Common Sense in Leadership: Prague Leadership Institute Newsletter Volume 2, Issue 8

The Prague Leadership Institute Newsletter

Developing Leaders for the 21st Century

Dear Readers,

Pepper de CallierWelcome to the August issue of the Prague Leadership Institute’s newsletter.

July saw an event take place in Prague that gives us reason for optimism in the realm of civil society and values-based leadership.  It was the formal launch of Aspen Institute Prague.  Former United States Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, brought 22 former Foreign Ministers to Prague to celebrate the event and to hold her annual Aspen Ministers Forum. To those of you who may not be familiar with the Aspen Institute please take a look at their website and I think you’ll get a sense for why there is so much excitement about the creation of Aspen Institute Prague.  It’s not always easy to measure the impact of an organization like Aspen, but in my column below I share some thoughts on just that topic.

In keeping with our Young Leaders series that launched last month, I would like to introduce you to our latest contributing author, Martina Gambles Kazdova, who is Finance Director, Czech Republic and Slovakia for BRAMMER CZECH, a.s.  Martina and I met through Vodafone’s Odyssey Program, a mentoring program for senior women executives here in the Czech Republic.  Martina is my mentee this year, and I think you’ll see one reason why we are proud to have her in the Odyssey Program when you read her column this month: Leadership Through My Eyes.  Thanks, Martina for this wonderful perspective on leadership.

In the May newsletter I mentioned a strategic partnership we entered into with YouTube, but I was asked not to go into detail about it until everything was in place.  Now we are ready, so here it is: we have agreed that PLI will produce a series of one-and-a-half to three minute inspirational videos that will be posted on the PLI YouTube channel every Monday for twelve months.  The series will be titled Common Sense Wisdom: Thoughts To Live By with a subtitle that explains the content of that week’s video.  We have already shot the first fifteen segments with a great film crew, headed up by Ivan Vlasyuk. In each segment I will share a quote or give an example of something that has been a source of inspiration and motivation over the years. This is proving to be more time-consuming than I ever thought it would be, but it is very fulfilling and fun.  The series will launch on 3 September, so please give it a look and let me know what you think.

Each month two members of The Prague Leadership Institute’s faculty, or invited guest authors, share their thoughts on a wide variety of leadership-related topics.  To all of them go our sincere thanks for taking the time, and having the generosity of spirit, to share their wealth of experience.

Thank you, too, for taking the time to read our newsletter and for your support.

P.S. My book recommendation for this month: Many of my Czech friends have read Talks With T.G. Maseryk, by Karel Capek, but for those of you who haven’t, I heartily recommend it.  Written by one of the Czech Republic’s favorite authors and wonderfully translated by Michael Henry Heim, this is a wonderfully human view of what enduring, values-based leadership looked like in the real world of the Founding President of Czechoslovakia. 

Young Leaders Series
Martina Gambles Kazdová

Leadership Through my Eyes

Martina Gambles Kazdová
Finance Director for CZ/SK Brammer Czech, a.s.

What is the essence of a good leader, and what qualities are necessary to become a good leader that others will respect and want to follow?

What mistakes should a good leader be aware of and try to avoid?

As a young business leader, currently working as a finance director, I find myself reflecting on these questions daily.

I recognize that the quest to becoming a great leader is a journey of learning, improvement and reflection, which requires dedication, willingness to embrace change and an open mind. The environment we work in and the people we meet also have an impact and shape a leader’s character.

So what important qualities do I feel a good leader should possess and what should they be aware of? Aside from the technical and professional competencies in the given field (Finance, Sales, IT, etc.), it is through my personal experience and in my opinion a combination of the following:

I believe that a leader who cares deeply about the work they are doing, is passionate about their company’s success and cares about the professional, and personal, satisfaction of team members is truly on the path to becoming a good leader. I feel that this last point, caring for the well-being of your team, is a key element to success, but it is sadly sometimes overlooked.

Employees are the biggest asset of the company but can also be its biggest loss if not led properly. Leaders need to acknowledge this and embrace the fact that they hold the power to change people’s lives and act accordingly. I consider and treat every member ...
Pepper de Callier

Aspen Institute: What does it really do?

Pepper de Callier
Founder and Executive Director,
Prague Leadership Institute

More than 60 years ago, American businessman and philanthropist, Walter Paepcke, founded what would become one of the most respected platforms in the world for truly non-partisan dialogue addressing critical issues facing civil society.  To understand the scale and scope of Aspen’s activities, please visit

Many people have been responsible for attracting Aspen Institute to Prague.  Businessman and philanthropist, Zdenek Bakala, became the galvanizing force behind the formation and accreditation of Aspen Institute Prague, and to him, we as a community, owe a great deal of thanks.

One of the criticisms I was used to hearing, as I did for many years as an adviser to President Havel’s Forum 2000 Conference, was: What exactly do you do?  How is it you actually bring about change?  Do you have a list of break-through ideas that people can put to use right now to bring about world peace?  And, as one of the Founders and a member of the Supervisory Board of Aspen Institute Prague, I am asked the same questions, especially from members of the business community who are used to making decisions, implementing plans, and reporting the results at the next Board of Director’s meeting.

In an effort to shed some light on these questions, I wanted to share something I hope will open a door to a deeper understanding of what Aspen Institute does. Full disclosure notice: I am not speaking for Aspen Institute, or Aspen Institute Prague.  I am voicing my own opinion based on my interpretation of personal experience.

On the 19th of July, Madeleine Albright, Former Secretary of State of the United States, brought 22 former Foreign Ministers to Prague to celebrate the birth of Aspen Prague   ...
Prague Leadership Institute
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