Silke Kirsch
Photo | Kirsch
6 min.

Leadership | Executives in conversation

Why do you lead, Ms Kirsch?

From Sabine Walter, Head of netzwerk managementberatung | coaching

Silke Kirsch, manager at the international stand builder Max Rappenglitz GmbH says: No matter who you lead, children, customers or employees. It is always about people. If we see them, value them and give them room for development, that would be a big leap towards a better corporate culture and ultimately also towards better togetherness in our society.

I lead to make a difference.

S.W.: Why do you lead, Ms Kirsch?

I want to shape something, to move things. Together with other people, with my team.

We design and build exhibition stands. Every trade fair stand is a project for us. And for a project to be successful, it's not just about what product is being displayed and how the company wants to present itself at the trade fair. But for the success of the projects, it was and is of crucial importance how well we understood the people behind the products and the company and how trustingly colleagues and clients work together in the project. How they deal with each other, how they talk to each other and whether they value each other.

And that brings us to the topic of leadership. It is about people. It's about understanding who they are and what drives them and letting that inform your own thinking and actions.

Leadership means trust, empathy, clarity and structures

S.W.: What does "leadership" mean to you?

For me, leadership means building and maintaining a trusting relationship with the people around me. This includes that I understand the respective person: What are his strengths? What are their needs? What are their fears and concerns? What are their motivators? 

But that is only one side of building trust. Because it is also part of opening up and showing my strengths, concerns and needs. After all, I am also a human being and not just a leader.

As a mother of two sons, I find, that there are very many parallels between raising children and managing staff.

S.W.: In what way?

Both are about making the To recognise people in their entirety - as a mother of my children, as a leader of my staff: What makes them tick? What talents and needs do they have? What do they need to enjoy doing things, to have fun doing what they do? Once I understand that, I can generate that enthusiasm - whether it's homework or projects. 

For this to succeed it needs Trust, empathy, clarity and structures. It needs sincere appreciation: Appreciation of strengths, so that they become so supportive that weaknesses no longer carry weight. It needs A sense of humour and the will and ability to see eye-to-eye.

It needs Openness to the ideas of others and also a certain Courage to take risks, to go unknown ways sometimes. It needs a Good balance between closeness and distanceIn which situations do I need to be close? In which situations is it important to leave a lot of free space? Only then can something new really emerge and the attraction of getting involved with one's ideas and commitment be maintained in the long term.

Another aspect that I need both as a mother and as a leader is a inner and outer peace. Especially in situations where things have gone wrong, it is important to radiate calm. Panic or reproaches do not help. The other day, a young colleague came to me in an agitated state. There was a problem with a stand. My first reaction was: 'Don't panic. This is not heart surgery. It's an exhibition stand.' By then she could breathe more calmly and was open to solving the problem with me step by step.

Mistakes have happened. That is the past. There is nothing that can be done about it. But by the way I deal with the mistakes of others, I can contribute to mistakes being corrected more quickly and to learning from them. This increases the chance that things will not happen exactly the same way again. Then mistakes are part of a development process and lose their negative connotation.

A medium-sized company like Rappenglitz lives from the quality of its employees.

S.W.: Why is leadership of central importance at Rappenglitz?

We are a medium-sized company. We cannot draw from an infinite supply of staff. And the quality of our exhibition stands lives from the creativity, experience and commitment of our staff.

I lead because I want to develop people.

S.W.: What makes you a leader?

I care about people. I want to grasp, understand and develop them. I am very open, sometimes (too) direct and I carry a great enthusiasm for what I do. And I want this spark to fly. And how that happens varies from staff member to staff member. I want to develop people and things.

I have repeatedly received feedback from kindergarten and after-school care that our sons have absolute basic trust. What do you mean by that?' I asked. The answer was: 'Your sons know inside that they can trust you absolutely, that - no matter what happens - they are in good hands with you, and that they can simply be who they are'.

And I do the same with my team. Everyone is different. Everyone is allowed to be the way they are. Everyone has their strengths. And I see it as my job to tease these out and link them with the strengths of the others. Only then will we be successful as a team and also as a company in the long term.

S.W.: You describe very central aspects of leadership. Now, unfortunately, there are still many leaders who have not yet recognised this and thus do not live it in their everyday leadership.

A paradigm shift in leadership results in better togetherness in our society

S.W.: What would change from your point of view if we had a paradigm shift in leadership?

People would enjoy their work more and be sick less. The willingness to take on responsibility would increase significantly, as would commitment. There would be less "work to rule" or internal resignations.

The elementary point here is appreciation. Only when this is present and the employees are really seen will they build an emotional relationship with their company. If that is missing, the company and the job become interchangeable. People come and go and more and more know-how goes with them. That is a dangerous development.

The goal of every manager should be not only to create a working relationship, but also to establish a trusting working relationship with each employee.relationship and nurture them. The same applies to customers, by the way. 

Perhaps it can be summed up like this: No matter who you lead, children, clients or employees. It is always about people. If we see them, value them and give them room for development, that would be a big leap towards a better corporate culture and ultimately also towards better togetherness in our society.

Silke Kirsch is a graduate engineer specialising in interior design. She has been working for Max Rappenglitz GmbH for more than 20 years. As team leader, she sees it as her task to be there for her employees, to support them in an inspiring way and thus to shape the future of the company together. 

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