European Values Leadership Course

Leadership, personal values & vices

In Berlin, Athens, Rome, Paris, Warsaw and Brussels, participants in the European Values Leadership Course will explore the significance of Europe’s fundamental values – besides solidarity, these are freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and human rights. The aim is to ensure that all participants ultimately reflect on these values, and on the way these values influence their own actions in both the personal and professional spheres. Will these fundamental values remain remote abstractions or will the individual actors, inspired by this new Comenius course, embrace them as personal guiding precepts, and achieve an active, distinctive ‘European leadership’.

Homo Europaeus

What Europe and Europeans stand for is in urgent need of clear definition. How do you as a European leader view your political, economic, social and moral responsibilities? With fundamental values such as democracy and freedom, the EU guarantees its citizens liberty and equality before the law.

But more than just a guarantee of rights, the European mission is one of assuming responsibilities. Where, and for whom, do we feel responsible? What are the foundations (and limits) of European solidarity? What can we demand for ourselves, and what can we expect from others, inside and outside Europe?

This and other questions, which relate to power and leadership, to identity and loyalty, affect every European. It becomes unavoidable to reflect on how you see yourself in relation to Europe and the European Union, and how we can responsibly and effectively contribute to their future progress and development. Do you have a sense of yourself as Homo Europaeus?

Together as Europeans we will dare to dive deeper and discover for ourselves the values that not only adorn our charters and archways, but that are a living guide to the European of today. Therefore, you are invited to become a part of the European values that are entrusted to us: our greatest inheritance.

European Values

New threats and challenges from within, but most notably from outside Europe’s borders demand from Europeans an active and interested posture in regards to her legacy of values. Comenius is acting to help build that trust with its new European Values Leadership Course, to which it is inviting applicants from the EU, Switzerland, and Great Britain.

In Berlin, Athens, Rome, Warsaw, Paris and Brussels, participants in the European Values Leadership Course will explore the significance of Europe’s fundamental values – besides solidarity, these are freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and human rights. These basic values make up the foundations of a political and social vision that envelops and helps to shape countries with diverse cultures and traditions, each one scarred and connected by the wars they have fought. The participants in this programme will explore these basic values, making fine distinctions and translating them each in their own personal way. The cultural differences between the participants, who come from different countries of the European Union, Switzerland and Great Britain will impart unique depth and nuance to this process of frank exploration. A key prerequisite for learning from one another is the Comenian ‘safe haven’, over which participants and moderator alike stand guard. Discussing and reflecting with fellow Europeans who may in part very different shades of meaning to the shared basic values – or who may even fundamentally question them – is a process that enriches, broadens, and binds people together. It confers wisdom. Helps to provide direction. Sharpens the mind. Strengthens solidarity and trust.


What is the rationale for a programme in which European executives get together to explore and deepen their ‘European Leadership’? The underlying belief is that no European leader can operate effectively without having made an in-depth study of Europe’s DNA, both professionally and on a personal level. Europeans are bound together by a battered DNA, bearing deep scars of poverty and wars. But also elements of euphoria and prosperity. Having a sound knowledge, from direct sources, of the ways in which Europeans deal with their shared history, both within and beyond our national frontiers, will enrich each individual. Will lead to greater personal wisdom, mutual understanding and trust.

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‘What do the fundamental European values mean to you as a person?’

- Pieter-Matthijs Gijsbers, Director Comenius
What significance do the fundamental European values, laid down by the European Union, have for directors, senior managers and members of supervisory boards, regulatory boards and executive committees personally? To what extent are leaders in Europe aware of these values, and do they, in fact, act in accordance with them themselves? During the new Comenius European Values course, participants explore these values during their tour of Berlin, Istanbul, Athens, Rome, Warsaw, Helsinki, Paris and Brussels.

The new Comenius European Values course started in September with twelve Dutch participants, and now, with participants from the EU, UK and Switzerland, the English edition will be getting under way. This is the first time that people from outside the Netherlands are being invited to participate. Comenius director Pieter-Matthijs Gijsbers says, ‘In Europe, we are facing challenges that are only becoming more difficult. This is precisely why it is so important that European leaders connect with each other. As a leadership institute with an emphasis on personal development, Comenius can play an outstanding role in this.’

Exploring Human Dignity in Berlin

It comes as no surprise that the very first of all values the EU claims to uphold is Human Dignity. A history of Europe reads in many ways as the repeated violation of this principle, whether it concerns World Wars, colonialism, conquest, slavery, Oliver Twist, evil emperors and bloodthirsty kings. The first thing Achilles does upon defeating Hector is dragging his corpse behind his chariot around the walls of Troy. Yet, despite its dark pages, Europe also has a long tradition of respect for the individual and has firmly established the concept of Human Dignity as the cornerstone of its ethics, law and politics.

Human Dignity knows many conceptual forms that are connected to sanctity, autonomy, personhood, flourishing, and self-respect. We might trace its origin across millennia of philosophical and religious thought. One could say that our value of Human Dignity is a modern continuation of the Christian idea of the soul, and before that of ancient mythology, such as the Greek Goddess of the soul, Psyche. However, Human Dignity ipso facto does not inform us on the what and the how: agreed, human beings are intrinsically valuable, now what?

About Comenius

Comenius invites members of management, supervisory and regulatory boards and executive committees, directors, director-shareholders and senior managers to reflect on and deepen their personal leadership practices, while being guided into an investigation of the other side of the coin and the ‘interconnectedness of things’. The participants become adept at viewing matters from a distance and acquire the courage to suspend their opinion and judgement, developing into freethinkers interested in exploring everything that comes their way, freethinkers who want to master bold and wise leadership practices.

Comenius is affiliated with the University of Groningen and is also a member of the Coimbra Group, an association of thirty-seven of the oldest and best European multidisciplinary universities. The Coimbra Group provides access to the League of European Research Universities. Comenius collaborates with the following universities (among others): Groningen, Yale, Leuven, Cambridge, Bologna, Berkeley, Stanford, Fudan, Peking, Tsinghua, and Stellenbosch.

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