' Comittee
Christoph Loos (Topic Leader), Chief ­Executive ­Offi­cer, Hilti AG
Vivian Bernet (Topic Leader), Head of the Organising Committe, International Students' Comittee
Watch Here

For over 50 years teams of student have volunteered to organise the St. Gallen Symposium. They have written countless invitations, met thousands of partners, and welcomed some of the most important personalities of their time on stage. Together with former members of the ISC we will reflect on the St. Gallen Symposium experience of cross-generational dialogue and collaboration, the lessons they have learned for their lives and on how the symposium has evolved. This session is organised together with ISC Alumni.

Collective Genius? Cultivating Creativity in the Arts and Beyond
Susan Goldsworthy, Affiliate Professor of Leadership, Communications and Organizational Change, IMD Business School
Gerry Hofstetter, Light Artist & Film Producer Hofstetter Marketing
Javiera Estrada, Artist
Tatjana Rupp (Topic Leader), Member of the International Students' Committee

As the need for innovation is growing, the routinisation of well-structured creative processes within organizations is key for concurrent value creation. Prof. Susan Goldsworthy of IMD, this year's St. Gallen Symposium artist Javiera Estrada and Light Artist Gerry Hofstetter will discuss the role of collaboration in the creative process. Together, and in conversation with the audience, they’ll explore the way collaboration can drive creativity in various organisational contexts, and, on the other hand, the role of introversion and lone contemplation in creating something new.

Connecting Business with Purpose: The Potential of Skills-Based Volunteering
Curdin Duschletta, Head Community Impact Switzerland & Foundations, UBS
Christopher Jarvis, Executive Director, RWInstitute
Prof. Amanda Shantz (Topic Leader), MBA Director and Professor of Management, University of St.Gallen

Many employee volunteering and giving programs are presented as an employee perk, similar to casual Fridays or a team-building event. But treating workplace giving and volunteering this way fails to fully capitalise on the great potential of such programs: to foster employee personal growth, and address key societal challenges. The panel will particularly explore the potential of skills-based volunteering, its benefits, and the unique challenges that arise when moving from merely transactional volunteering to something far more transformative.

Financing the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs
Patrick Zhong, Founding Managing Partner, M31 Capital
Makram Azar, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Full Circle Capital
Prof. Julia Binder (Topic Leader), Professor of Sustainable Innovation and Business Transformation, IMD Business School

The investment landscape over the next twenty years will be radically different from previous generations. While there appears to be greater access to capital, there also appears to be much more volatility and debt with no clear dominant financing mechanism. Entrepreneurs, VC, Private Equity, and banks will have to find new ways to work together to create growth and stimulate innovation. How can investors and entrepreneurs better collaborate and find mutually beneficial agreements that balance risk and return?

Hacking the Fashion & Luxury Watchmaking Industry towards more Sustainability (with Condé Nast College)
Martina Bonnier, Editor-In-Chief, Vogue Scandinavia
Raynald Aeschlimann, President and CEO, Omega S.A
Carmen Jenny, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, CLOTHESfriends AG
Johannes Reponen (Topic Leader), Director of Post-Graduate Programmes; Academic Affairs; Research & Knowledge Exchange, Condé Nast College

The fashion industry accounts for 10% of humanity’s annual carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. For long, the fashion and luxury watchmaking industry drove, together with the fashion media industry, unsustainable dynamics in the sector: generating more and more demand through an artificial cycle of new collections and seasonal trends. Businesses’ marketing, media as well as influencers thereby create a constant longing and demand for their products. How can designers, fashion houses and publishers exit this vicious cycle and, collaboratively, drive the transition towards more sustainable and ethical fashion and luxury watchmaking?

