Interview with Klaus Schweinsberg

You are an acknowledged expert on strategic leadership. Do you believe that successful companies are ones who have strategic leaders? What other factors contribute to success for businesses?

Yes, indeed, what is urgently needed in these days are strategic leaders. Until the financial crisis in 2008 politics and business very much believed in risk assessment and probabilities. Since then the era of risk is over and we live in an era of uncertainty. The so called “black swans” and “unknown unknowns” dominate our (business) life. And in this very situation classical management skills are of little help. What you need is leadership, which means clear visions, aligned people, motivation for change and clear cut decisions. These are the success factors in a world of uncertainty.

What opportunities do you think there will be for the global markets and who will be the winners and losers as we begin to come out of economic crisis?

The winners will be companies with leaders who are agile, authentic, accurate and attentive. And by the way the same applies to states. We live in times where chances are as shy as young deer and risks appear as fast as thunderstorms in summer. Success today is about brave decisions, not about sophisticated analysis.

Or as the famous US General George S. Patton once put it: “Better a good decision vigorously executed now, than a perfect one next week.”

There is continued debate about cyber-security as more and more of the world becomes inter-connected. Is this a real threat to individuals as well as businesses and are there robust enough solutions in which we can have confidence?

Cyber Threat is one of these unknown unknowns I referred to earlier. Last year I had a talk with the former director of NSA Keith Alexander and he said: “Half of the companies are already victims of cybercrime and espionage, the other half have figured it out so far.” That is the situation – cyber is already one of the most massive threats to the development of companies. And companies should be prepared to deal with this risk.

In your book you talk about authentic/meaningful leadership. Is this a manual for C-level business people, to guide them through the maze of corporate challenges?

Yes, it is. This book is meant to be a down to earth guide that helps C-level people analyze their leadership behavior according to eight criteria – and to improve where they discover weaknesses and to excel where they have their strengths already. Many CEOs whom I know already follow this concept.