The World of Laurent Berger: a leader at the crossroads of the Civic and Merchant Worlds
This is where compromises are made between the balance of power and the general interest. This could be an apt summary of the ability to carry out reforms in the public sphere and transformations in companies?
The number one of the CFDT is handing over to his replacement, Marilyse Léon, after 25 years of militancy. It may be interesting to analyse his Personal World, in the sense of the P-VAL approach, to understand the strong points and perhaps the shadow areas of his action, an example of leadership that can inspire us outside the trade union context.
“Laurent Berger is the school of us”, says one of his mentors. What’s interesting here is that this “us” is not clannish, the domain of the Domestic World. It refers more to the Civic World, as illustrated by the functioning of the inter-union group formed around the pension reform: let’s put aside our differences and our respective weight to make this collective succeed. It’s the abandonment of the doemstic world of each union for a common cause. It’s the basis for a World of Cooperation capable of building solid agreements between the parties.
The word “school” is also very revealing. It refers to learning, trial and error, progress. How “we” work is an ongoing, complex process that has to be learned. Indeed, a World of Cooperation is built, learned and requires concrete efforts to gradually build agreements.
But Laurent Berger’s World is not limited to these two dimensions. Just like a World of Cooperation, Laurent Berger has a strong presence in the World of Inspiration. It is this World that allows us to see agreements, where others only see conflict. This is what he reproaches Emmanuel Macron for: “he didn’t understand that there was potentially a chance to play”. This taste for change and innovation is reflected in his plans for his future after his trade union career. He wants to do something different, and to think about it he’s going to spend a week backpacking in Brittany. Here again, inspiration is a “school” that you have to work at.
Beyond these three major worlds for effective cooperation: civic, inspiration and merchant, how does Laurent Berger position himself in relation to the other three worlds: domestic, industrial and public opinion?
The World of Opinion is very present and could join the three major ones. It is used skilfully, through its impact in the media. Its media impact is more the consequence of a balanced posture, all too rare these days, than a deliberate desire, as so many others excite themselves to be visible. So when he looks ahead to his future work, he says he’s looking for “a job where they don’t use my name as a trophy”. In a cooperative world where you have to listen, question and talk a lot to build with others, putting your ego first is a trap that keeps others away, especially as it is strong.
The domestic world is limited by the culture of the CFDT, which puts its leaders into “operational retirement” relatively early and does not place them in parallel organisations. It does not want to depend on anyone: “I’m not going to ask to be reclassified by the President or the government”. It is not looking for petty arrangements between friends, petty arrangements which may form part of cooperation tactics but which all too often tie up the stakeholders and prevent them from developing on the basis of more demanding agreements.
Finally, the industrial world seems to be what he has missed in a trade union life that is full of talk and fuss without always having a real impact.
This is what seems to guide him for the future: “I want to be operational in a company or an NGO, a job that has an impact”.
This is undoubtedly the major limitation of this trade union world, which remains on the edge of the pool of real life and positions itself more as a critical, annoying and useful accompanier of social life. But it is not the union that builds.
A World of Cooperation needs to develop its industrial dimension to ensure its sustainability, its ability to produce performance and have a concrete impact.
With this World approach, I almost feel that I know Laurent Berger, whom I would be delighted to meet, and I wish him every success in pursuing his career with an industrial dimension, so that he can become an exemplary leader of a World of Cooperation to which others want to belong.