Student-Author: Yohan Bouvier (France) in the course Co-Creative Organizational Leadership, Spring 2023 #GenZ, tales from Finland collection

I decided to write a story about an experience I lived during my Erasmus exchange the last semester. According to the Co-Creative Organizational Leadership course journey and the subjects explored during our sessions, this story is about mutual understanding, empathy, and “living together”. Thanks to this experience, I realized how it is important to take a step back and connect with others as a Leader should do with his team. The story takes place in Sweden precisely in Stockholm, the capital. It is the 15th of November 2022, I am with my friend Licht (fictional name for privacy), it’s a cloudy day where the wind blows so strong that I was wondering if we had done something wrong with Aeolus, god of winds” – Yohan

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When I walked for the first time in the old town, I felt like a knight during the Middle Ages. Indeed, I remember telling my friend Licht, “We should ride a horse and visit the royal palace this way, I’m sure Swedish will appreciate”. Such a beautiful city it was. However, we were late as usual, the staff of our “youth hostel” waiting for us. Yes, we booked a hostel because we’re students,s and a fun fact: we don’t have money. For the story, it was my first time compared to Licht – my friend – who’s used to it but the thing is I have always been scared of this place for many reasons. Anyway, I was happy to try new things, after all, it’s part of the journey. As I said before, we didn’t have much money, Licht booked this for us this hostel and I trusted him: I was wrong. The place looked like a cellar where a psychopath resides, the smell, the snoring, the screaming will always remain in my memory, believe me, those six days have been long. I was still in the presence of my friend, so we laughed more than we cried. After a few minutes of explanation, the keys in hand we left to discover our room. Without surprise, it was an underground prison with five beds. We were the first ones. We spent the first night in an Old Town tavern, where we spoke, danced, and sang with other individuals. Following the eating and drinking of traditional delicacies and as I return to my room, I found that two guys have settled in and are sleeping in our dormitory.

That night, despite my tiredness and the previous day’s celebrations, I woke up in the night and I heard thuds, movements, and whispers, the two people with us seemed to be doing something on the floor. Regardless of what happened, I get back to sleep. Licht and I are surprised to find a knife on the floor with remnants of what seems to be a “red” hue and no one in the room in the morning. There was something peculiar after explaining what happened the night before. But Licht calmed me by saying, quote, “If they intended to murder us, they would have done it during the night,” which was extremely encouraging, thank you, Licht.

The days passed and we enjoyed Stockholm without seeing the two people (which is usually at hostels because you may come and leave whenever you want), but I was concerned. The two guys returned in the middle of the night on the fourth day and woke me up again, but this time I was prepared to defend myself if anything happened to us, after hearing the knife and whispering, I felt one of the two men right next to me. I leaped out of bed, struck the man, and then turned on the light, which is when I recognized and felt ashamed.

There were two carpets on the floor, along with a knife and a strawberry. After a few moments, I realized the two guys are sharing a strawberry during their morning prayers. Certainly, these two men were Muslims who formed a spiritual bond. In fact, they were on a spiritual pilgrimage to show their beliefs. Of course, I apologized for whatever misunderstanding occurred, and after sharing the situation, my buddy and I spent the rest of the night discussing their religion and the reasons for their devotion, something I had never fully grasped until today.

These experiences have taught me that I have a lot to learn and that being interested in, communicating, sharing, and creating is a lifetime’s job. Being a successful leader, in my opinion, is more about being motivated by the things that push us to develop a shared vision. It is critical to recognize that we are mere “a fish in the ocean“, to be able to swim in it.

Bouvier, Y. (2023). Personal Experience.