Rane Willerslev was the wild adventurer of all of Denmark. Until he changed his life to become head of the National Museum in 2017. Was it a big change or a natural development for the anthropologist with the pronounced desire for freedom?
“It was a necessity. I simply believe that I can lead the National Museum better. It's tough and difficult, and I certainly don't think it's a job for everyone. The bad managers are not bad people. But the best manager has both a professional understanding of the institution he has to lead, while also being able to rise above his personal prejudices," says the director and continues:
"The National Museum must be a pillar in the Danes' consciousness. It is a task I feel called to. I don't want to be a leader for the sake of being a leader. It is not power that drives, and I could never be the right director of Stryhns Leverpostej.”
So how does the professor of anthropology and the wilderness hunter go about his leadership role if it is the professional calling that drives him? “My own management style is egalitarian and inclusive. And it's certainly not the easiest way to lead. If I want to make a reform, I can't pull an idea over people's heads. I have to involve my board, middle managers, employees and unions first and hear all their critical input. And when I have made a strategy, I have to go through the whole process again.”
Therefore, Rane Willerslev has also had his own and the employees' concrete change and development in mind since he took the director's chair at the National Museum.
"We have already run an internal course where all the managers learned to make a concrete business plan. It puts things into perspective when we don't just have to deal with our own interests and areas of expertise, but when everyone also deals with the larger goals and scope, such as expenses and visitor numbers."
Does this sound like an optimization exercise or excel sheet logic? Make no mistake. Rane Willerslev, who in the spring of 2019 published the book "Backbone and Space - An introduction to a more courageous concept of education", likes to take the lead in order to show how change and education, management structure and employee autonomy are not contradictory concepts, but rather mutually dependent dimensions that used correctly can lead to job satisfaction, productivity and money on the bottom line.