Roschier's leadership seminar with Marie-Louise Kjellström, Peter Wallenberg Jr. and Lovisa Cavalli Wallenberg.

Insights | December 7, 2023

The eternal leadership – A discussion on leadership over time and generations

Peter Wallenberg Jr. and Lovisa Cavalli Wallenberg were invited to speak on the theme "Eternal Leadership". It was the concluding conversation in Roschier's series on leadership, where both "The Ultimate Leadership" and "The Most Important Leadership" has been discussed.

The conversation revolved around leadership and values that endure over time. In an era characterized by short-termism, quick decisions and simple solutions, it can be easy to lose focus on what is important in the long-term aspect of leadership. What is the fundamental leadership that works over time and generations? Peter “Poker” Wallenberg Jr. belongs to the fifth generation and Lovisa Cavalli Wallenberg to the sixth generation in the Wallenberg family.

The discussion was led by Marie-Louise Kjellström, chair of Novare Leadership Academy, who began by asking Peter and Lovisa to introduce each other.

Introducing the Wallenbergs

Lovisa: “Uncle Peter, you are the chairman of the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation and Grand Hôtel. You didn’t follow the traditional path but rather chose your own way early on. You have worked in service and hotel business, and you got your racing license at the age of 40. It’s on the racetrack where I believe you refuel most of your energy. You are also very engaged in non-profit organizations, especially Friends.”

Peter: “Lovisa, you are 35 years old and my oldest brother’s daughter. You are trained in behavioral science and, like me, have taken a slightly different path in life. You have worked with HR in various companies, but since August you have been back with us again. You are responsible for our People Planning where you work to identify and map our networks with a special focus on the next generation. You are also an adjunct member of boards at the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation and at Novare. As a person, I would describe you as happy, positive and taking on challenges with solutions in sight.”

Marie-Louise: “Peter, can you briefly tell us how the family’s ownership looks like today?”

Peter: “We operate in an ecosystem. We in the family don’t own anything ourselves, the ownership lies in sixteen different foundations. Nearly all the returns, 80%, go back to the foundations which then go to research and education in Sweden. The remaining 20% is reinvested in the companies, enabling them to develop further and provide more resources for research. In short, our mission is to manage and develop. In our foundation statute it states that we should be ‘beneficial to the country’ and we try to live up to that every day.”

Marie-Louise: “Leadership… what does that word mean to you, Lovisa?”

Lovisa: “For me, a good leader is someone who can get others to work to reach the same goal. Someone who is open, someone who has courage.”

Peter: “For me, having worked so long in the service industry, leadership is so tangible; if the disher can’t do his or her work, the food doesn’t get on the table. The whole chain is so clear and that makes the leadership so important. For me, coaching leadership is important, that’s what I learned during my years at the hotel.”

Marie-Louise: “How do you view the change in power where the leadership is shifting from one generation to another?”

Lovisa: “We are about to take on the leadership roles, but at the same time, do it our own way and we don’t have any rush to do it. I look a lot at how the fifth generation has solved the challenges, but it is also important to challenge them to some extent. They have their backpack of experiences and the times looked different when they assumed their roles. They have done so much good that we want to carry forward and ensure that a seventh generation can take over.”

Peter: “A lot is about creating calmness around the transition. We try to listen to the sixth generation and be open-minded. People think and act differently now, and the world looks different, we must take that with us in the generational shift.”

Lovisa: “A difference is also that we work more together now, before we sat to listen and learn, it was us who were told how it works. Now it’s starting to be the other way around with some issues.”

Marie-Louise: “How did it look like when you were taking over from the fourth generation, Peter? Was there the same process and structure then?”

Peter: “No, no, not at all. The fourth generation pointed with the whole hand and said: ‘You should go there’. I said no, I wanted to go my own way. It might not have been entirely popular with my grandfather, but he still appreciated that I stood my ground. So for us in the fifth generation, it has been very important not to point but instead include early on.”

Lovisa: “And it has been felt, I haven’t felt any pressure. There is an openness if one wants, but no pressure. ‘Do what you want’ can almost be a bit tough, maybe I felt that I sometimes needed a bit of guidance at times. But at the same time, we all appreciate the freedom. There is a structure, there is a process, and if you want to engage, you just say so. If you are interested it is important that you are clear about it, no one will ask you. We help each other out to find the right way. It is also difficult to work with something you do not find fun so the joy and commitment must be there.”

