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Executive Education

Keon Ven den Eynde
Keon Ven den Eynde
Lead the Future

Embracing a new model of leadership on INSEAD's Lead the Future Programme

Koen Van den Eynde

Strategy and Sustainability Global Segment Manager, Bayer Crop Science

Participant of Lead the Future

The format worked very well for me and the learnings both justified my efforts as well as surpassed my expectations. I anticipate that the programme, together with my rich, diverse, international experience, will contribute to my continued professional growth.

In the 26 years and counting Koen Van den Eynde has been with Bayer Crop Science, he has lived in six countries on three different continents. He has worked in cross-functional teams at different levels of the organisation, and collaborated with farmers, locals and c-suite management alike.

These diverse experiences have fanned the flames of Koen’s passion for agriculture, and reinforced his commitment to Bayer’s mission: To ensure health for all, and hunger for none.

But to achieve this, Koen believes simply working towards sustainable agriculture is not sufficient. Passionately, he explains that the need is to also restore and replenish ecosystems — to reshape the future of agriculture and lead the charge for regenerative agriculture to flourish.

Ever on the lookout for ways to do this and contribute to Bayer’s mission, Koen joined the INSEAD Lead the Future programme.

Relevant and high impact learning

INSEAD was a top choice because “during my international assignments in Europe, Asia and America, I met great leaders all of whom have done an INSEAD programme,” Koen recalls. Of all the INSEAD programmes available, Lead the Future stood out to him because its core message of empowering professionals to lead, advance and reshape the future resonated strongly with his goals at Bayer.

Mid-way through the programme now, Koen affirms that this choice was the right one and that the core modules have been relevant to his work. For example, as a “non-finance” person, he found the classes on financial analysis incredibly useful for helping him calculate the financial impact of strategic decisions.

He has also been able to align the programme’s core project, with a Catalyst Project he is doing at Bayer. As this Catalyst Project involves using technology to shape the regenerative agriculture field and enable the energy transition, topics covered in the innovation module have come in extremely handy.

“The innovation methods taught are similar to those used at Bayer, so the learnings enabled me to more effectively apply the methods and contribute better,” he explains.

Uncovering new dimensions of leadership

Besides improving his technical knowledge, Lead the Future has also transformed Koen’s view of leadership. He shares that it was serendipitous for him that his journey at INSEAD coincided with Bayer’s change in CEO to William (Bill) Anderson.

“Bill has a radical vision for leadership: to shift leaders from managers that command and control into visionaries, to change planners to architects, directors to catalysts and controllers to coaches,” he explains.

However, to move from a more hierarchal and bureaucratic structure to one that is increasingly autonomous and agile is a massive transition for the 160-year-old company. It also has massive impact on Koen’s work, a large portion of which involves managing diverse teams, stakeholders, third parties and more.

Concepts taught during the leadership modules, such as the ambidexterity challenge and paradox mindset — both of which address how to navigate contradictions at the organisational level — have therefore been crucial to helping him adapt.

“I believe there have been ample learning nuggets to prepare me well for the leadership change at Bayer and to effectively contribute as a leader to the new concept of dynamic shared ownership and its success,” he affirms.

Connecting in a blended environment

Another aspect Koen has enjoyed is the programme’s blended learning.

“The format which consists for the most part of online, on-demand content videos, allows me to commit my time at my own discretion, from any location worldwide, yet still within a schedule with well-defined weekly starts and deadlines,” he says, matter-of-factly adding: “I would not have had the time to do the programme otherwise.”

The virtual space has also not diminished the quality of connections Koen has made, in part because he actively reaches out to different participants to work together on assignments. This has led him to insightful conversations with one participant about regenerative agriculture and the energy transition, and with another about how their company had implemented leadership concepts pertaining to humanocracy (a people-centric and decentralised structure), he shares.

“If you only exchange with your industry peers — even those from a different country and culture — you tend to be faced with biases and a narrowed viewpoint. Talking to people from outside of the industry will give you a very different perspective,” he explains of the benefits.

Particularly memorable for Koen was also when the whole cohort came together during the live sessions for the Effective Decision Making for Leaders programme.

“The live Q&A session, working with Professor Enrico Diecidue, the exchange of diverse perspectives within the cohort, the surveys, tests and even the mind-boggling case study contributed to this being an effective and enjoyable learning experience,” he recalls.

Ready to lead and reshape the future

Looking to the second half of the programme, Koen is excited for what is to come, including starting his elective modules and meeting his fellow-participants and professors in person at Fontainebleau for the capstone in March 2024.

“In addition to allowing me to grow as a leader, I anticipate the programme will continue to build my financial and strategic acumen, and enhance my approach at work. I believe I will be able to apply my learnings more as the world we operate in becomes increasingly complex and rapidly changing environment,” he says.

His advice to future participants is this: “Be committed to learn, interact and exchange diverse perspectives with other leaders, learning coaches, and INSEAD professors.”

After all, drawing back to the programme slogan that first caught his eye: “Advance your leadership, reshape the future”, Koen affirms the journey is worth it — Lead the Future most definitely delivers.