M100 Sanssouci Colloquium@St. Gallen: Media’s New Power: More Impact Through Collaborative Journalism
Mathias Müller von Blumencron, Journalist, Member of the Board, Tagesanzeiger and Advisory Board Member M100 Sanssouci Colloquium
Joanna Krawczyk, Chairwoman, Leading European Newspaper Alliance
Paul Radu, Investigative Journalist, Co-Founder OCCRP
Astrid Frohloff (Topic Leader), TV Presenter and Journalist, Advisory Board Member M100 Sanssouci Colloquium

Media diversity, freedom of the press and freedom of expression in Europe are currently under threat. Journalists and independent media companies are increasingly joining forces across borders to respond to such challenges as well as to be able to continue to offer independent quality journalism in the future. This session will identify learnings from new media partnerships such as the Leading European Newspaper Alliance (LENA) and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) to identify how media can most effectively work together.

Democratizing Access to the next Generation of Technology and Innovation: Communities and Radical Transformation
Gina Loften, Member of the Board of Trustees, TIAA
Luzius Meisser, Chairman, Bitcoin Suisse
Tycho Onnasch, General Manager, Trust Machines
Shuo Chen (Topic Leader), General Partner, IOVC

Technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship are key drivers of the modern economy and social mobility. Given their importance, we should strive to improve accessibility to tech, education and entrepreneurship across all backgrounds. Creating open and inclusive communities, especially with tech is important to accomplishing this goal, but it is easier said that done. Simultaneously, a third iteration of the internet – Web3 – has the potential to radically transform the internet of things and reduce barriers to access. How can these forces be effectively harnessed and directed for the benefit of all people and move the world forward?

Varieties of Tech Capitalism: Europe's Approach to Innovation and Regulation in a Global Context
Julian Teicke, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, wefox
Lisa-Marie Fassl, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Female Founders
Christoph Keese (Topic Leader), Managing Partner and Chief Executive Officer, hy

Over the past decades, the tech sector, especially the internet of things, has become a central component of modern economies. Trying to catch up with the exponential pace of technological development, the US, China, and Europe are crafting rules of the game on digital markets. What are the emerging characteristic differences between regulatory regimes of digital markets, in the US, Europe and beyond, and how do they balance innovation and regulation? In light of strategic competition over tech dominance between the US and China, what are the opportunities and challenges for Europe in particular?

Changed for Good? Engaging with the New World of Work
Petra von Strombeck, Chief Executive Officer, New Work SE
Jean-Christophe Deslarzes, Chair of the Board, Adecco Group
Nat Ware, Founder & CEO Forte
Prof. Heike Bruch (Topic Leader), Director, Institute for Leadership and Human Resources Management, University of St. Gallen
Watch Here

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world of work forever. The fast and widespread adoption of remote work and an ever-increasing concern of employees with purpose and meaning on their job have intensified the war for talents. Reaching out to and concurrently engaging employees is key for businesses across sectors and regions. What learnings can be drawn from the pandemic as regards our approach to work? Has the world of work changed for the better? And what role does leadership culture and a new approach to hiring play going forward?

Sign up for our Newsletter

Sign up for our Newsletter

Purpose-oriented Leadership in the New World of Work

Due to trends like digitalization, individualization, and increasing diversity the work environment is changing rapidly and constantly. Companies adapt to these changes with new organizational structures and new forms of working. Becoming more agile, innovative, and adaptive are the goals of these new work transformations (Bruch & Berenbold, 2017). New work environments are characterized by fluid structures, virtual teams, and cooperation in networks. It becomes apparent that all organizational levels and all organizations are affected by the new world of work (Bruch & Schuler, 2015).

Managing the new work transformation is not a choice but a reality in today’s organizations – and one of their greatest challenges. Awareness of this insight in corporate practice has increased in recent years. Key questions, however, remain unanswered: What do companies need to be successful in the new world of work? And how should leaders orchestrate the new work transformation?  

A recent study at the Institute for Leadership and Human Resources Management at the University of St. Gallen investigated changes in the work environment empirically. We surveyed 19,000 employees and leaders from 92 companies. Key insights were that only 25% of companies already work in the new world of work, i.e. people in these organizations extensively use new forms of work such as virtual or fluid teams, mobile work, desk sharing, or idiosyncratic deals (figure 1, Bruch, Block, & Färber, 2016).