Peter: “Here it is also important to point out that we are not an employment agency, everyone must get in on their own merits.”

Marie-Louise:”There have been three leaders, as you Peter work together with your brother and cousin.”

Peter: “Yes, we were called the three musketeers the other week and I liked that, we work well together. We have different experiences and approaches, and we have tried to take advantage of that. For me, the focus is on the foundations, which fits well for me. My brother Jacob is chairman of Investor, and the Svenskt Näringsliv-organisation, he perhaps has more of the societal perspective as well as being very engaged in family matters. My cousin Marcus has most of his focus on the business part. Overall, it’s a very good match. It has not always been easy, but I am incredibly grateful that there are three of us who can divide the work.”

Lovisa: “You have done much of the groundwork for us and managed to find your own ways to do it. We must do that too. The cousins sometimes have different views, but it is a strength, not something bad. There are going to be more people as we are 30 individuals in the sixth generation, but it inspires: there is room for more than one and you have shown us that.”

Marie-Louise: “Today’s topic is eternal values. How do you view that headline from your business perspective?”

Peter: “There probably are some eternal values. There is a long-term perspective and there is a commitment in both good and bad times. As owners, we have constant challenges every day. Our task is to talk to the companies and the society around us to explore how we can future-proof our operations so we can continue to grow and develop.”

Lovisa: “The long-term aspect and ‘being beneficial to the country’ are in the backbone of most of us, I would say.”

Marie-Louise: “We have already touched on the long-term perspective; how do you keep your eyes on the horizon and not get stuck in the short-term aspect?”

Peter: “Yes, there is a lot to focus on during the next 3–5 years all the time. I think one way to keep your eyes on the horizon is to always be up to date on what is happening. We have, after all these years, a large network. We have people all over the world we can meet, call or email to understand what is happening in the long-term. Much of the foundation for that was laid by my grandfather and his brother with their many travels and which then has been managed through the years.”

Marie-Louise: “How do you tap into that network now, Lovisa?”

Lovisa: “We talk about that a lot, and not just how to maintain but also how to develop it. One way is to do things together; we are on more trips now. There I learn a lot, and at the same time, can start to create my own networks.”

Marie-Louise: “Can you tell more about People Planning that you have worked with, Lovisa?”

Lovisa: “I see it as we are on a bridge and should meet in the middle. We cannot cross it by ourselves without guidance, the fifth generation cannot just pick some to their side. We must learn together and meet in the middle. It’s also about finding the right competence and expanding our network to find the best possible outcome for our network of companies.”

Peter: “We need to constantly question ourselves and ask: how can we do this better? Lovisa is so engaged, and it is exciting with new thoughts and insights. There is no conflict here and we all try to find a functioning collaboration. Even if we sometimes do not agree on the short-term goals, we are always held together by our long-term goals.”

Exploring the Wallenbergs’ backgrounds

Peter Wallenberg Jr. belongs to the fifth generation of the Wallenberg family and currently leads the family’s engagements along with his brother Jacob and cousin Marcus. Peter, also known as “Poker,” is currently the chairman of the board of the family’s largest and oldest foundation, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, as well as several of the other 15 foundations associated with the family. In addition, he is the chairman of the board of Grand Hôtel Stockholm and a board member of, among others, Atlas Copco and Scania.

Lovisa Cavalli Wallenberg belongs to the sixth generation of the Wallenberg family, which consists of 30 family members of various ages. Lovisa currently works as Manager of People Planning and Analytics at Wallenberg Investments AB, after several years at Permobil where she worked with Communication and HR issues. She is also a board member of Novare Human Capital and an adjunct board member of the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.

About The Wallenberg family

The Wallenberg family has actively worked on a long-term basis to support enterprises and research in Sweden, and internationally, ever since André Oscar Wallenberg founded Stockholms Enskilda Bank (today SEB) over 160 years ago. What is commonly referred to as the Wallenberg sphere includes 16 non-profit foundations, the public investment company Investor AB and the private holding companies Wallenberg Investments AB and FAM AB, including Navigare Ventures AB and their respective holdings.

Funding allocated to Swedish research totaled SEK 2.6 billion in 2022 – the largest total amount to date. Most of the funding by the foundations are in the form of grants awarded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, which focuses on basic research in the fields of medicine, natural sciences and technology. The foundations also award substantial grants in other fields, including social sciences and the humanities.

Gain additional insights into the Wallenberg family by watching a video here.