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IMD’s Merete Wedell-Wedellsborg named to 2023 Thinkers50 Radar list

In a world of polycrisis, executives can learn from the battle psychology of military leaders, says IMD Adjunct Professor of Leadership Merete Wedell-Wedellsborg.
January 2023

As executives struggle to lead their employees through compounding crises, Merete Wedell-Wedellsborg has been named on the 2023 Thinkers50 Radar list for her work on how to sustain high performance and create strong bonds and shared identity in top teams. 

“Psychologically, 2023 is going to be really demanding. So many people are hit by this war room fatigue from the past three years,” she said. “But right now, nobody really wants to hear about being in crisis mode. They want to get back to business and shape the future. 

“This year, I am excited to focus on how leaders can go beyond the ‘crisis after crisis’ mindset, in particular how they can manage their organization’s frustration, and energize teams for reinvention and change.” 

Crisis psychology, ethical leadership, and resilience are important research topics for Wedell-Wedellsborg, who spent 12 years at the Royal Danish Defense College testing fighter pilots, teaching, and training battle psychology with cadets, and being deployed as a crisis psychologist to emergency and disaster situations. 

She believes the corporate world could learn a lot from how the military train their young employees to build trust between each other and bring people with them. 

“Military leaders learn how to hone their own resilience, but also make sure that their team is ready to fight.” 

“They also know that when they are tired that someone will be there to take over. So quite early on they learn how to lead and motivate a team,” she explained. 

“This is not always the case in the corporate world, where you might be promoted because you are a specialist and really good at your job but you might lack these basic leadership skills. In the army, they learn this early on – because if you don’t, the consequences could be fatal.” 

An authorized clinical psychologist, Wedell-Wedellsborg holds a PhD in business economics from Copenhagen Business School and an MA in Psychology from the University of Copenhagen. She has more than 20 years’ experience developing executive teams, top leaders, and talents, and runs her own business psychology practice with industry-leading clients in the financial, pharmaceutical, and defense sectors, as well as family offices. 

These experiences informed her book Battle Mind: How to Navigate in Chaos and Perform Under Pressure, as well as a number of articles on the psychology of leadership, ethics, and coping with COVID-19. She is also a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review and I by IMD and a frequently used expert on leadership in business media. 

Thinkers50 identifies, ranks, and shares the very best in today’s management ideas. Its definitive global Radar list of 30 up-and-coming thinkers is published annually.