Last night I attended the top+ awards banquet for Siemens in the U.S. I had the very fortunate chance to sit down with CEO of Siemens AG, Peter Loescher (we have lot’s of CEO’s, but he is the top of them all) after dinner with about 8 other people. I can’t imagine what it must be like to lead such a massive company – just ask anyone that works on my team: I have a hard time leading 6 people! It is obviously impossible at that level to have command over all the details of our business and it is equally impossible to provide direct direction to even 1% of the employees. Now this is my engineering brain talking, but how can you lead without having complete knowledge of all the details and ability to directly command the people under you?
He didn’t speak a lot, but rather asked questions and listened. However in the 20 minutes or so he was there I definitely picked up a few things about how Mr. Loescher get’s it done:
- As a top level leader one of the most important decisions you have to make is what to centralize to get scale vs. what to decentralize to drive innovation. The ‘how’ question can be delegated to people that can track the details, but you have to decide what you want to control and what you want to let your people control
- You have to have a manic obsession with people and culture. It’s very clear that diversity is a top agenda item for Mr. Loescher and I think that is in no small part due to his need build a strong team and let them execute for him.
- You have to be a strong motivator. You’re not going to do all the work yourself, so you have to be able to get people fired up to get the work done for you.
- You have to decide what you’re going to measure and then hold people accountable. HP made the ‘what get measured, gets done’ line famous and it holds more true the larger the organization you need to lead.
- You have to be the champion for change. You have to decide when change needs to happen, how much change is too much / too little and you have to decide what to change (and when to leave well enough alone).
It was a great discussion and I hope Mr. Loescher learned 5% about what we do as I learned about leadership.