Interview with Mette Norgaard

Date: 28.05.2019 Reading time: 1 min. By: Louise Orbesen

Mette Norgaard, Ph. D., M.B.A., is an expert on strategic leadership and learning. She works with top executives to create distinct learning solutions that bring their strategies to life. 

As a leadership expert, Mette has partnered with Fortune 500 companies, such as Microsoft and Campbell Soup Company, to develop their most promising leaders and has further taught thousands of leaders from other large organizations. Mette is moreover the co-author and author of two bestselling books; TouchPoints and The Ugly Duckling Goes to Work.

Leading Humans met Mette in New York for a talk about current and future leadership challenges and hot topics.


How do you perceive the developments of AI?

– I’m deeply concerned about the way artificial intelligence will impact work and thus society. We human beings need to contribute, to be of use, to make a difference. Great minds and wise souls must come together now to re-define work and how we can earn a living.

What is your take on the polarization?

– I am saddened by the sense of entitlement those who have the most exhibit. In the US, this has created incredible income discrepancy, lifestyle enclaves, and echo chambers. Most don’t live in real communities, we don’t go to the same hospitals, our kids don’t go to the same schools. There is no real connection with people from different socio-economic levels. No meaningful conversation.

To what extent is purpose and passion important?

– In my mind, the concept of maturity is more important than purpose. In fact, maturity is a word that deserves to be rehabilitated. An immature person’s contribution often carries a note of “look at me, look how good I am.”  Mature leaders, and that has little to do with age, care more about “we.” It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t worry about who gets the credit.

– It’s okay for leaders to lose their temper. But when they do, it better be about a matter of principle. Something larger than their own ego. Passion is very powerful.

What do you make out of millennials?

– Millennials don’t worry me at all.  We Baby Boomers really scared the shit out of those in power by refusing to obey authority, from the Paris uprising in ’68 to violent Vietnam War protests. Really, how could they entrust their businesses and institutions to us? As to Millennials so what if they need continuous feedback and prefer text to talk.

In general, what characteristics are vital for current and future leaders?

– Taking an MBA makes you smarter – but it doesn’t make you a leader. To be a leader you need to embody certain traits. People need to sense that when things get tough, you will look out for the team first, your own interests second. They need to trust your competence. It’s about presence. About showing up in a way that’s calm and clear, confident and kind.

– We often speak about the need to stick to our values no matter what. But values may at times need to be adjusted. Joseph Badaracco tells a story about an African tribal leader who was raised to honour the ways of his ancestors, and that works … until he encounters missionaries with guns. If he fights in accordance with his values, the tribe will be obliterated.  To whom does he owe the greater allegiance?  The dead or the living?  I think of values like the roots of an oak tree, where they, when encountering granite, may have to yield a bit, before continuing to reach for water.