“New times need new leadership qualities”

Hans Goeldel

The business graduate has been a personnel consultant at Egon Zehnder for 21 years.

(Photo: Egon Zehnder)

Dusseldorf As Germany head of the Egon Zehnder personnel consultancy, Hanns Goeldel is something like the first point of contact when it comes to future managers. After all, his 67-strong team of consultants has been looking for and finding the most top people in Germany and Europe for decades.

Mr. Goeldel, what characterizes the managers of tomorrow?
Geopolitics, the energy crisis and fears of recession – the business environment is currently characterized by a great deal of uncertainty. That requires a different style. Successful leaders are open to new ideas, listen and orchestrate. Basta was yesterday. At the same time, they keep an eye on the big picture, show a way forward and can inspire. Today, whoever engages in dialogue and convinces wins.

What influence do Corona, digitization and demographics have?
These are transformation accelerators. In order to counter this change, modern leaders strengthen the resilience, responsiveness and innovative ability of their organization.

As a recruitment consultant, what do you look for in candidates?
We want to know what drives them, how they shape change, what motivates them from the inside. And we want to understand what they have achieved and what they have learned from their mistakes. And finally how and where they want to develop as a leader. There is no questionnaire for this, it is deeply personal. We also get references. That’s the only way to get a picture.

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Is expertise important?
Many people have specialist knowledge, and today you can no longer know everything anyway. Specialist knowledge is not the differentiating factor when it comes to staffing recommendations. We often experience that candidates are technically on the same level. Leadership skills are then crucial: bringing different perspectives together, giving direction, inspiring teams, recognizing talent. The CEO should be whoever combines all of these.

Is it important for candidates to be active in future fields such as digitization and sustainability?
Extreme important. Nobody can ignore these topics anymore. And here lies the opportunity for a new generation that has been socialized to be digitally savvy and environmentally conscious.

The CFO job has recently often been a stepping stone to the CEO position. Coincidence, or what is behind it?
In the past, CFOs were often perceived as just numbers people. It’s over. Today they think very strategically, are close to the business and often set the direction with the CEOs.

How permeable is the German economy? Once a medium-sized company, always a medium-sized company? Once a corporation, always a corporation?
I would like to answer that with a question: How agile is the next generation of CEOs really? If you make bold changes, look for new challenges in unfamiliar surroundings at a young age and prove yourself again and again, you have the better cards when it comes to the big leap to the CEO post. Those who dare to leave their comfort zone will be rewarded. The exciting biographies are those that contain a lot of diverse experience.

What motivates today’s under 45s? Sense, influence, money?
It’s a generation that wants to have an impact. Sense and design options are becoming more important, money is more of a hygiene factor. You are extremely goal-oriented and at the same time keep an eye on your own work-life balance. At the same time, their awareness that we need to take better care of this planet is greater. Otherwise, the different generations are more similar than one would think.

How similar?
We just analyzed that. All generations worldwide and in Germany, from Generation Z to the Boomers, value a collaborative corporate culture and autonomy that is exemplified by leaders. They want to be heard.

The consulting business is booming. Why is that? Is the German economy looking for new or different executives? Exchange or addition?
The markets and the global environment are changing radically and quickly. These new times need new leadership qualities. New appointments can help, but real further development is also needed within the company, in the management teams, at the top of the company and in the management culture.

More: One in four wants to quit: why so many executives in middle management are on the go

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