Another striking result deriving from the data is that only 6% of the surveyed companies perform well in the new world of work, i.e. only about a quarter of the companies that transformed their world of work. Based on the experiences of these so-called successful pioneers, success factors of the new world of work can be derived. Purpose-oriented leadership, also called inspirational leadership, turned out to be one of the most important success factors.

1 Purpose-oriented leadership in the new work transformation

Against the backdrop of changes in the working environment, more and more discussions have arisen in research and practice as to what role leadership still plays. Some even suggest, to get rid of leaders. New leadership approaches have emerged which consider these new developments. The common feature of the different and only partly new leadership approaches is that new forms of working are associated with less control, stronger freedom of employees and less with classical hierarchical leadership (Bruch & Berger, 2016).

New leadership approaches encompass empowering leadership (encourages the development of follower self-management and autonomous decision-making), ambidextrous leadership (the leader switches between results-oriented behaviour and intellectual stimulation to foster both efficiency and creativity in different situations), and shared leadership (leadership roles and influence are distributed among team members). Moreover, there are concepts of leaderless organizations, which argue that businesses do better without managers. These approaches imply that informal and decentralized forms of leaderships replace classical leaders, which provide clear visions, goals, and strategies.

It should not be forgotten though that new forms of leadership are strongly based on an indispensable foundation: a common sense of purpose in the company (Bruch & Berenbold, 2017). Our empirical insights clearly suggest: If this is missing, more freedom, fluidity, virtuality and network-like working as in the new world of work tend to lead to overwhelming, loss of performance or even serious damages such as exhaustion, the acceleration trap, or destroyed trust (Bruch et al., 2016). Purpose-oriented leadership is therefore even more important in the new world of work. While classical management functions can largely be substituted, the role of the emotional and meaning related side of leadership gains more importance than ever. This notion is corroborated by our empirical finding that companies with high levels of purpose-oriented leadership do much better in the new world of work while companies who lack this sensegiving form of leadership experience a decrease in performance and people related outcomes (Bruch et al., 2016).

Leaders’ sensegiving and emotional behaviours lead to employees’ perceptions that their work is meaningful, serves a higher purpose and that work plays an important role in their lives (Hollensbe, Wookey, Hickey, George, & Nichols, 2014; Pratt & Ashforth, 2003). A shared understanding of meaning unites employees, generates a common orientation of daily actions, promotes a sense of togetherness and increases productive energy. Ultimately, a shared understanding of meaning increases organizational performance (Bruch & Vogel, 2011).

What do inspirational leaders do in practice? Moreover, how does their sensegiving look like? Inspirational leaders develop and communicate an image of a future for a collective with the intention to persuade others to contribute to the realization of that future (van Knippenberg & Sitkin, 2013). They manage the balancing act between increasing individualization and the retention of employees through creating a shared group identity. Hence, leaders’ sensegiving is based on a common objective, meaningful inspiration and developing and communicating a desirable vision of the future. The importance of management by objectives through monitoring and control becomes less important in the new world of work.

2 Purpose-oriented leadership becomes both more complex and more important in the new world of work

In the new work contexts, work is not only faster but also more flexible and thus requires heterogeneous network structures, open forms of cooperation with external partners or increased adaptability of employees to constantly changing conditions and tasks.  Work becomes decentralized, familiar structural boundaries dissolve. This leads to a significant increase in speed in companies. Firms who become overly energetic can fall into the so-called acceleration trap – one of the central obstacles to leaders’ sensegiving and employees’ sensemaking (Bruch & Berenbold, 2017).

Several studies by the Institute for Leadership and Human Resources Management at the University of St. Gallen have repeatedly shown that around 50% of all companies are in the acceleration trap (Bruch & Kowalevski, 2012; Bruch & Menges, 2010). It is a widespread phenomenon. New forms of work make it even more likely that companies fall victim of the acceleration trap (Bruch & Berenbold, 2017). The acceleration trap manifests itself in three forms of overheating: It occurs when large parts of the employees feel that they have too much work in comparison to the available capacities (overloading), pursue too many activities or projects at the same time (multiloading) or operate constantly at the stress limit (perpetual loading).

