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Q&A with Dr. Yılmaz ARGÜDEN, Founder & Chairman of a consultancy group

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Dr. Yılmaz ARGÜDEN, Founder & Chairman of a consultancy group

You have been selected by the World Economic Forum as one of the 100 Global Leaders for Tomorrow, before you were 40. Could you please describe your career path before this achievement?

I have always been a very disciplined person who has adopted the motto of

“Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor liberty to purchase power.

Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful”

Benjamin Franklin

As a result I have become the top student academically in all the schools I have graduated from. At the same time, I have been both a playmaker of high school and university basketball teams that won the National Championships as well as always striving to create value for my social network, country, and humanity through volunteer work every week. For example, the first SportsFest, an international mini-university Olympics to help improve understanding between European Universities was organized while I was the President of the Sports Committee at the Boğaziçi University.

I have started my career at the newly established R&D Center of the largest Turkish conglomerate, Koç Holding, and worked at the RAND Corporation as well as at the World Bank, before accepting my government’s invitation to lead the Turkish privatization program. Then, I have served as the Chief Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister before establishing ARGE Consulting when I was 33, which since then has become a globally recognized Turkish management consulting firm that has served as a B20 Knowledge Partner, EFQM Certified Advisory Organization, International Integrated Reporting Council’s Training Institution, first Turkish signatory of UN Global Compact, and recognized at the European Parliament with its CSR program for ‘Shaping the Future’.

Also, I have started to serve as a board member of major companies such as Petkim and Sümerbank before I was 30 and as the Chairman of the largest Turkish steel company Erdemir during my late 30’s. In line with my commitment to improve quality of life throughout the community, during this period in my career, I have also been among the founders of Turkish Education Volunteers Foundation (TEGV), Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV), Corporate Volunteers Association; as well as having served as the Chair of Boğaziçi University Alumni Association (BÜMED) and Turkish Quality Association where I had the honor of leading the establishment of the National Quality Movement.

Since then you have assumed numerous international leadership roles. What are the most important success factors for your leadership.

I am a curious person who loves to learn, share, and teach others the ways and means of creating and delivering value. Therefore, my top motivation is not to assume a role to be something, but to create value in every endeavor I get involved with. First step in creating value is to have a vision, then to make a plan, identify appropriate stakeholders, convince them to act together, and implement the plan with discipline. Keys to disciplined and sustainable implementation is to align the incentives of all stakeholders with the vision and once results begin to appear, to promote good examples and write about the methodology as well as about the good examples, in order to help motivate others and disseminate the benefits.

Let me share a few examples to be more concrete. In 1999 at Davos, then Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Annan, gave a moving speech to make a call for corporate, NGO, and academic leaders to take responsibility along with the governments for a more sustainable future. Next year, UN Global Compact was launched for this purpose. Due to my experience in all these sectors, this call has motivated me to become the first Turkish signatory of the UN Global Compact both as ARGE Consulting as well as KalDer, an NGO I was chairing at that time. ‘Walking the talk’ and becoming an example is one of the best ways of convincing others to join a movement. Therefore, later I became the chair of the Turkish Network of UN Global Compact and developed a number of innovative approaches such as Sectoral Deployment Strategy and Aligning Incentives with Natural Allies Strategy which worked very well to bring the best Local Network Award to the Turkish Network. Later, I was elected as the Global Chair of Local Networks and had the honor of serving on the Board of UN Global Compact.

Having assumed responsibilities at the public sector, private sector, and NGOs throughout my career, my awareness of the importance of good governance was greatly enhanced. Therefore, I have published numerous books and articles to share the how and why of good governance, notably “Boardroom Secrets” and Keys to Governance” and articles about diversity and measuring quality of governance at prestigious publications such as HBR and INSEAD Knowledge. Therefore, these efforts led me to be elected as a member of IFC Corporate Governance Advisory Group, as well as serving as Vice-Chair of Governance Committee of Business at OECD, and as B20 Knowledge Partner on Governance and Sustainability.

You have established a non-profit foundation, Argüden Governance Academy, to promote good governance in all kinds of institutions. What was your motivation?

I have worked with over 500 institutions as a management consultant, served on over 70 boards as a non-executive member, founded and/or led numerous NGOs as a volunteer with social conscience, and assumed many public sector leadership roles. These experiences led me to appreciate the importance of “good governance for the sustainable success of institutions”.

There are two basic reasons for forming institutions: (i) more effective utilization of resources and (ii) better risk management. Yet if the institutions are not trusted by their stakeholders, they cannot achieve these goals economically. Governance improves quality of management and trust of stakeholders. As lack of trust is like a high coefficient of friction; everything you do just costs more. Good governance is a culture and a climate in which trust for institutions flourish. We founded Argüden Governance Academy to improve quality of life and sustainability of the future by improving quality of governance. We target not only leaders of private sector companies, but also NGOs, public institutions, and international organizations; as well as individuals of all ages, from 7 to 77. We develop education programs such as “Governance for Kids” and “GOV101” for youth leaders as well as public, private and NGO leaders. We also develop unique methodologies to measure effectiveness of governance, as per the dictum “You cannot improve what you don’t measure.” Identifying and promoting good examples help speed up global learning from peers. Therefore, our research projects such as “Municipality Governance Scorecard” & “Sustainability Governance Scorecard” are widely recognized as impact-research for public good.

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