Category Archives: Kerstin Plehwe

Female Leadership: The 6 most important things you can learn from the world´s most powerful women

By Kerstin Plewhe

Kerstin PlehweLearning from women who made it all the way to the top — independently from the societal circumstances like gender equality — is highly rewarding. Having had the chance to interact with powerful women around the globe, it becomes obvious that any woman holds the key to personal success in her own hands. So, it´s time to use that key and get to know the six principles of Female Leadership.

The power of authenticity: Angela Merkel, Germany: The 10 year super-leader of the European economy is the best example for the power of authenticity. During her hard-fought campaign against former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder — handsome, strong and good looking — she insisted on remaining in her personal style of old-fashioned clothes, conservative makeup and personal gestures. Anything too artificial for her taste was not allowed, although the media sanctioned her heavily during her campaign by putting out bad pictures and focusing reports on superficial topics that had nothing to do with her political talent: her haircut, make-up and recipes she cooks for Christmas. Even today, after nearly ten year of ups and downs in the mainly male-dominated world, she sticks to her authenticity and has made it become her secret tool to success and trust.

The power of courage: Cathy O Dowd, South Africa: The first woman in the world to summit Mount Everest from both sides is driven by the power of courage. Interestingly enough, Cathy does not see herself as courageous, but as curious. It is her curiosity that brings her to the extremes of our planet. In her first attempt to conquer the world’s highest mountain, she and her team encountered a heavy snow storm that took the lives of five other mountaineers. Cathy´s team descended — exhausted, but safely — only to return a couple of weeks later to reach the top. This brought pride to the entire South African nation, compelling Nelson Mandela to comment, “Our children did very well indeed.”

The power of acceptance: Amy Purdy, USA: After losing both of her legs as a US Olympic champion, Amy Purdy accepted the challenge to evolve beyond every limit. Accepting reality but insisting to dream defines Amy Purdy. Whether displaying her unbelievable proof of beauty and elegance on Dancing with the Stars or delivering her powerful message of passion on Oprah, she has inspired the world. The core driver behind all the renewed success in her life has been her acceptance of her situation and her refusal to feel sorry for herself. Amy evolved and moved on beyond everything that anybody imagined. She won the Paralympics, and became a national star, bestselling author and global inspiration for every woman to accept herself the way she is.

The power of passion: Francoise Barré-Sinoussi, France: The French virologist and Nobel Prize winner for HIV research knows what it means to endure and be heard in a male-dominated industry. Based on her persistence and ultimate belief in her work, she was able to succeed where many others failed: detecting the HIV virus. Talking to her in person reveals the tremendous passion for her work, which is rooted in her urge to help people and deliver real change. She recalls a convention in San Francisco when she was asked to visit an HIV patient. She agreed, knowing that the man was dying, but he still wanted to thank her for her work. Meeting that man reminded her of how much her passion drives her work, why she feels she can endure anything, and overcome any obstacle in order to find the right way through the complex matters of virology.

The power of communication: Fiona Stanley, Australia: The mother of two daughters and 2003’s “Australian of the Year” is a famous scientist and epidemiologist. Her work on public health received worldwide recognition. Her most astonishing capability, however, is mastering the power of communication. Fiona is not only a great listener, she understands feedback as a value-free opportunity for growth, and can easily adapt her words so that they are perfectly understood and acted upon, a great asset for any leader, be it in the corporate or private sector.

The power of you: Hyun Jeong-Eun, South Korea: The Chairman of the Board and CEO of the Hyundai Group is living proof of how self-esteem and positive thinking can boost your life into new hemispheres. When she took over the position at Hyundai, her background was the one of a housewife and spouse of the former Hyundai Chairman. Her education and studies both in Seoul and in the US were long ago, and critics did not want to see her prevail. But, she proved them all wrong, doubled the revenues of the group within eight years and, today, says to women: “Never give up and always nurture your self-esteem. It is your biggest source of power.”

Learning from those female leaders is a great option for men and women who are striving to make the best out of their own potential. Powerful women from around the world show and remind others that no results can be reached, no path can be started, without a first step. So, what is the first step you intend to make in your corporate or private environment? Please write it down and act on it today: the rewards will follow sooner then you imagine.

Kerstin Plehwe, bestselling author and international keynote speaker based in Berlin, Germany, helps people and organizations to embrace change and reach new levels of excellence. The well-known expert on Female Leadership and Change is a successful serial entrepreneur and is a founding board member of the ASTRAIA Female Leadership foundation. Kerstin is available to speak on topics such as leadership, women, change and personal excellence.

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Big 5 Leadership: Learning from Africa’s Most Fascinating Animals

Kerstin PlehweBy Kerstin Plewhe

Domination and submission, survival of the fittest, constant adaption to change – the wilderness and the corporate world have many similarities. The more detailed the look into each world, its routines, rules and ways of communication, the more obvious it becomes how beneficial it would be if the corporate world could learn from nature. In some areas, such as product engineering it is already happening, but in the area of personal development of leadership and teamwork skills this opportunity is still sadly missed.