Research results show that a distinctive acceleration trap strongly impairs leadership and, above all, creating a sense of meaning. Firstly, executives caught in the acceleration trap do not have enough time for leadership because they have lost their focus. They primarily take care of operational tasks and try to solve daily problems. These so-called distracted managers are highly energetic but unfocused (Bruch & Ghoshal, 2002; Bruch & Ghoshal, 2004). This distinguishes them from purposeful managers who have high levels of both energy and focus.

The main problem of distracted managers is their unproductive busyness which can be described as “active non-action” (Bruch & Ghoshal, 2002; Bruch & Ghoshal, 2004). These managers do not have enough time for leadership, to make sense by themselves, and finally to develop a meaningful picture of the future. Thus, inspirational leadership and leaders’ sensegiving are reduced. Instead, distracted managers tend to adopt a management style characterized by short-termism, management and control, and a focus on fire-fighting, i.e. fulfilling urgent demands. In consideration of the acceleration trap, it is therefore important for leaders to re-prioritize and sharpen the long-term vision of the future (Bruch & Menges, 2010).

Second, caught in the acceleration trap, leaders experience high pressure to perform and informational overload, which brings them to the limit of their time capacities. This causes emotional exhaustion, which reduces leaders’ enthusiasm and capability to inspire their followers (Bruch & Kowalevski, 2012). At the same time, managers play an important role in preventing their employees from emotional exhaustion. They achieve this by clearly demonstrating the common meaning and the values derived from it. A lack of meaning increases the probability that employees no longer see themselves as part of a larger whole which decreases their organizational identification. Hence, it is important that leaders are aware of their own energy to inspire their employees.

Above arguments show that the acceleration trap complicates inspirational leadership and employees’ sensemaking. On the other hand, our empirical evidence reveals that inspirational leadership reduces the acceleration trap and gains importance in the new world of work (Bruch & Kowalevski, 2012).

The new world of work is accompanied by increased decentralization, dissolution of boundaries and fluidity. Thus, new forms of work decrease a sense of togetherness and organizational identity. A sense of community and cohesion can only be created if employees have a common understanding of meaning. Thus, to become innovative and successful in the new world of work leaders have to give sense and inspire their followers. Key figure-based performance systems and strong control tend to be counterproductive in the new work environment.

It is therefore not the question of whether we still need leadership in the new world of work but how leadership must be shaped in this context in order to use the potentials of increased freedom, flexibility and innovation and to provide meaning, inspiration and direction in order to counteract the increased danger of acceleration, chaos, and excessive demands.

3 Strategic leadership is important to shape the new work transformation

Our empirical data reveal that four factors drive performance of the new world of work (figure 2, Bruch et al., 2016). Strategic leadership and HR-management turned out to be key drivers of these success factors. Strategic leadership is the leadership of companies by the CEO and his or her top management team through strategies, structures and systems (Fischer, Dietz, & Antonakis, 2017). Fulfilling these requirements enables companies to perform better, be more innovative, and act with higher levels of energy.  

Firstly, the arguments above show that organizations have to create an inspirational leadership climate. There is strong empirical evidence that the top management team is an important determinant of such a climate through its role model function (Raes, Bruch, & Jong, 2013). It is a vital sign for middle managers and the rest of the company if leaders at the top have a vision for the company and give sense.

Secondly, organizations have to create a culture of trust between the organization, leaders and employees. Trust is the basis for the third prerequisite of success, the empowerment of employees. Organizations have to empower their members through a higher degree of autonomy and self-determination. The goal is to enable them to act responsibly and shape the company with their own resources.

Finally, companies have to develop self-competences of the employees to stay successful in the new world of work. Self-competences are also important when it comes to the empowerment of employees. Empowerment without self-competences leads to a state what we call “laissez-faire empowerment”.

