Janina Kugel is a known German business person, non-executive board member and supervisory board member of the TUM School of Management. She was a member of the Managing Board and CHRO of Siemens AG and was voted "Prima inter Pares" on a list of the 100 most influential women in German business in 2018, an initiative of Manager Magazin and the Boston Consulting Group. Mrs. Kugel recently held the commencement speech at our Graduation Day, in which she inspired the graduates to become visionary leaders of the 21st century.
In our 3 questions to Janina Kugel, she gives us an outlook on the skill set of a 21st century leader.
You held many executive positions in leading companies here around the world, what challenges do you see for leaders of the 21st century? What do you expect/wish from the new generation of young leaders?
The challenges of the 21st century are massive and will continue to be so. Not only automation and digitization will influence the way we do business, but geopolitical tensions, climate change and societal segregation will impact our society and thus the business world as well. We need leaders that understand that the increased complexity can only be solved when we all act together. Whether this is in politics, organizations, or companies.
To make this happen, an honest evaluation of the current situation is key for every business and the openness for new approaches and solutions will be crucial. It is not always easy to decide what and how to change processes or procedures that worked well in the past. But future success will depend on right and often also courageous decision making.
What actions should be taken to enhance business models and face the changing demography in Germany? How are companies handling the skill shortage?
The world economy is suffering from a shortage of workers already. In the middle of 2022, an all-time high of open positions were measured in most of the largest economies. On top, demographics are shifting. Some countries face a decreasing number of a population in working age, others have a huge share of a young employable generation. We can also see that global migration has increased. Today 280 million people live in countries other than they were born.
This is an opportunity for business managers to embrace migration and make it a strategic priority of their people strategy in order to attract best talent, independent from their origin. Many companies speak about global talent, but only few actively recruit worldwide.
But of course, there are other measures as well to face the challenges of skill shortage: Continuous investment in re-skilling and up-skilling of employees must become an strategic priority for every company to keep their workforce employable. Increasing the number of (mostly) women in the workforce that in large numbers don´t work full-time yet due to missing infrastructure of childcare, is another lever. And last but not least, many European countries, incl. Germany, have to rethink the retiring age for their population to ensure that the social security systems are balanced.
Which skills define good leaders? Which advice can you provide to young leaders when it comes to building up a global team?
There are many skills that define good leadership. It depends on the situation, the industry and the challenges. If you ask people what good leadership means to them, you will get plenty of answers what people appreciate in their managers. It is easier to define bad leadership, let us call it “red flag behaviour” like yelling at people, exploiting them or simply treating them in a way that no one wants to get treated. These behaviors are absolute “no-gos” and not acceptable. Only 10 % of people are born as “natural good leaders”, everyone else has to learn the skills of leadership, which is a lifelong task for everyone.
One of the key leadership skills for me is building your team. Creating a space where everyone can contribute and ensuring that the skills and abilities of the team are completing each other. Those who strive for such a team will automatically strive for a diverse team that brings in different perspectives, different backgrounds and thus is capable of delivering great results. And don´t fear that someone could be smarter than you. Working with bright people will make you achieve the best results.