Of course in most corporate areas there is no space for wilderness experiences, although it is highly recommended to regularly step out your personal comfort zone in order to reassess personal or corporate strategies, and open up for growth and leadership experience that no MBA program can ever deliver.

Experiencing Africa´s fascinating nature and of course its majestic Big 5, the human observer—usually accompanied by one or two experienced rangers—will be fascinated to find out the following five leadership skills that we could all easily transfer into our corporate world.

1) The Art of Teamwork: Lions, the so-called kings of the bush are not only a universal symbol for power and strength, they are masters in an area where every manager depends on: the quality of its team and the results of their work. And lions are masters of teamwork on all levels. Territories are held by several males in so-called coalitions. Working as a team makes it easier for them to fight against intruders, control larger territories, dispossess older lions or secure female territories, the basis for their survival.

Female teamwork is best displayed during hunting and it is clearly defined by the individual strengths of the team member. Whoever has the chance to witness the breath taking, intelligent and efficient attacks will never again forget it. But also the diverse teamwork plays a vital role for Africa’s largest carnivore. While females do most of the hunting and share family responsibilities within the whole group, males will assist with big kills and protect their territory against intruders. For lions the intra and inter-gender teamwork secures long-term survival and success. Bringing this example into your corporate area you ask yourself: Where can the teamwork in my company be optimized and is everybody aware of the benefits of an increased level of partnership with colleagues and the focus towards the outside-of-the-pride-enemy instead of the inside-of-the-company different department or colleague?

2) Focus – the Power of Targeting: Another fascinating and impressive quality often observed in the bush is the outstanding ability of animals to focus on their prey. Be it a lion, leopard, cheetah or bateleur eagle, their ability to focus sharply on one and only one target is worth thinking about as a human. In the corporate world—but also in the private area—multitasking is the standard. We listen to the radio while we drive the car, read our emails while we are in meetings. Africa´s predators narrow down their sight and energy to the most important thing in that second, securing food for their survival. Observing this behavior, it should be no surprise that many Asian meditation techniques teach methods to remain in the moment, which gives you maximum effectiveness. The western hemisphere managers can learn both from Africa and Asia and in that process not only reduce the ratio of burn out and stress but also increase the productivity and results of the whole company.

3) The Prerequisites of Speed: The fastest land mammal is the cheetah. Within 90 seconds they are in full speed of up to 70 miles/hour and every detail of their body, e.g. their long legs, small heads with streamlined ears, large lungs are perfectly designed for it. Their entire body is built for speed. They don´t carry any extra bulk…in opposite to us corporate people and organizations. The older we get the more weight we usually carry and over our spine gets less flexible. The cheetah’s spine stays flexible all is life; a great role model for any corporation to rethink and reevaluate what hinders them to move faster. We all know about the necessity for speed in highly competitive global marketplaces and also that the level of speed increases everywhere, be it in the media, social developments or the spread of diseases in a connected world. But the question is: How well are we equipped as leaders, as companies, as people? Do we carry extra bulk and how can we get rid of it?

4) The Wisdom of the Elephants: The leaders of elephant herds can often be seen doing nothing, as if they are frozen from one second to another. To the human eyes it is unclear as to what is taking place, but it could potentially be our biggest leadership take-away from Africa. In those regular moments of stillness the lead cow uses her senses to the fullest. She becomes aware of the position and movement of the group, its surroundings and gets in touch with each individual group member on an energetic level. What a powerful leadership tool! Transferring this observation for your personal use in the corporate world you could regularly, e.g. at the beginning of every meeting, refrain from any activity for a couple of seconds, focus on the group, the energy in the room and your own physical condition. You will undoubtedly find out it makes a BIG difference!

5) Leopards, the Hidden Champions of Flexibility: Leopards are not only among the most beautiful animals of Africa, they are also the ultimate opportunists, adapting themselves to every change in habitat that might happen. Leopards are flexible in every way imaginable. They are excellent runners and climbers, with the ability to attack from the ground and from trees, and hunt at night or during the day. One leopard was found in an abandoned football stadium living with 2 cubs eating garbage and chasing pets from the neighborhood. So a leopard-based take-away for every corporate person is: How flexible and adaptable are we as leaders, and how do our organizations adjust to change?

Now, not everybody has to go to Africa to rethink his or her leadership qualities, although regularly stepping out of one´s comfort zone is something recommended to anybody, especially to leaders loaded up with daily tasks and routines. Let´s not forget: Routines kill creativity. And creativity is something we urgently need to re-inject into our corporate lives in order to remain successful in a changing marketplace. So whether you use a tent in Africa or an igloo in the Arctic for a short time: Beyond your desk and your comfort zone is what life and leadership is about and that you can and should reimport into your daily life.

Kerstin Plehwe, bestselling author and international speaker based in Berlin, Germany, helps people and organizations to be courageous, excellent and innovative. For more than 15 years she has advised global players as well as top executives and politicians. Kerstin´s out of comfort zone experience was to become a Ranger in South Africa´s Kruger Park. She is available to speak on topics such as leadership, diversity, change and personal excellence. For more information please visit www.kerstinplehwe.com.

