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How to lead like a Viking

Contrary to popular myth, Vikings didn’t wear horned helmets, but their legacy endures in modern Danish leadership.

The Vikings didn’t have horns on their helmets. That was a myth probably started by the church to have them seen as devils who sacked churches and stole religious artefacts. Shame really because I thought that was their most distinctive feature.

Is there a unique Viking culture and leadership  style that has influences modern Danish businesses? Those raiding  parties needed to be led by decisive leaders able to inspire confidence and loyalty in small boats and rough seas. Certainly some of the Viking stereo types persist in how Danes are described by other nationalities.

Hardy, strong silent types with a fondness for beer. The reality is some what different , Danish people like other Scandinavians are very concerned with equality. Danish society does not have the extreme gap between the poor and rich that characterises other parts of Europe and the US.  They don’t like elitism or snobbishness. Like  other Scandinavian countries they have a strong commitment  to gender equality which is reflected in the workplace.

However it is the exceptionally high level of trust which distinguishes Danish society and therefore Danish organisations, which in turn influences the relationship between leaders and employees. A recent Guardian article (The Danish Secret-22/5/24) claimed , ‘ 74% of Danes believe, “most people can be trusted”- more than any other national.

People who hold power in Danish institutions, the Government , the police , the judiciary are trusted to be acting in society’s best interest, and there is very little corruption. ‘ This then is reflected in an organisation’s culture and how its leaders are viewed.

I think most people would agree that in British organisations the leadership is often viewed with suspicion. When a reorganisation is to be implemented or changes in working practices proposed leaders find that low levels of trust are a barrier to change.

The leadership message is in the  absence of the high levels of trust present in Danish society the leadership/management in British organisations need to work harder at consulting, engaging and communications with employees.

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