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Meet Cali Nuur – INDEK’s new reluctant boss

Cali Nuur portrait in the top of Singsing building
From January 1, 2021, Cali Nuur is the new Head of Department for Industrial economics and management.
Published Nov 25, 2020

As from January, Cali Nuur will lead the Department of Industrial economics and management (INDEK) when Matti Kaulio steps back. Despite the fact that he’ll be the manager of a institution that teaches leadership, the new head of department disapproves of being a ”boss”.

This rainy November day, the corridors of INDEK in Sing Sing are pandemicly empty. But in a corner room with a view all the way to Kungsholmen, Cali Nuur is sitting at his post. Despite the pandemic, he travels from his hometown of Gävle to Stockholm to be on campus two days a week. On January 1, he takes over as Head of the department, in other words he will lead an institution that teaches leadership.

” I regard this as a position of trust where I will have the role of an ’enabler’ among colleagues. I do not like bossiness. But I like leadership - these are two completely different things. I believe in mantras like ’it’s the different parts that make the whole’ and that ’there’s strength in diversity’”, he says.

Leading an organization is nothing new to Cali, who was previously Head of unit at INDEK, which had challenges with budget, strategies and research when he took over.

” Together we turned the situation round and created a good and competitive unit. You don’t have to be Einstein to realize that you all need to work and contribute for that to happen.”

He’s slightly embarrassed when asked about his strengths, with what he can contribute. A colleague of his describes him as curious with a good sense of cooperation. Cali himself prefers to talk about being accessible, the importance of being fair, believing in openness and a willingness to get everyone to pull in the same direction. And that he is frank.

” This is perhaps my most difficult side, I’m a little too impulsive, maybe it’s because I don’t have an all-Swedish background.”

” In Sweden they say ’This is fantastic, BUT…’. In many other countries you do the opposite, say ’This was shit, BUT….’. I want to know what's bad so I can work on it.”

Cali Nuur was born in East Africa, fled the civil war in Somalia and came to Sweden almost 30 years ago. Inspired by the transformation of industrial cities in the era of globalization and digitalisation, he wrote his thesis in 2005 at INDEK on industrial transformation in what is called the new periphery. The following year he started working at KTH.

He says that it is exciting to work for KTH's flagship; INDEK is a strong brand, outstanding in entrepreneurship, innovation, industrial leadership and gender equality.

” I hope that we’ll become the ones everyone in Sweden turn to for issues within these areas, that is our vision. But to get there, there are several challenges we need to address at INDEK”, Cali Nuur says.

Above all, he intends to work on creating an even more inclusive culture at the department, working thoroughly with "collegiality".

” We’re an academic institution, we must become better at using each other's competences. But as I said, I don’t intend to be a dictator, but to cooperate, especially together with Pernilla Ulfvengren, the Deputy Head of department. I'll give my new role three years, then we'll see”, he laughs.

Text and photo: Anna Gullers

Facts Cali Nuur

Job: Professor of Industrial Dynamics

Lives: Gävle

Family: Wife

Age: 55

Research areas: Circular Economics; Urban circularity, The transformation of the manufacturing industry

Spare time: Reading

Role model: Olof Palme

Belongs to: Industrial Economics and Management
Last changed: Nov 25, 2020