Leadership Excellence

During 2001 - 2006 I conducted research on leadership at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and at the IESE Business School in Barcelona. The 2 main research projects were:


  • Project Leadership Excellence: Benchmarking study about outstanding leaders, leadership culture, leadership frameworks / tools / systems at 40 global companies, conducting interviews with more than 100 interviewees in top management and academia.
    Leadership was defined as a combination of individual- and corporate leadership. Basis for the analysis was the so-called Generic Leadership System. This consists of 4 clusters of leadership instruments. On top, there are 3 major influencing factors, which are in interaction with the leadership system and have an impact on the design of the instruments: the company strategy, the global organizational structure and the organizational culture. In an ideal world, the leadership instruments re-inforce each other and act jointly together as 1 lean leadership system, considering the influencing factors and driving stability and adaptability of the organization. Please see also the picture Generic Leadership System below. For further information please refer to the bibliography.

This Generic Leadership System was later further detailed in order to stronger highlight and include the 2 aspects of Leadership mentioned above: Corporate- and Individual Leadership. Please find this picture here - a more detailed description might follow at a later point in time:

  • Project Leadership Development and Corporate Universities: Benchmarking study about Corporate Universities of 11 global players. Outcome: Lots of companies with significant invests in Leadership Development used the Corporate University as a platform for strategic & organizational change within the corporation and derived from there skill-based development plans with strategic relevance for the employees and also for the organization and its transformation endeavors.

Major findings of both studies:


The research suggests that an organization should strive for an adequate balance within its leadership system. It should support stability and efficiency within the company and foster agility and the capacity for continuous corporate change in a structured way. This means:

  • On the one hand side, organizational routines are needed to provide a reliable framework. This is needed on a personal level to offer to a certain degree a fundamental kind of stability and predictability. It is also needed on an organizational level to ensure that efficiencies are gained and business KPIs, such as profit and sales, continuously improve.
  • On the other hand side, at dedicated points in time, the organization needs to drive and inspire the teams to question, discontinue, revise and change
    - business models and
    - established leadership systems.

    Goal is to open the mindset / "thinking-out-of-the box", to discuss and trigger revolutionary business changes and to continuously rejuvenate and simplify the entire system of organizational routines. This is paramount to avoid the solidification of rigidity. And to support the development of the corporation into the direction of an agile and learning organization.


Typical examples of such transformational routines and structures are

  • Destroy-your-business- and New-Business-Impact-Initiatives,
  • so-called “Popcorn-stands”,
  • Captive Business Incubators,
  • or simply a “cleaning-up meta-routine”: label every organizational routine with an expiration-date and revise them from time-to-time while also cleaning-up and simplifying the entire system of routines.

Those initiatives are often bundled or coordinated in central strategic and organizational development departments, such as the above mentioned Corporate Universities - if they understand themselves as a platform for the strategic transformation of the company. Some corporations use the term “School of Business”, instead. The Division Heads of the company act in the roles of “Deans”, partially similar to Deans at Universities. In the company, it is their job to transfer the strategic needs of their Divisions into transformation programs. The "School" or Corporate University ensures alignment. It is a joint effort to eventually derive from the strategy and these programs skill-based (individual) development plans. Often, especially young talents are engaged in the transformation initiatives. Sounding Boards consist of the Deans and Top Managers from the various Divisions.


For more information please contact me or, from an academic perspective, please refer to the Bibliography or the brief article Blind Spot of Leadership.

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