Leadership Conference in Berlin – the story of its evolution

Berlin from June 13 to June 15 will be the location of a major leadership conference. The conference is taking place in a historical venue – the former East German State Council Building – the building which was the official seat of the East German government. The conference theme is the task of leading across generations.

The conference promises to be very special. The welcome speaker to the conference will be Michael Diekmann – the chairman and CEO of Allianz – one of the largest insurance companies in the world. The list of speakers and attendees to this conference will make it one of the most important in Europe on this topic this year.

I will speak more about the conference in future blog posts. Today I would like to talk about my involvement in making this conference happen.

Back in 2001, I attended a conference of the International Leadership Association (ILA) in Miami, Florida. I remember being quite puzzled as to why this association was calling itself international. I was one of 4 people at that conference that lived outside of the United States.

But the association had large aspirations and before I knew it, the President of ILA – Cynthia Cherrey convinced me to head up an effort to organize the first global ILA conference in Europe. Along with Ted Baartmans who also attended the Miami conference, I helped to organize an international leadership conference in Amsterdam in 2005. Since then, I have played a role in organizing conferences in Prague (2009) and London (2011).

The ILA has come a long way since then. It is truly international with over 2500 members. As such it is the largest association in the world dealing with the topic of leadership. I have been a board member of the ILA since 2003.

The Berlin conference represents a new service offering for the ILA. Previous global conferences have been dedicated to leadership in general. The Berlin conference is dedicated to a specific leadership topic. Berlin does not replace the global conference but compliments it. ILA’s global conference which has been a continuing success will this year be in Denver. Over 1000 participants are expected to attend the Denver conference.

After the 2009 global conference in Prague, I travelled throughout Europe looking for partners for ILA with the specific intent of creating topical conferences. Through the various discussions, I connected with the European School of Management and Technology. The first discussions began in early 2010. ESMT has developed over the past four years a conference series known as the ESMT Annual Forum. In these conferences, many topics of the school were highlighted to alumni and friends of the school.  Through the partnership with the ILA, ESMT sees an opportunity to really focus the conference on leadership and make it an international event.

I have been working with Professor Konstantin Korotov of ESMT on the conference content and design. A truly cooperative effort has emerged between the two organizations with project teams in Berlin and Maryland contributing to a new look, feel and structure to this newest of ILA conference offerings. I am proud to have helped bring this type of conference into the world.

Workers of the World Unite

“With time and patience, the mulberry leaf becomes satin. With time and patience the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown.” Chinese Proverb


Over 200 leaders explore growth in family owned businesses

This past week I attended the 14th Annual Conference for Family Businesses hosted by the University of Witten/Herdecke on February 10th and 11th. Approximately 250 people were present representing some of the most powerful family businesses in the German speaking world. Not only was I able to attend, but I had the privilege to facilitate a dialogue session that included all conference participants.

Family businesses form the backbone of the German economy. The top 500 owned family businesses employ 4.5 Million people in Germany and have a  total sales volume  of 900 billion Euros. These family companies have done considerably better than publicly traded companies. During the period of 2006 to 2010, they increased employment by 11% while the DAX publicly traded companies only added 2%.

Family-owned businesses answer to a different rhythym than publicly traded companies. They are often not under the pressure to produce quarterly results, but can take a longer term perspective. They also tend to pay more attention to issues such as values and organizational culture.

Some of these family-owned businesses have been around for a long time. In 1668 Friederich Jacob Merck began a pharmacy in the city of Darmstadt.  These were the beginnings of what is now a multibillion Euro pharmaceutical company – Merck KGaA – the oldest pharmaceutical company in the world. It is still owned by the family.  The US company with the name Merck, Sharpe and Dohme – one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world – was once the US subsidiary of Merck KGaA but became an independent entity during World War I.

The dialogue I facilitated included all 250 participants at the conference. It brought participants in conversation around the key questions surrounding the theme of the conference – “Growth”. What does it mean to grow sustainably? How do you know when growth represents a danger to the company? Can growth affect the nature of the family business? How does the family need to grow to keep up with the growth of the business? What internal organizational growth is necessary in order to take advantage of new markets? Where does personal growth fit in this overall picture?

To prepare for this dialogue, I had interviews with Professor Dr. Rudolf Wimmer who gave the initial keynote address as well as interviews with several CEOs running family businesses – including Jon Baumhauer, the current CEO of Merck KGaA. The dialogue ran for three hours and was rated one of the highlights of the conference.

The University of Witten/Herdecke invited Jeffrey Beeson to hold a World Café about growth and Leadership

Leadership Catalyst Jeffrey Beeson and Caroline Schürenkrämer – memeber of the organizational team of "Faszination Wachstum", 14. congress for family businessJeffrey Beeson from Entheos hosted the 14. issue of the congress "Faszination Wachstum"














“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement,

achievement, and success have no meaning.”

  Benjamin Franklin

The Leadership Catalyst – Introduction

Leadership can be transformational.  With the right leadership in place, companies and organizations can accomplish what seems to be impossible.

Just yesterday I saw the film – The Way Back – a story about a polish political prisoner who in 1941 escapes the Soviet Gulag in Siberia.  He and six other inmates embark on a journey by foot of 5000 km across the very inhospitable terrain which includes the Gobi desert and the Himalayas.  Through sheer determination and resilience, three of the original seven finally make it all the way to India.

We should never underestimate the power of the human spirit.  Leadership is the key to unlocking that potential.

Organizations often are not aware of this power – or do not know how to access it.

In this blog, I will report on the day to day activities of leadership consulting.  This work takes place in many dimensions.  From the perspective of the individual, leadership involves learning about myself, leveraging my strengths and finding the courage to lead not from fear but from conviction.  At the level of a team, leadership requires understanding the various indispensible roles in a well functioning team, sensing team spirit and finding opportunity amongst conflict.  Organizational leadership is about context – setting the right environment for performance and transformation to unfold.  Its key elements include purpose, values, culture, networks, objectives…

Jeffrey Beeson speaking about leadership stratregy

The common denominator for all three levels is energy.  What leaders do – is unleash the energy in individuals, teams and organizations.

“How do you know you have won? When the energy is coming the other way and when your people are visibly growing individually and as a group.”

Sir John Harvey-Jones – former Chairman of Imperial Chemical Industries