Great leadership is undoubtedly rare.  Establishing the best leadership credentials is a tricky task for any board.  Every culture has their preferences, and it would be foolish to suggest that the best perceived schools are bad credentials anywhere.  Schools act as social networks and schoolmates are, hopefully, lifelong friends.  However, there comes a point in time in one’s career where leadership credentials must be based on actions and results. In France, there is a lingering habit of announcing executive changes and promotions with the following formula (see the excerpt from the magazine Challenges below):

PERSON, AGE, graduate of a certain SCHOOL, has been nominated to a NEW POST…

Leadership credentials start with…

In the lastest edition of Challenges, the weekly business magazine in France, there is a column reserved for recent leadership changes.  To the left, you have the French text and I have added an English translation to the right.

French Leadership credentials, The Myndset Brand Strategy and Digital Marketing

Really, you would think that one’s credentials could be more appropriately cited.  Why must the age be cited so upfront?  Is your university degree still relevant?  I’d love to understand why this anachronistic way of writing up people continues in France?  Here is what it could look like in the US if I took a few rather emblematic figures.

US Leadership credentials, The Myndset Brand Strategy and Digital Marketing

US Leadership credentials, The Myndset Brand Strategy and Digital Marketing

The lasting role of schools in leadership credentials

In France, there is a perpetual fascination with the school that the executive attended some 30 years ago — as if that is what defines him/her.  Of course, schools are founding stones in our business life.  They remain the cornerstone of your social networks (to wit, many well known social networks began on university campuses).  That said, we are not made alone by the name of the school we attends. The other element that might hit you like a hammer: the importance of the “right” age.  Of the nine executives cited in Challenges, just one is over 52 years old.   The remainder are between 41 and 52.    When will start to see a few twenty-year old drop-outs among them, too?  [In the US sample from above, there is no woman.  This is unfortunate, but I also have struggled to find women drop-outs who have made the big time.  A comment unto itself?] Is it not time for a change in this approach in France?  {Click here if you agree, to tweet it out!}  Your reactions?

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