His Excellency Dr Gjorge Ivanov began as a student journalist, but quickly became a political and academic champion of democracy and free markets – rising to become President of Macedonia in May 2009. Dr Ivanov has always understood the importance of maintaining strong relationships with global neighbours, whether they share your border or not, and has conducted over 430 highlevel meetings with some 200 heads of state. Dr Ivanov was re-elected for a second term in office in 2014, and continues to serve the Macedonian state with a passion for sustainable and responsible development.
How do you view Angel Investing in the context of global development?
The World Business Angels Investment Forum is part of an irreversible process of producing a new paradigm that will offer innovative and creative solutions to global challenges. This process is motivated by the digital transformation of companies, politics, and universities. Digital transformation will enable companies to catch up to the global market and adapt to new generations who function digitally and live in a digitised world in which almost everything is online. Companies are faced with the so called 4th industrial revolution. This includes robotics, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, ‘Uberisation’, ‘Teslaisation’, drones, cloud services, nanotechnology, 3D printers, biotechnology, quantum IT, digital currencies, and many more.
How does digital transformation create a new paradigm?
Digital transformation of politics will enable the state to adopt the startup philosophy and create conditions and settings for a start-up economy and mentality. As such, we will see countries increasingly transform into ‘start-up nations’ that will be ready for and capable of innovation and entrepreneurship. As part of this process, states will also increasingly motivate universities to nurture qualified people for the needs of the start-up economy through incubators and accelerators. This form of start-up economy will recognise and support new ideas from students while they are still studying, and leverage state guarantees to motivate private capital to support the realisation of these ideas. This is the concept of a start-up state that will create the setting and conditions for development and well-being in the digital era.
Further, digital transformation of universities creates conditions for personalised study programmes through technology parks, enabling the nurturing of people qualified and prepared for the 4th industrial revolution. In parallel with the technological evolution, from smart phones to smart factories to smart cities, we will be witnessing a fundamental transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.
What challenges do you foresee accompanying this new paradigm?
It would be naïve to expect that digitalisation will provide an answer to all challenges. As any other human achievement, digital transformation also falls under what Friedrich Hayek defined as the law of unforeseen consequences. Things may go wrong. The original idea, no matter how noble, has the potential to transform into its complete opposite. People warn that artificial intelligence and robotics will leave millions of demographic growth and accelerated urbanisation, this is a recipe for social unrest. Therefore, it is paramount that we groom socially responsible leadership.
Why is responsible leadership such an important part of the equation for positively navigating the era of digitalisation?
Perhaps the most important thing that we wish young people could learn is a lesson on ethical leadership. It has become somewhat common to hear the opinion that ‘it is not important whether political or business leaders are persons of virtue or not, provided they manage to successfully do their job’. It is ability, and not character, which is often considered important. However, pragmatism without morals leads to short-term solutions with longterm damaging consequences. Leaders without morals are part of the problem and not the solution.
How can we proactively nurture young people into successful, virtuous leaders?
John Maxwell said that if someone claims to be a leader and has no followers then he is not a leader, but simply a man who went out for a walk. Leadership means influence, for a leader without influence is a man with no authority. I became President thanks to my students, who became politicians and decision makers. And what is a professor who has become president to do? The answer is simple; he opens his own school.
That is why in 2010, together with my team, I started a training programme called the School of Young Leaders, that later became an international school. The aim is to provide the most talented and successful young leaders in Macedonia with that which they cannot acquire in the official education system. That is interdisciplinary and applied knowledge, practical advice, guidelines and mentorship from top world leaders – in other words, to give them the freedom to develop their leadership potential.
We try to develop the awareness in young people that we are all sailing on the same global ship. However, to protect our economies and states from shipwreck, we need an anchor, and that anchor we see in the three principles of every successful economy. If any country implements and relies on meritocracy, pragmatism and honesty, it will succeed. With meritocracy we choose the best people to be leaders; with pragmatism we learn to make use of the best in others as well; and with honesty we try to eradicate corruption. This concept is also valid for successful politics, education, and business.
So far, 320 young people from Macedonia and the surrounding region have been trained by over 180 top leaders in the areas of politics, business innovation, and communications. Our aim is to build leaders with real values, integrity, and an open mind. I like to remind every generation of Einstein’s thought that the mind is like a parachute, it is only useful when open. It is only with an open mind that young people will be able to think outside of patterns, to find new and innovative solutions on the path to individual and collective success.
What can students interested in attending the School of Young Leaders expect to learn?
The current young leaders group is composed of millennials, the so-called ‘Y generation’. Therefore, we cover topics close to their hearts that are based on the sharing philosophy. Sharing philosophy implies sharing economy, whereby young people share access to products or services rather than being their individual owners. We are training them to use crowdfunding and crowdsourcing to fund their projects from a large number of internet users. We hold training sessions on sustainable development and the startup philosophy. We encourage students to use the power of networking in order to bring about positive change in society. In other words, the School of Young Leaders can be considered a start-up school for future leaders of society in both Macedonia and the Balkans.
“Pragmatism without morals leads to short term
solutions with long-term damaging
consequences. Leaders without morals are
part of the problem and not the solution.”
Have you already begun to see the effect of grooming the region’s top young leaders?
Yes, the investment has already delivered. Numerous young leaders from previous generations have already begun taking very responsible and high-profile leadership positions in different social spheres; and they have become positive role models for later students. We are talking about young people who share their views and who see themselves in the future; they think about the future and they want to achieve that future not only for themselves but also for everyone else in society. Some of them are part of politics; some become business leaders; and for those who venture into education and science, we try to create opportunities for them to conduct their own research and development projects.
We have managed to create a recognisable model that can serve as inspiration for other current and former heads of state to begin their own leadership schools. But I believe that this success is only the beginning. At this moment we are witnessing the birth of the youngest so-called alpha generation, who will live in the 22nd century. Our responsibility is to prepare those that come after us to embrace their respective roles on the big ‘global ship’. They should not be afraid of the unknown, but instead be brave and wisely face challenges to facilitate smooth sailing. Let us give them a map and a compass by preparing them to be people of morals and ethics, with character, integrity and humility; and let’s focus on people who are responsible and passionate. I believe that such leaders of the future for Macedonia, for Turkey, for the Balkans, for Europe, and for the world, make a very worthwhile investment.
What is the best approach for others to follow in building a similar model in their home states?
Public-private partnership is key. All of this is made possible thanks to Business Angels who recognise the importance and value of our project, and who support our mission – convinced that they are investing in the future leaders of society. Among them are leaders in the Macedonian business sector, but also global brands such as Turkish Airlines, Huawei, and many more. A school established by the president of a country and financed by the private sector is an example of public-private partnership whose aim is to invest in the country and its future.