Belgian CEOs as export products

Why are they so coveted by multinationals?

Is there such a thing as ‘the average Belgian CEO’? Apparently, yes. It is somebody who brings people together, who has an international outlook, who is not afraid of hard work and who keeps his promises. Belgian top managers are also valued for their strong ability to compromise. Yet often they are still too modest. This was revealed by a study conducted by Vlerick Business School on behalf of Galaxis and Norman Broadbent.

These conclusions are based on in-depth interviews with 25 top managers at Bekaert, Adecco, Microsoft, McKinsey, AB Inbev, Sodexo, Delhaize and Telenet, among others. The participants in the survey were Belgian and international managers who work in Belgium, as well as Belgians who work abroad and international recruiters.

Blueprint of the Belgian CEO – a reliable 4x4

What distinguishes a Belgian CEO from his foreign colleagues? What makes them unique and why are Belgian CEOs heavily coveted by foreign companies?
Belgium is a small but highly complex country. This allows us to adapt quickly and to be very flexible. And these qualities are a major asset abroad. The study shows that other aspects are also valued beyond our national borders. These can be divided into four main categories.

1. Compromiser

The Belgian CEO is seen as a person who builds bridges. It is someone with a special talent for compromising who chooses the middle ground. This is linked to the typical Belgian way of making decisions in a fairly complex country with many different stakeholders and sensitivities. Belgian CEOs also have the ability to easily empathise with others.
Because of the diversity of cultures and nationalities in our country, Belgians are also used to listening to others and taking account of their opinions.
Other characteristics that emerge are loyalty (towards both the company and colleagues), flexibility and openness.
Finally, Belgians are considered easily approachable and diplomatic, with high emotional intelligence.

2. ‘Being Belgian’

In this regard, various aspects come into play. Belgian CEOs know several languages, often including English, which is frequently used in Belgium as the lingua franca in business. In addition, Belgian universities have a very strong reputation in terms of education levels. They deliver strong, competent professionals. Upbringing also comes into play. Belgians are hard workers who do what they are asked to do, which is highly appreciated internationally. Last but not least, our mobility is a great asset, as Belgians are prepared to move for their job.

3. Dedication

Belgian CEOs are practical and not afraid of getting their hands dirty. Problems are there to be solved. Moreover, we are known as efficient go-getters who approach matters in a straightforward manner from the perspective that ‘time is money’, whilst keeping the goals in mind. What’s more, we are recognised for our discipline. We are conscientious and work accurately, whilst respecting authority.

4. Underdogs

Abroad, Belgium is perceived as a neutral rather than a dominant country. Consequently, Belgians do not want to push forward their way of working when faced with a different culture. We also manage to earn people’s trust quickly and rarely get involved in business intrigues.
Our humility results in good co-operation skills. And finally, for Belgian CEOs, actions speak louder than words. We tend to listen and achieve, often in silence, without bragging.

Want to know more? You can download the full research report



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