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About Gerhard Bley

Gerhard Bley is a business leader and public speaker. He studied business, finance and economics at Stockholm University and the University of Arizona before embarking on a successful career in business. He has held senior positions at a number of companies, primarily in the food industry, including at Arla and Arvid Nordqvist. Since 2010, he has served as CEO for O. Kavli AB, which under Gerhard’s management increased its annual sales from SEK 400 million to SEK 1 billion. Kavli is perhaps best known for its popular Scandinavian cheese spreads in a tube. What may be less well known is that Kavli is run by a trust, with all non-operating profits donated to research, culture and humanitarian causes.

In his thirties, Gerhard went through a life crisis that was triggered by a divorce, but also rooted in experiences from his childhood, in which he was plagued by a constant feeling of not being good enough. His self-esteem was linked completely to performance. As Gerhard Bley writes in his book Instinkt eller insikt (Insight or Instinct):

“My life looked great on the outside, but I woke up every morning with a feeling of anxiety.”

He realized that he had given 100% at work – but basically deprioritized everything else in his life.

The period that followed was a time of reassessment. Gerhard sought help, consulted with therapists and began to look inwards for answers, including through meditation.

“I understood that I had been a skilled, mechanical business leader. Looking at it in one way, I had performed my job with great results. But in another way, not at all”, he says.

This period of reflection and questioning of ingrained “truths” about career and corporate management led to his development of a completely new leadership method: Empathetic Leadership. He coined the term back in 2010. Learn more about Empathetic Leadership here.

Today, Gerhard lives with his family outside Stockholm. In addition to his work and spending time with his family, he also mentors young leaders, serves on several company boards, exercises and travels a lot, and is a co-founder of Kontempel, a non-profit organization that promotes existential development based on Christian values.

Gerhard Bley - Det Empatiska Ledarskapet
Gerhard Bley - Det Empatiska Ledarskapet

Photo: ©Ulrika Melin Fredholm


What made me who I am?


2010 – CEO of O. Kavli AB. Among other things, increased sales from SEK 400 million to SEK 1 billion and number of employees to 225.

2006 – 2010: Vice President Sales at Arla Foods AB. Increased sales and profitability by 10-15% on a both mature and competitive market.

2003 – 2006: General Manager, Classic Coffee at Arvid Nordquist AB. Recruited to reverse a weak trend in the Classic Coffee division. Succeeded, along with my co-workers, in significantly increasing sales, profitability and market share.

2002 – 2003: Managing Director, Täby Galopp AB, Scandinavia’s largest thoroughbred racetrack with an annual turnover of SEK 225 million.

1990 – 2001: Began my career with various jobs at Götabanken, AST Computer, Tempur Sverige, Fagerdala World Foams Group and Defcom.


Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Economics from Stockholm University, Sweden (1986-1989). Courses in Business and Financial Management, University of Arizona, Tucson, USA (1989-1990). Sales Management at Mercuri International (1995). Strategic Marketing Management Executive Course, Harvard Executive Business School, Boston, USA (2018).

Other achievements:

  • Commissioned by the Minister for Finance of Sweden to serve as expert in 1990 Swedish Government Official Inquiry into future needs and developments in the thoroughbred and harness industry.

  • Published first book, Instinkt eller insikt  (Instinct or Insight) (2012).

  • Have served on many boards of directors, including those of Dagligvaruleverantörernas förbund, I Secure, Restaurangakademien, Täby Galopp and Svenskmärkning AB.

  • Mentor for young leaders through Novare Leadership Academy.

  • Popular speaker at leadership conferences.

  • Mentor for senior soccer leaders through the Lennart Johansson Foundation.

  • Speak Swedish, English and German.

  • Ran the Berlin Marathon once and skied the Vasaloppet four times.

Gerhard Bley - Det empatiska ledarskapet

Praise for the book



Psychologist and blogger

          Gerhard Bley breaks new ground by coming out and talking about his own experience in therapy and about the key role this therapy had in the development of his own leadership model, a people-oriented leadership style that provides the foundation for what workplaces and people must do in today’s market to meet people’s needs and life situations.

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