When he is not pursuing his MBA degree, Erwin Bruder is busy trading ideas with ambassadors, CEOs and even a member of the US State Department. The 36-year-old HEC Paris MBA student is part of the Young Leaders program, a group of movers and shakers handpicked by the French-American Foundation. Every year, the Foundation selects 20 rising stars from both countries who have a passion for forging bonds globally and, in particular, strengthening ties between the US and France. Program alumni include such luminaries as Emmanuel Macron, Hillary Clinton and Thomas Pesquet, the French astronaut who has logged 196 days in space.
The October Young Leaders seminar opened with a presentation by Patrick Pouyanné, CEO of Total, and closed with bottles of Premier Grand Cru delivered simultaneously across the Atlantic
During the two-year program, Young Leaders attend regular meetings to discuss issues relevant to globalization and leadership. For the session normally held in October, Erwin and the rest of the 2019 promotion were slated to meet in France. With COVID, their American peers joined the discussions via Zoom.
Even with the distance, the annual gathering kept its visionary spirit. In-person invitees for the October 14-16 event included Patrick Pouyanné, the CEO of Total, who opened the seminar with “New world, new professions and new leaders” and HEC Alumni Hubert Joly, former Chairman and CEO of Best Buy, who moved the discussion to “A time to lead with purpose and humanity.” For the seminar’s final day, Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal, CEO of Château Angélus and a Young Leaders alumna, led a tasting of the winery’s Premier Grand Cru, with bottles simultaneously delivered across the Atlantic to the group’s American counterparts.
“The program is very inspirational,” says Erwin, a lieutenant colonel in the French Army. “Exchanges are organized all year long with leaders that have a tangible impact in very diverse fields. It helps me deal with military issues from a global point of view. I even more enjoy the debates that happen inside our batch. The program is small enough to build trust, create strong links and, above all, allow for very frank discussions.”
As a former cadet of France’s elite Saint Cyr Military Academy, Erwin earned the French Legion of Honor in combat operations, then joined the Defense minister’s office. After his master’s degrees in engineering and political science, the Army sent him to study at HEC Paris. Ultimately, he met an HEC Alumni from the French-American Foundation who encouraged him to apply to the Young Leaders program.