In English

Leadership: Let’s go EPICally MAD!

The act of leadership and innovation is about Making A Difference.

Professor Rune Todnem By, University of Stavanger

YOU can provide leadership simply by being MAD, and all that is required to get going is a purpose in life. In fact, the notion of purpose is at the very core of the leadership philosophy I coin EPICally MAD.

It hasn’t as much been actively developed as emerged through conversations with students, practitioners and colleagues, and it all started when delivering a 30 minutes leadership development session at the Dutch organization NVVB’s annual conference a few years back. What I thought would be a catchy headline (We need MAD leaders!) drew more attention and created more buzz and energy than I could ever have planned or hoped for.

People were literally queuing to discuss how to be MAD after the session – and the discussions started then are still ongoing and spreading. The seeds planted have since been further developed, particularly in conversations with my good friend and colleague Dr. Ben Kuipers (Director of Leiden Leadership Centre, Leiden University) as part of the philosophy being adopted by the Public Leadership Foundation.

This emerging philosophy consists of three parts presented in order of development: (1) MAD; (2) EPIC; (3) ally.

I’m a strong believer in leadership being about delivering on purpose together. Leadership is a verb – not a noun. Furthermore, I believe in full leadership equality: not only is it something we can all do – it is something we all have a responsibility to contribute to.

In many ways, the act of leadership is about Making A Difference – and we can all be MAD. This is not a moulding process, but one of finding and developing our own individual MADness. It could be as small as helping, complementing, or challenging someone; asking someone for advice or the question no one else dares to ask; or simply step up and make a decision when no one else is ready to.

It could be to give up your seat to someone who needs it more than you; not to litter; or to use a reusable water bottle or coffee mug – the accumulated effect can be substantial. We can all Make A Difference to our family and friends, colleagues, neighborhood, school, city, country, and planet.

On the operational side it is up to every single one of us how MAD we want to be and what that MADness will look like. My personal purpose is to be MAD, and the question is always: Am I MAD enough?

Rather than seeking to be someone else through subscribing to traditional trait and personality characteristics, the EPIC  principles below are designed to help develop our own distinct MADness:


We all have energy, and our focus should be on how to channel it in an effective and efficient way towards delivering on purpose; identify how to best recharge and stay energized; and energize those around us.


A clear purpose in life is not only hypothesised to lead to healthier and longer lives, but also to support individual, group, organizational and institutional fulfillment and success; focus on how to identify and develop such purpose; work towards fulfilling it; all decisions to be linked to purpose.


Be who you are best – yourself – everyone else is taken; focus on developing your own identity, individuality, potential and opinions; help others to be true to themselves; do not focus on being moulded to fit preconceived leadership skills, traits and characteristics.


Enhance the courage to be yourself; to contribute to leadership; to ask the questions that need to be asked; to have opinions; to make mistakes and learn from them; and to believe in yourself and those around you.

Last but not least we have the small but powerful word ‘ally’ linking the two abbreviations. According to Oxford Dictionaries, ally (verb) means to ‘Combine or unite a resource or commodity with (another) for mutual benefit’, suggesting that leadership is something we best perform together through the process of interaction.

So, let’s go EPICally MAD together!

Rune Todnem By is Professor of Leadership at University of Stavanger Business School; Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Change Management; and part of the UNESCO Futures Literacy network.

This is an edited extract from the Journal of Change Management 2019 editorial ‘New Year’s Resolution’ .

Futures Literacy Norway, et nettverk for bruk av fremtiden i policy-læring og lederskap

Engasjerte aktører i NIFU, Forskningsrådet, Universitetet i Stavanger og Fremtenkt i Bergen har etablert et uformelt samarbeid om bruk av fremtidsferdigheter i policylæring og ledelse. Fokus er på forsknings- og innovasjonspolitikk. Rune By står sentralt i dette arbeidet.

Det uformelle nettverket, som er kalt Futures Literacy Norway, vil ha en egen virtuell stand på ministerkonferansen om fremtidsferdigheter som UNESCO arrangerer fra og med den 8. til og med den 12. desember. Forsknings- og høyere utdanningsminister Henrik Asheim i Kunnskapsdepartementet holder et innlegg under konferansen.

Samarbeidspartnerne har satt opp et eget nettsted som gjør rede for deres bruk av fremtidsferdigheter i læring og ledelse. Dette gjelder for eksempel NIFUs deltakelse i AFINO, det forskningsrådsfinansierte senteret for ansvarlig forskning og innovasjon. Det gjelder professor Rune Bys arbeid med ledelse ved Universitetet i Stavanger, selskapet Fremtenkts samarbeid med Bergen kommune om bruk av fremtiden i utviklingen av bydelen Åsane og Forskningsrådets bruk av Futures Literacy i utviklingen av en ny transformativ forsknings- og innovasjonspolitikk.

Universitetet i Stavanger og NIFU har også lagt frem et forslag om en egen norsk UNESCO chair i fremtidsferdigheter som er til vurdering i UNESCO.

Deltakerne har, i samarbeid med Forskningspolitikk, satt opp et eget nettsted som gir mer informasjon om disse prosessene..

Et nyhetsbrev om prosjektet kan lastes ned her.

Se også Forskningspolitikks intervju med Riel Miller fra UNESCO:  og

Bilde: Rune Todnem By, Foto: Universitetet i Stavanger