In a world of constant change, the ability to adapt and self-reflect is not only desirable but essential for managers. But how do you make the transition from a specialized professional to a leadership position that combines both technical and entrepreneurial vision?

To get to the bottom of this question, we conducted an unusual conversation: an interview that was not conducted in the conventional way. Two renowned entrepreneurs and executives, Philipp Deutscher and Jan Hossfeld, share their insights and experiences in an interview moderated by an artificial intelligence.

You can find the first part of the interview at this link.

Die deutsche Version des Artikels findest Du hier.

Today’s part deals with the topics of leadership, management and culture. This post is part of a 5-part series offering insights into the development of leadership skills, the importance of self-image and the challenges of modern leadership roles.

Classic leadership skills

  1. Which classic leadership skills do you consider essential for an executive?

Philipp Deutscher: “Communication skills, decision-making skills and empathy are essential for any C-level role. Also and especially for a CTO.”

Jan Hossfeld: “Reflection! There is nothing more important. And it’s best to combine this with curiosity and a love of learning. This also includes a good error culture with yourself, because mistakes will happen. Without these skills, you might be a manager, but not a leader.”

  1. How have you developed and applied these skills in your own career?

Philipp Deutscher: “Initially mainly through learning by doing. The understanding of these skills and their importance only developed over time. It started with the will to take responsibility. But without having the right tools to do so. We have worked on the basis of fulfilled or unfulfilled expectations and learned from them. Experience leads to knowledge. And knowledge is the basis for understanding. Later, this development became more structured and targeted. If I were to assess my leadership skills and decisions from 10 years ago with today’s knowledge and understanding, I would have to beat my hands over my head every time. But that’s part of development.”

Jan Hossfeld: “Learning through pain is certainly an issue. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. Over time, I’ve learned to be kinder to myself. I was helped by years of mentoring, which is still going on today. A good mentor is not emotionally involved and can therefore help to separate the issue from the emotion. Then you can learn to accept the emotion and improve the matter. What is also extremely important to me, for myself and my second level of management, is further training. I attend as many lectures, training courses and coaching sessions as possible. Of course, some things are repetitive – but if I keep an open mind, I will take something valuable away from every event. And journaling is useful to ensure that this doesn’t get lost, because if I process things in writing and reflect on them again, they stay in my memory.”

Leadership vs. management

  1. How do you differentiate between leadership and management in the role of a CTO?

Philipp Deutscher: “I manage projects and lead teams and individuals. Although that’s a poor way of putting it, because in my understanding leadership doesn’t actually mean ‘I lead’, but ‘I give direction’. It’s about direction, empathy and indirect influence. Management, on the other hand, has a lot to do with planning and organization. With control and problem solving. Both are necessary in the role of a CTO.”

Jan Hossfeld: “I’ve already described leadership. It is particularly important that a good leader is characterized by the fact that people can grow with him, in breadth, depth and height (I don’t mean physically, of course). Management skills are nevertheless required. Numbers, data, facts and processes are helpful as long as you make sure that they do not become an end in themselves. Reflection is also a key skill here: if you have never looked at the monthly figures, but just filed them away, they may not be important.”

  1. Can you give an example of when you were more of a leader than a manager as an executive?

Philipp Deutscher: “Actually, any time you focus on the human aspects of leadership, such as inspiring and motivating employees and setting strategic direction. Management deals with the organizational and process-oriented aspects, such as planning, budgeting and control. Both roles are critical to the success of an organization, and the best leaders have skills in both leadership and management and understand very well when to use each.”

Jan Hossfeld: “I always try to be in recruiting. We have an astonishing number of ‘broken’ CVs in our team, some without any formal qualifications. And the fact that these people are valuable specialists and managers today starts in recruiting. So over time, I have defined exactly what my values are. I look for these in the people who sit in front of me. But: we all stand on the shoulders of giants, thanks to many good guides and lectures I have also borrowed tools from them. For example, thanks to a tip from Heiko Banaszak, I always try to listen carefully to how someone describes the breaks in their life – was it the circumstances, the others? Or was it their own decision? That is one of many signs of someone who is prepared to take responsibility.”

Culture as a game changer

  1. To what extent does corporate culture influence the effectiveness of an executive?

Philipp Deutscher: “Corporate culture influences the effectiveness of every executive. From team lead to CEO. It is the totality of shared values, norms and practices and therefore a key driver of efficiency and effectiveness.”

Jan Hossfeld: “Corporate culture simply influences everything! It is important to understand that the culture of a company is what is done, not what is written somewhere. That’s one of my lessons learned in recent years. That’s not an argument against defining a desired culture, by the way. But a warning against believing that the definition alone is enough. It is important to exemplify the desired culture every day. Only then will people find the opportunity to contribute themselves.”

  1. How do you go about creating a culture that promotes innovation and excellence?

Philipp Deutscher: “If I want to change the culture, I have to change behavior in the company. If I want to change behavior, I have to introduce metrics and key figures that influence the desired behavior and lead to a change in behavior and culture in the medium term. Conversely, of course, ‘You don’t improve what you don’t measure’ also applies.”

Jan Hossfeld: “My path was apparently simple. I wrote down the 5-7 most important values that I have and that I consider important for my company. That took 5 minutes. After that, however, it took another 12 months to define exactly what I mean by how it should feel in everyday life. That’s the real work. The most important realization: just because it’s logical and clear in your head doesn’t mean it is for others.”

The next part of the interview will be published in a week’s time by Philipp Deutscher. In it, we will deal with the topics of communication and mindset in the transition to leadership.

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  1. […] ersten Teil des Interviews findest Du unter diesem Link. The English version can be found here. Der heutige Teil beschäftigt sich mit den Themen Leadership, Management und Kultur. Dieser […]

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