Otilia Dhand: a top leader creates trust and has a clear vision

On 17.11.2021 Otilia Dhand finds herself sitting in the middle of the 4th cohort of the ELP European Leadership Programme. She seems to be full of confidence and she is concentrating. Her voice is warm and kind. For the next two hours, she will tell us about her life.


Otilia begins sharing with a clear statement that resonates with her story “We face similar challenges in our lives again and again, just in a new context”. This statement
characterizes through her storytelling from her childhood in Czechoslovakia, her activism during her youth, her studies, her first freelance work experiences, her PhD and finally to her current job at Teneo. Through all these steps, a few key insights have become ingrained in her: trust is the most important asset, kindness is what holds teams together through the difficult times and clear vision is what distinguishes a good leader.

A crisis narrative and clear visions.

We are encircled by many crises: covid, financial, migration, climate, economic and democracy crisis… And a process of transformation is what links all of these crises together. Transformation is a movement – but towards what direction? In ancient times, prophets would have answered these questions based on their intuitive long-term views. Nowadays there are data, tons of information and very smart people like Otilia who know how to navigate within these insecurities.

A strategy is about looking into the future, providing a sense of direction and steering towards it. Otilia is an expert in developing successful strategies. She defines a good strategy to be a linkage between goals and values, with trust as the vital precondition to achieve it.


When defining forecasts and strategies, Otilia relies on linking her understanding of systems, power relations and individuals’ predispositions to chart the likely pathways, align goals and structures. In all this forward-looking work – peeking around the corner, so to speak – she tries to take account of her own constraints and have confidence in her values.

The Importance of trust

Trust is the cornerstone of every controlled movement and therefore the basis of Otilia’s work. Trust is the means by which the many inequalities that are reinforced by crises can be countered. Trust harmonizes polarities. Trust is the ground of a comprehensive re-creation. Trust is to open up for sharing thoughts, talents and experiences. And this is what matters. Because according to Otilia, in our current crises, an increased focus on people’s lives is central.

Otilia believes that we can do better, that we are able to stimulate the right contextual and personal changes, that we are endowed by a sense of justice to act for the good in our daily commitments. And in the long term, that are capable of developing a vision which is needed to strategise in a world of growing complexity.

Madeleine Alisa Wörner
ELP Fall Cohort 2021 Fellow