4 Conclusion

In summary, the successful transformation towards new work environments requires a new working culture, in which inspirational leadership and purpose-driven leaders are key elements.  A key challenge of top leaders in dynamic new work environments is to create meaning in the entire company. An important way of co-creating purpose in the organization is to jointly develop a vivid picture of the future. At the same time, leaders must actively counteract the acceleration trap, which is more likely to occur in new work settings.

To master the acceleration trap it is important that leaders themselves regain the view of the big picture. Afterwards, they can re-prioritize tasks and develop a sense of purpose for themselves. If leaders have a map for the shifting and dynamic new world of work, they can foster a sense of purpose in the organization. Leaders’ own sensemaking is also an important factor protecting them from emotional exhaustion or burning out.

Consequently, we definitely need leadership in the new world of work. Today’ leaders need to take advantage of the opportunities of new work contexts like increased freedom, flexibility and innovation. At the same time, leaders have to involve in sensemaking, inspiring, and directing their followers to counteract the danger of chaos, excessive demands, and lone fighters.

Top executives have two strategic leadership tasks in this endeavour. The first task is the development of a new working culture with the four decisive prerequisites for success in the new world of work: Inspirational leadership climate, a culture of trust, empowering flexible structures, and finally, employees’ self-competences. The second task for top executives is to act as role models, as proactive drivers of a new mindset and purpose-driven behaviour in the organization.


Bruch, H., & Berenbold, S. (2017). Zurück zum Kern – Sinnstiftende Führung in der Arbeitswelt 4.0. OrganisationsEntwicklung. (1), 4–11.

Bruch, H., & Berger, S. (2016). Leadership wird noch wichtiger: Vier Hebel der Modernisierung von Führung. Personalführung, 6, 18–23.

Bruch, H., Block, C., & Färber, J. (2016). Arbeitswelt im Umbruch: Von den erfolgreichen Pionieren lernen (Trendstudie 2016). Konstanz: ZEAG.

Bruch, H., & Ghoshal, S. (2002). Beware the busy manager. Harvard Business Review, 80(2).

Bruch, H., & Ghoshal, Sumantra. (2004). A bias for action: How effective managers harness their willpower achieve results and stop wasting time. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press. Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/catdir/enhancements/fy1311/2003025724-d.html

Bruch, H., & Kowalevski, S. (2012). Zwischen Hochleistung und Erschöpfung. Wie Führungskräfte das Potenzial ihrer Mitarbeiter ausschöpfen und Burn-out vermeiden. Trendstudie 2012, Überlingen.

Bruch, H., & Menges, J. I. (2010). The acceleration trap. Harvard Business Review, 88(4), 80–86.

Bruch, H., & Schuler, A. (2015). Mehr Energie für den Neustart. Harvard Business Manager Sonderheft 2016, 42-49.

Bruch, H., & Vogel, B. (2011). Fully charged: How great leaders boost their organization’s energy and ignite high performance. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business Review Press.

Fischer, T., Dietz, J., & Antonakis, J. (2017). Leadership process models: A review and synthesis. Journal of Management, 43(6), 1726–1753. https://doi.org/10.1177/0149206316682830

Hollensbe, E., Wookey, C., Hickey, L., George, G., & Nichols, C. V. (2014). Organizations with Purpose. Academy of Management Journal, 57(5), 1227–1234. https://doi.org/10.5465/amj.2014.4005

Pratt, M. G., & Ashforth, B. E. (2003). Fostering Meaningfulness in Working and at Work. In K. S. Cameron, J. E. Dutton, & R. E. Quinn (Eds.), Positive Organizational Scholarship: Foundations of a New Discipline. San Francisco, CA: Berret-Koehler.

Raes, A. M. L., Bruch, H., & Jong, S. B. de. (2013). How top management team behavioural integration can impact employee work outcomes: Theory development and first empirical tests. Human Relations, 66(2), 167–192. https://doi.org/10.1177/0018726712454554

Van Knippenberg, D., & Sitkin, S. B. (2013). A critical assessment of charismatic-transformational leadership research: Back to the drawing board? The Academy of Management Annals, 7(1), 1–60. https://doi.org/10.5465/19416520.2013.759433

Share the article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *