Case Studies

MAVA Leaders for Nature Academy

How Zero Waste Europe established effective leadership to push their conservation movement forward

Zero Waste Europe is leading a fast-growing movement of communities, local leaders, businesses, experts, influencers and other “change agents” working towards the same vision: eliminating waste in our society.

Four professionals from Zero Waste Europe participated in the MAVA Leaders for Nature Academy. Through the Academy, they developed behavioural competencies to lead more effectively within their organization. Each participant applied the skills in their roles, which led to significant and positive impact within the organization.

Duo for 2018:
Ferran Rosa, former Policy Officer
Joan-Marc Simon, Executive Director

Duo for 2019:
Pierre Condamine, Waste Policy Officer
Esra Tat, Associate Director


Joan-Marc Simon: Adapting to the needs of a changing organization

Ten years ago, Joan-Marc Simon started Zero Waste Europe by himself. As the organization grew, there’s been a struggle to shift from a one-man operation to sharing responsibilities with a large team.

When Esra Tat, Associate Director, arrived three years ago, she said it seemed like Joan-Marc hadn’t yet figured out the kind of leader he wanted to be within the growing organization. It was clear though that he didn’t want to be a traditional manager nor, did he think a flat organizational hierarchy would work for the organization.

Esra believes that through the Academy, Joan-Marc discovered a middle ground between these two managing styles. He identified the kind of leadership that Zero Waste Europe needed.


“I didn't know what to expect from mentoring only 18 months ago, but I'm very happy that I 'trusted the process', for it helped me detect and develop skills that are very necessary for my professional and personal development."


The Academy gave him confidence and clarity in his leadership abilities. Where other not-for-profit founders his age contend with finding their value in a growing team, Joan-Marc figured out how to adapt his leadership style to suit the changing needs of the organization.

As a result, Joan-Marc applied his knowledge of LBA competencies to create changes after he joined the Academy. These changes led to significant impact in the organization:

Greater self-awareness leading to a more inclusive leadership style:
• Line managers, who provided a second support system to the team, were appointed, which showed that Joan-Marc formally shared the responsibilities within the team
• Senior managers felt trusted and empowered
• Regular one-on-one sessions established a personal relationship with each team member

Fostering intergenerational work for an impact focused management approach:
• Annual evaluation process was implemented based on the ‘wheel of life’ concept adapted from the Academy
• Mentoring and coaching staff to ensure that everyone felt supported


Esra Tat: Leading with openness and empathy

Within the last year, Esra’s position in the organization changed from informal to a formal one when she became Associate Director. This was a huge shift for her. She struggled with colleagues applying the ‘filter’ of her new role to her words and actions.

Esra acknowledges that the mentoring component of the Academy greatly helped her in developing the two skills she needed to adapt to her new role – openness and empathy.


“As a senior manager, I was already trying this mentoring approach but the Academy gave me proof that this can be effective. It also gave me the structure and practical examples that allowed me to improve my mentoring.”


As a mentor in the Academy, Esra supported her mentee in developing and working on her goals. In the process, she made a painful but necessary realization. She admits that she can be demanding of people who, like her mentee, work differently than her.

Esra understood that people could have different working styles and still arrive at the same goal. She goes on to say that the Academy has increased her empathy for other people’s working styles.

Through mentoring, Esra has learned to become a more open and empathetic leader.


Pierre Condamine: Finding self-confidence and legitimacy

As a young professional on his first job, Pierre often found it challenging to be confident in a room full of senior professionals. Through the Academy, he has learned to develop the following skills to find his place in the organization:

Self-confidence: Pierre shares that his biggest takeaway from the Academy was gaining confidence in himself and his abilities. He stopped questioning his youth and inexperience; he realized he had a lot to contribute to the team. By pushing aside self-doubt, he stopped limiting himself and obtained the courage to go after what he wants to achieve.

As a result of this confidence, Pierre attained the inner legitimacy he needed to thrive in his job.

Open communication: Not a very communicative person by nature, Pierre says that the Academy has helped him express opinions effectively, listen attentively and ask different questions.

A specific group exercise from the Academy that helped Pierre was when one person shared their problem and the group asked questions to help find the solution. Through this exercise, he learned that the best approach is not to offer suggestion or solutions outright, but to listen first and ask effective questions.

Embracing vulnerability: From the Academy, Pierre realized the power of vulnerability. Pierre learned that vulnerability is only a weakness as long as you hide it. By embracing your vulnerability, you’re sending a strong sign to people that you’re honest and open.


“I’ve seen Pierre’s self-confidence grow over the course of the Academy. When he stopped questioning himself, he began to really lead on his work. I’ve also noticed that by embracing his vulnerability and being open to the possibility of failure, he’s actually achieving more because he’s not burdened by the prospect of failing.”
Esra’s observation of Pierre’s behaviour after the Academy


Zero Waste Europe implemented changes to the organization inspired by what leaders learned from the Academy: From traditional to shared leadership

They shifted from traditional management to a line management system, where line managers mentor and support the staff instead of directly managing them. This also means that a team member doesn’t have only one expertise. When working on projects, they self-coordinate to create a team.


Developing inter-generational understanding and cooperation

In addition to line managers, Zero Waste Europe has started to implement a mentoring and buddy system to provide additional support to the staff. In this system, you can be a buddy to anyone in the organization regardless of position or responsibility.


“There has been a need to rethink the responsibility, accountability and power structure for some time. I believe that the Academy helped to convince Joan-Marc that this approach is not only possible but could be effective for the team.”


“The new system is empowering for me because of the responsibilities that senior management trusts us with.”