Recap of The Art of Guidance event held on February 21, 2017 – CODE_n talks about the complexity of leading corporations and startups

02/23/2017  |  Business Hacks, Corporate Innovation, Entrepreneurship

A highly insightful panel discussion, two inspiring talks from the different worlds of corporate life and startups, plus an audience which just kept digging deeper. These were just some of the highlights of the CODE_n event held on February 21, 2017 at CODE_n SPACES: The Art of Guidance – The Complexity of Leading Corporations and Startups

The first event hosted by CODE_n in 2017 served as a kick-off revolving around the crucial topic of leadership – an issue which drives startups, corporations and SMEs alike. And this burning topic has become more even urgent since the field has been confronted by the many new challenges of digital transformation. Roles and fields of responsibility are becoming increasingly diverse and hierarchies are becoming more and more fuzzy. A growing number of teams now use agile methods and are distributed, working autonomously on shared projects. So what’s the best way to deal with these radical changes as a leader? Which skill sets are required in today’s networked world if you want to manage teams and companies successfully? Initiated and organized by CODE_n, The Art of Guidance – The Complexity of Leading Corporations and Startups provided a platform to exchange views with leading experts on the future of leadership.

How VUCA is redefining relationships and leadership

The evening started with a warm welcome from Moritz Gräter (managing director and head of CODE_n) in front of an audience consisting of startup founders, executives, corporate representatives and other guests. Former Bosch manager Martina Merz then took to the stage.

The first expert talk of the evening was an opportunity to enjoy a glimpse into the working world of a corporate leader. It started with an outline of Martina’s vast experience and long track record as a manager, before she outlined the key lessons she had learned from leading teams at established companies. In her talk on Corporations in the World of VUCA, she examined how the world is witnessing a fundamental paradigm shift. Today’s environment is about volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA). It’s no longer possible to find easy answers to urgent questions, explained Martina. Employees have no choice but to accept volatility and the same applies to leaders, even if people still tend to yearn for clarity. One result of this trend is conflict: Leadership is transforming from a field of expertise into an art – where each individual will make the difference. According to Martina, success will depend on a willingness to assume personal responsibility and each person’s individual attitude. Furthermore, as she advised in her speech,

“Trust, strength and directness are key when it comes to leadership. Stay honest and try to back away from narcissism.”

Martina Merz giving advice on how to lead in a complex world.

Seeing employees as competent partners

The second talk was given by tech firm founder Tobias Günther (fournova Software), who shared some important insights into leading completely remote teams. As someone who has to compete for talented workers in web development and technical fields himself, Tobias believes that employees require a work environment where they are not just able but also motivated to deliver good results. His winning approach involves working with your employees on a level playing field and seeing them as colleagues and partners rather than inferiors – being modest, so to speak.

“As leaders, we serve our employees as an advisor and no longer as a person who issues orders. But of course there’s no trust without responsibility. Employees need to be aware that they are accountable for their own failures and have to deal with these themselves. To achieve that, you need the appropriate culture.”

Tobias is convinced that the vast majority of employees want to work independently, but they also need time to adapt to the new challenges they face as part of a learning process.

Technology company founder Tobias Günther, who advocates leadership with modesty.

Panel discussion with additional experts and experienced leaders

In the following panel discussion, Maria Dietz (former manager and now member of the board of directors at GFT Technologies), Dr. Karoline Bader (founder of parkpocket and now responsible for finance and sales) and Matin Ebrahimchel (head of IT connectivity at Daimler Trucks) joined the exchange and shared their experiences with leading teams, employees, and companies. The panel discussion sparked a lively debate about the different ways to lead a team in a recently founded startup versus leading a team in an enterprise with established structures. The fascinated audience posed several questions to the experts, including their personal recommendations for dealing with “challenging situations” in leadership. Drawing the event to a close, the experts agreed on the following: Listen to feedback – in fact, get out there and ask for it. And then take it seriously, reflect and adapt accordingly.

Martina Merz (left), Tobias Günther, Maria Dietz, Dr. Karoline Bader and Matin Ebrahimchel sparked a lively debate during the panel discussion.

After what was a highly insightful program, the participants enjoyed the networking part of the evening (with snacks and drinks). Visit the CODE_n flickr channel for a selection of pictures of the event.

CODE_n will host a follow-on event in the guidance/leadership series soon. Next time we plan to talk about recruitment and how to find and recruit digital experts.

Stay tuned for more enthralling discussions and insights. We’re already looking forward to the events ourselves!

Your CODE_n Team