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Investment Firm Aligns Transformational Leadership and Diversity Programs

Investment Firm Aligns Transformational Leadership and Diversity Programs

Värde is an alternative investment firm managing an estimated 12 billion in institutional investments. This global firm has 250 employees around the world, with 12 major offices on four continents.

To address the cross-border diversity of its teams, Värde must tackle several unique challenges. “With the complexity of our highly regulated industry and global business, we need to attract and retain well-educated, highly-qualified and talented individuals,” explained Andrea Schilling, Global Head of Human Resources for Värde. “That’s why we put a lot of time into our people, making sure we are rewarding them well, and that there are plenty of opportunities for growth. Culture and people are very important to us. Anything we can do to make our employees more effective in their roles, that’s what we want to do from an HR perspective.”

There are two key initiatives Värde is focused on to keep their employees front and center: authentic leadership and diversity. “We’ve been very focused on accelerating female roles in leadership, particularly on the investing side,” said Schilling. “When it comes to leadership, we want leaders that are truly diverse, as diversity of thought leads to better decision making.”


Värde decided to start working with The John Maxwell Company (TJMC) approximately 2 years ago, as they believed the founding principle of “The 5 Levels of Leadership” to be simple and effective. Värde adopted this philosophy as the foundation for its own authentic leadership development initiative. John Maxwell came in person to Värde’s Minneapolis head office to deliver a keynote address as the kickoff to the program. TJMC also worked with Värde to create a series of training materials on the 5 levels of leadership, plus an 18 month roadmap for the effort. “We started with a large investment because we wanted people to know we were serious about this,” added Schilling. “Because we knew it was critical for the ongoing growth of the organization.”

Senior executives at Värde participated in leadership coaching and executive roundtable sessions with facilitators from TJMC at Värde offices in the U.S., London and Singapore. Using TJMC facilitated workshops highlighting “RightPath” assessments, executives were able to discover their own, personal leadership style and how that style may be perceived by employees. That empowered the leaders to learn how to work more effectively with others. RightPath assessments and workshops were also conducted with entire teams at Värde to demonstrate how these teams can come together to effectively develop and mentor leaders.

Another innovative strategy was Värde’s shift in focus to bring attention to the issue of unconscious bias. “Discussing unconscious bias helps open the discussion to diversity,” explained Schilling. “We all bring bias to our thinking. We’ve all grown up with a lens on life that we bring to work. The question is: ‘How do we eliminate that bias?’” The Värde strategy to combat bias is through a series of educational opportunities that show employees how each is affected by bias and how that bias affects how they, in turn, treat others. This awareness has caused the organization to modify how they interview, hire and manage their people, and has led to clear goals and transparency about how they progress women in authentic leadership roles throughout the company.


Schilling outlined one of the primary goals of Värde when they began the relationship with The John Maxwell Company: “The goal at launch was to imbed leadership into the culture, not as a separate part of the business,” she said. “We didn’t want to push these ideas of leadership and diversity on to our team. We wanted to nurture this behavior to a point where they adopted it as part of themselves. We wanted employees to be constantly thinking on their own about not only their style of leadership, but how they instill leadership in others.”

Then it happened. Värde leaders started to approach the HR team with requests for more leadership development coaching and workshops. “I had a leader bring me a leadership development template he had constructed for his team,” stated Schilling. “He shared that his team’s experience during the RightPath assessment workshop had opened their eyes about how they needed to be intentional about learning and about leadership. That was a huge success for us from an HR perspective, that this team did this on their own initiative. We’re starting to see our goal of leadership being embedded into our culture become a reality.”

“The John Maxwell Company also provided a foundation in terms of diversity with the realization that people are different and there are different leadership styles,” continued Schilling. “And now we’re learning how to pull out the best of each style to enhance our performance as a culture and as a business.”

“At the end of the day, we want to show our employees that we want to invest in helping them to become better leaders,” Schilling concluded. “We want them to make that same investment with us because that will make us a better, more profitable organization, and it will allow us to grow and present even more opportunities for our employees.”