Heiko Hutmacher joins the second episode of “The Dialogue”. He has worked on 4 continents, made a career at IBM before he later joined the management board of the German multinational cash and carry wholesale enterprise METRO as the Chief Human Resource Officer until the end of last year. He talks about his personal experiences with different cultures and how they helped them to grow as a leader, the abilities that you as a future Responsible Leader have to have and how students can close the leadership gap between university and companies by themselves.

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(00:24) – Introduction

(01:27) – Gap between universities and companies and how young talents might close it

(05:45) – The abilities of a Responsible Leader

(09:24) – Heiko’s challenges as a leader  

(13:30) – An intercultural view on Responsible Leadership

(22:07) – Audience question by Marcella Germano

(26:58) – An organizational culture that helps people to grow

(29:20) – Heiko’s tip for Young Professionals

(32:00) – Outro

Further Readings

1) Heiko talks about his learnings from different cultures and their philosophies, for example the African Ubuntu. Click here to check out what is behind the philosophy of “I am because we are”. Additionally, he mentions his Ted Talk “Why universities should build more on emotional intelligence”, in which he tells a story of a strange situation with a South African applicant. Take one more look at leadership styles in different cultures (Havard Business Review). 

2) Accepting mistakes that are made by your employees or yourself is one of the success factors to grow as a leader. For a deeper look, read the Medium article about “the Key Ingredient for Innovation Leadership” and how you can learn from failure (Havard Business Review). Here is an intercultural perspective of failure by the country navigator.

3) There are skills that are key for later success but that aren’t taught at university. How can you close this gap for yourself? For us, as a student-run company, the answer is clear, but here are 12 reasons why you should join a student-run organization. And, of course, joining the team of the World Business Dialogue also helps to close the gap

Studies include learning concepts and models which are not often so complemented with abilities required in companies, for example collaboration skills. Students should close these gaps by getting involved in initiatives or NGO’s. They can foster the students’ personal development.

Culture can help you to grow as a leader. When you grow in other countries, you get out of the references you have grown up with.

Another aspect is organizational culture: Companies have to encourage their employees to do the right thing and to act responsibly.

Responsible Leaders mainly have to focus on the people they work with. One success factor is communication: It has to be transparent, clear, and candid. 

Leaders have to help people to succeed – therefore, they take mistakes of employees as a good opportunity to thank the person for daring something. Afterward, they will discuss how to learn from it.

Changing organizational culture is one of the biggest challenges for a leader in a big company (for example when traditional hierarchies should be flattened). 

Then you have to work out an overall intention so that people can understand and question it. It is the core you can revert back to in every situation. But: “Change isn’t a straight line.”

“It (Responsible Leadership) doesn’t require at any moment in time to look at all stakeholders, I think the most often needed one (look) is the one to people you are working with.”
Heiko Hutmacher
Former CHRO of Metro