Girls Night Out

On April 16  the women of MBA 2007 class met with Mik Van den Nort at the ESMT Berlin campus. Mik is an independent consultant, specializing in leadership development, executive coaching, and organizational learning. Her consulting career spans over 20 years. As KPMG partner, Mik initiated and managed the firm’s coaching and counseling unit at Ebbingie. In recent years Mik consulted to a vast number of senior professionals at leading international companies.

The meeting’s purpose was to enable MBA class participants to address questions regarding a female role in leadership to the successful experienced professional female. As an MBA student I was glad to have the chance and have a discussion with Mik.

After a brief introduction at the ESMT campus we went to dinner at a unique place – the International Club of German Foreign Ministry – where the majority of the conversation took place. The Head of ESMT admissions office Stephanie Kluth and Jennifer Collier, an external consultant on legal and strategic advisory, joined us and actively participated in the meeting.

During the dinner my classmates raised various questions to Mik, e.g. what the females’ managerial styles, their strengths and weaknesses. We talked about roadblocks that lie on a female’s career path and opportunities that enable a woman to pursue career objectives.

At the dinner Mik recounted notable situations from her working experience and shared valuable insights. The one I liked the most is that a woman leader is not the one who betrays her femininity by accepting a masculine “way of conduct”; on the contrary, she can benefit from capabilities that are intrinsic to her nature. Women are attentive to people’s needs. Most female managers are good at motivating their team members and ensuring a positive working environment. Such an attitude has a great pay off. When a manager needs her subordinates to carry our task she formulated, they are there to act and support her.

Nevertheless, a female leader is not the one to be liked by all her subordinates and peers, she is the one to direct and lead. Mik commented that in certain situations a female needs to take a strong stand when protecting her ideas or actions plan in order to win battles in the sometimes harsh world of business. Being a ‘tough cookie’ is an advantageous strategy for a female leader as it also yields a benefit in the form of appreciation on the part of male colleagues.

The discussion was not solely focused around the leadership topic. Mik shared a story on her career development that led to her current professional occupation. The remarkable fact is that Mik did not compromise her interests when building a career, quite the opposite, her personal field of interests and working preferences led her to further preferment. The majority of her professional career Mik has been involved in the work she admired and this fact contributed a lot to her job and personal success.

I have drawn several conclusions from the discussion with Mik and statements of other participants. They convinced me that in order to attain success in a professional activity and be able to realize your potential, you need to discover your own life interests and values and stick to them when shaping your career.

Taxing the tall?

It has been known for some time that tall people earn more than their shorter counterparts (if you don’t believe it, just read this article). As sad as it sounds, there is not much that can be done about it, right? Well, that’s exactly what I thought when I first heard about the bad news (I am not very tall), but Harvard professors Mankiw and Weinzierl’s newest work puts a (theoretic) end to the social injustice by concluding that tall people should pay higher taxes than short ones. Isn’t that just genius?

Dividing ownership in a startup

“Experience is a good school, but the fees are high?”
– Heinrich Heine



It is the lesson of the true cost of recruiting the wrong founding team in a startup. You fill a role out of desperation, or even worse, recruit a friend or family who will do for now but never was quite the right fit. There are moments of convenience and other times, rationalization, for hiring people you trust, forgetting to foresee roles and consequences. Hiring at the top of a pyramid, the bottom grows over the years even when founders leave. And then the recruit in turn takes the organization down the garden path, hiring more of the wrong people, perpetuating one error to final destruction. The good old adage for entrepreneur CEOs – hire the very best for your life depends on it – we have heard it all, many times. And again, to do it in reality, even the brave will falter.



How does an entrepreneur divide equity among co founders?
Should I divide the equity in my startup equally?
How do you do it?

Maverick Leadership/Ricardo Semler – I

Ricardo SemlerImagine a company where managers set their own salaries! Middle management utopia, who wouldn’t like to be here? But this is also a company where “if you put your salary too high, and people don’t put you on the list as someone they need for the next six months, you’re in more trouble than you would be at General Motors”.

 

Ricardo Semler is my idea of a great leader. In the context of modern entrepreneurship, the task of a CEO is to get customers, cut costs and convey value to shareholders. A leader CEO however is one who doesn’t get so obsessed with these ends that he glances over what still remain the fundamentals of any business – trust and relationships. Semler built an organisation on trust. Or did he?

 

I think what he did by initiating policies based on trust, and I will not go into them here, was to create more leaders. In fact, if every SEMCO employee is welcome to a board meeting (of course, she has to be one of the first two to arrive at the door!), Semler created an organization where everybody potentially can influence the direction the organization takes. That is what leadership is all about – creating more leaders.

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