What We Can Learn From the Swedish CEO Who Quit to Be Full-Time Dad

Taking time off work to raise children is not uncommon in Sweden | © Martin Svalander/imagebank.sweden.se
Taking time off work to raise children is not uncommon in Sweden | © Martin Svalander/imagebank.sweden.se
Photo of Judi Lembke
28 November 2017

When a top Swedish CEO announced he was going to leave his job to spend more time with his children, the announcement took even egalitarian Swedes by surprise.

Sweden is known for extremely generous parental leave: 480 days in total, 90 of which are exclusive to each parent – meaning mum doesn’t stay home for a year-and-half while dad continues with his career. Each parent has to take at least three months of the leave (or lose it), ensuring a certain amount of equality among working parents.

Sweden’s parental leave is among the most generous in the world | © Melker Dahlstrand/imagebank.sweden.se

When Gustav Lindner, CEO of investment firm Öresund, had his first child five years ago, he didn’t take advantage of those three months with his newborn. At the time he was working at a major Swedish bank and his star was on the rise. Three years ago he took over as CEO at Öresund and, while he loves his work, he’s decided it’s time to prioritise his kids – and himself – while they’re still young.

‘It’s absolutely no drama’, Lindner, 39, told Swedish business newspaper Dagens Industri. ‘I want to try to do what every young person seems to do today and take a break, and now that I’m going to be a father again it seems like a good time’.

Baby on board, dad on board | © Melker Dahlstrand/imagebank.sweden.se

Lindner says he has no regrets about not taking time off when his first child was born, but sees this time as ideal for both spending time with his family and for thinking about his next big step.

‘I’ll take about 9-12 months and think about where I’m going next. I love stocks, management, and the market, so it’s not impossible I’ll return to this area. Right now I have no plans to become a police officer or physiotherapist or anything drastic. I like what I do’.

The decision from such a high-flying businessman has caught the attention of the press, particularly after Lindner turned down Öresund’s offer to give him time off work to be with his family. He said, as CEO of a listed company with more than 20 thousand shareholders, it would be irresponsible to disappear for three or four months.

Quality time with the family is important to Swedes | © Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

And Lindner denies being hailed as a role model in a country where top male executives continue to askew parental leave in favour of continuing their career.

‘I don’t think I’m a role model. I might be one if I had taken leave and Öresund had taken in an acting CEO for a few months. What I’m doing now is just what’s right for me’.

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