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The 'Sisu Factor' – How Finnish Culture Inspires Exemplary And Courageous Leadership

Lars Friedrich, a seasoned expert in personal and professional leadership development, brings a unique 'Touch of Zen' to his approach. This distinctive method, honed over a proven track record of over three decades, sets him apart in the field and piques his curiosity.

 
Executive Contributor Lars Friedrich

The unique Finnish concept of ‘Sisu’ is worth cultivating and fostering for executives, leaders and entrepreneurs in their unique business environments because the 'Sisu Factor' inspires exemplary and courageous leadership.

 

A man climbing up the hill

Sisu [si-su] is a Finnish word and is generally considered not to have a literal equivalent in English, as it is deeply rooted in Finnish culture.

 

With family ties and homes in Finland, Germany, and Australia, I have had the privilege of experiencing Sisu in various cultural contexts.

 

This unique Finnish concept has been a guiding force in my daily personal and professional life, shaping my resilience and determination.

 

First-hand experience

There have already been a few minor bumps in the road during the last 53 years, with enough room for Sisu's active appliance.

 

Professionally, I had to utilise the 'Sisu Factor' practically when I was punched, kicked, cut, shot and blasted numerous times during active time as a member and leader of a Special Operations Forces unit in the military.

 

In my personal life, besides the usual challenges, I faced and overcame two life-threatening diseases and recovered from paralysis, where I had to relearn to walk and write.

 

Additionally, I also endured a four-year-long divorce that left me emotionally and financially broke, so I had to reinvent and rebuild myself.

 

The concept of Sisu

Based on that, I would describe it as a stern mindset that enables individuals to reach beyond their perceived and present limitations – physically, emotionally, and mentally.

 

Taking heart and necessary action against all odds, transforming barriers into frontiers with extraordinary, almost stoic determination, tenacity of purpose, and hope.


A mixture of grit, guts, bravery, resilience, persistence, perseverance, endurance, hardiness, courage and resoluteness accompanies it.

 

Even and especially in the face of extreme adversity.

 

A mindset, not a buzzword

Undoubtedly, Sisu is all of that!

 

And it indeed is not another hyped buzzword or scholarly promoted theory.

 

Instead, it is more of a practical mindset, attitude, or life philosophy that Finnish people have actively displayed on multiple occasions during harsh times in their history.

 

Hence, it is challenging to translate and narrow it down into one word in English!

 

Unlike Stoicism, which emphasises the individual, Sisu also focuses on the community. Therefore, it has the potential to enhance existing leadership to exemplary leadership and even encourage it to thrive.

 

"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." – Albert Einstein

The book Gentle Power: A Revolution in How We Think, Lead, and Succeed Using the Finnish Art of Sisu ¹ is highly recommended for delving deeper into the concept of Sisu.

 

It is written by Dr. Emilia Elisabet Lahti, a leading Finnish researcher and teacher with practical experience on the topic.

 

The 'Sisu Factor'

In the time-crunched corporate and entrepreneurial business worlds, some essential lessons of Sisu are worth cultivating and fostering and should be added to existing leadership portfolios.

 

  • Even if executives, leaders, and entrepreneurs don't see a silver lining, they should courageously face the storm regardless.

  • So they can overcome adversity, obstacles, hurdles, challenges and setbacks in their personal and professional lives.

 

Sisu is about holding on to hope, not letting temporary setbacks become endless excuses, and taking heart and necessary action against all odds!


That's why the 'Sisu Factor', a term I coined to encapsulate this unique Finnish concept, is evidently made of all those mentioned above and inspires exemplary and courageous leadership.

 

 

Lars Friedrich, Leadership Expert

Lars Friedrich, a seasoned expert in personal and professional leadership development, brings a unique 'Touch of Zen' to his approach. This distinctive method, honed over a proven track record of over three decades, sets him apart in the field and piques his curiosity.


With a career that has spanned from being a former Officer and Special Forces Operator to a COO in international and intercultural corporate business operations and development positions, and now as the founder of his boutique business, Lars has accumulated a wealth of practical leadership, resilience, discipline, motivation, endurance, commitment, persistence, and dedication.

 

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