In the ‘old’ Western European world, internal business leaders were typically viewed as the top of the organizational hierarchy pyramid — the ones who ‘knew it all’ and made the decisions accordingly. Today’s business wisdom turns the prevailing structure upside down, with customers sitting at the top of the pyramid; for true organizational success, this is where all business decisions should stem from. For episode # 56 of my podcast the World Class Leaders Show, I was honored to host a good friend from Germany, Hans-Martin Hellebrand. Hans-Martin is the co-CEO of Badenova, a regional utility company committed to driving energy transition in Southwest Germany. Before joining Badenova, Hans-Martin was managing director of the digital energy retailer eprimo. From 2015 – 2017, he founded and led an innovation center in Silicon Valley, as well as scaling a tech start-up as COO/CFO. Hans-Martin has studied at internal institutions such as Stanford and Kellogg-Northwestern, and he was awarded “IT Executive 2016” by CIO Magazine.
Lessons From Silicon ValleyDuring his varied professional journey, Hans-Martin’s American experience in Silicon Valley exposed several key learnings which he has put to good use in his leadership approach.
- Demystifying modern leadership and agile thinking
- A hands-on, opportunity-seeking mentality leads to continual innovation
- Humble servant leadership is foundational to successful business management
- Customers should be at the top of the leadership pyramid — all business questions should be viewed from the outside-in to establish value.
- Empowerment and accountability for employees will accelerate growth.
- Keep the business unit focused on their target customers as closely as possible for intimate knowledge and understanding of their pains and gains.
- Carefully define & establish clear products and services for targeting customer categories e.g. end-consumers versus large infrastructure and service providers
- Create innovation structures such as incubators to accelerate specialized talent focus on design thinking, prototyping, and fast iteration of product development
- Ensure the innovation unit and the business unit are working closely and transparently together on a virtuous cycle of design and customer validation.