How to Lead Like a Weltmeister: German Insights into Excellence, Teamwork and Success

Kerstin PlehweBy Kerstin Plewhe

Aside from legendary cars, world class beers and the first-rate manufacturing, being a German is not always easy, especially when you are outspoken about your love for the United States of America. But, ever since the powerful and inspiring victory in the FIFA World Cup, it has become a little bit easier, especially because this victory could be foreseen purely by a closer look at the greatness of its team.

Getting ahead, reaching the pole position in both global and extremely competitive markets is not at all easy. But the good news is it is possible and Germany has added an excellent example to this gallery of world masters with a simple but often forgotten recipe: a relentless focus on quality and the one thing that matters most, a team that makes success happen.

It does not matter if it is a corporate team, a sports team, or non-profit team. With over a billion people around the globe watching and commenting on the weaknesses of the individual players, it was not easy to resist the temptation of putting one’s ego before the team spirit. But, the whole team, every single player plus the coach, Jogi Löw, resisted and focused on the thing that matters most if you want to reach the top: remaining unassuming, polite and focused on your goal. And being focused is something Germans excel in (sometimes so much that they appear over efficient, non-humorous and insanely organized). In the end, these team qualities paid off. They can well be used as an inspiration and analogy for any other team worldwide.

When remembering the matches of the World Cup – from the agonizing draw against Ghana, the respectable victory against the US, to the dominating win against Brazil – it becomes clear that this victory is not just a long-awaited gratification for a reunified nation, it is a masterpiece and blueprint for organizations and teams around the world that dare to exchange quick fixes and fast bucks for the biggest financial and emotional victories that fuel organizations for decades. In German, a “Weltmeister” is the best in class, the leader of the pack, the one who has reached the pole position. Establishing Weltmeister qualities pays off in multiple ways.

The following are 5 key qualities of a Weltmeister:

1. Putting the team first and implementing a serving attitude: The German team has several world class players, all of them alpha males with long personal records of success. But nevertheless, they never allowed one ego to step up and leave the others behind. They understood, and were deeply convinced, that by helping their teammates with a serving, instead of deserving, attitude, they would all reach the highest goal. Funny enough, the youngest talent on the team, Mario Götze, was the one that scored the final goal, pushing a whole nation into ecstasy. Any business or team leader can use this approach to establish the qualities of team spirit, a dedication to service and willingness to help one another within their team. By doing this, teams help themselves grow towards a new level of success.

2. Identifying and nurturing talent: Following the roots of success is always interesting. In the case of the German victory it was sourced from a continuous, relentless search for young talents and a bold investment, not only into their talents, but into everything that the team needed: new training facilities, diversified and trusting coaches as well as great relations on the inside and outside with external multipliers. Applying this quality to any business leads to a new look at anything that increases the team’s productivity. Those investments might sometimes hurt the bottom line in the short view but they increase the success and profit in the longer run.

3. Reaching out for Excellency: In our bottom-line focused world, customers often miss good “old world” qualities and authenticity in leaders and brands. Reaching for nothing less than excellence requires a lot from everybody involved. It requires setting the highest goals in every form of quality: product quality, customer satisfaction quality, leadership qualities. For the Germans this might be a bit easier since the term “Made in Germany” has been a long-term warrant for outstanding quality. None the less, it is possible for any organization and individual to restart their own quest for excellence – and forever step away from mediocrity and failure customers regularly experience, even with established brands.

4.  Being willing to pay the price: Sometimes the road to gaining, or regaining, the number one position is long. But, it is always worth it, as long as you are honest with yourself and the rest of your team about the price that comes with the package. In the case of the German team, the price was high. It included endless physical training sessions, competitive video analyses and enduring team development. Applying those actions into the business world also means a lot of persistence and work. It means precise attention to every detail in the production and sales process and keeping the team spirit up within the company even when it seems that all odds are against you. It means to set different priorities in every day’s work and going the extra mile for the customer.

5. Focus on inspiration rather than motivation: Motivation is yesterday´s music. Inspiration is today´s must have for any world class team, because it comes from within a person and not from without. But, inspiration itself won´t secure the trophy either. It has to be followed up with persistent, daily actions which are exactly what the German coach, and any corporate leader, can achieve. Inspiring a team instead of relying on old-world motivational patterns, like bonuses, followed up by a joint plan of action is the key to the big win. Jogi went for this strategy with his team, and so can you.

The good thing about these Weltmeister qualities is that you do not have to be a soccer fan to be able to follow and benefit from them. What this German soccer team showed game after game was not only impressive and inspiring, it was the best proof that everyone who is willing to pay the price for excellence can rise from the ashes of their past towards a successful future – regardless if it is a nation, a corporation or an individual.

Kerstin Plehwe, German bestselling author and international speaker based in Berlin, Germany, helps people and organizations to be courageous, excellent and innovative. She has built and sold several businesses in Germany successfully, advised hundreds of top executives and politicians and has become a highly reputable TV analyst, author and communication expert. She is available to speak in the United States on topics such as new leadership, diversity, change and personal excellence. For more information please visit www.kerstinplehwe.com.