It’s Time for Changing the Current Leadership Paradigm
Interview with Julia Juergens
Head of Leadership Development at METRO AG
Julia, what does purpose mean to you personally? What makes you thrive?
Julia Juergens: I have always felt the urge to save the world, as silly or naive as it may sound. I am committed to justice and fairness in the broadest sense. To be achieved not in a court battle as a lawyer, but by advancing human rights, social and environmental justice, so that Mother Earth is treated fairly and all sentient beings as equally valuable.
It was quite a way for me to sharpen the very vague “wanting to save the world”, to define my own purpose and to refine it over time.
For many years, I was engaged full-time in the field of rule of law, democratization and human rights. For the United Nations and other international organizations, I traveled the globe to advance these principles within local governments. Then, at some point, I decided to take a fresh and broader look at myself… to find out what fits me best, what am I really good at, what are my real competencies, my very personal human talents and qualities? And I wondered, what do I really enjoy doing most, what gives me the greatest fulfilment in my actions, when do I feel most effective and at ease with what I do? This reflection made it clear to me that my empathy allows me to understand very well why people do what they do — that is, to understand what drives or blocks people. In short, it is easy for me to decipher motivations. In fact, I have a long history of mediating in conflicts and building bridges, helping people to understand each other better, for example, why the other person got angry, or why she or he needs this or that now. I then decided to take a new career direction and got qualified as a mediator and coach. After all, I had gained greater clarity with that, and moreover, a much more defined purpose than I used to have when I was a child, when I thought I should do like Zorro and just destroy all the evil in this world.
“My purpose is to help people better understand themselves and others, and thereby creating more consciousness, for the benefit of the whole planet.”
My purpose has become the foundation of many of my decisions, and it makes my life easier, because it helps me not to get bogged down, but instead to stay focused on what I believe I am in this world for.
What is your vision for 2030?
Julia Juergens: My vision for 2030 — or perhaps a bit sooner or later — is to change the prevailing paradigm of leadership. What is Leadership? What does leadership stand for and what purpose should it serve? I am convinced that, unfortunately, the term leadership is used in an inflationary way these days, simply indicating a hierarchical level or position, for example, synonymously with “manager”. Someone who has power, personnel or project responsibility in any way is often automatically referred to as a “leader”. I dare to disagree with that!
I believe that you become a leader not by holding a certain position, but only by consistently serving a higher purpose beyond career, popularity and profit. This requires awareness of and connection with one’s own purpose. That can be a very young person, or someone who is already retired — anybody can be or become a leader. For me, leadership stands for being of service to a larger whole. For the conviction, desire, and determination of a person to dedicate all his or her striving, energy, and actions to a greater good, a higher purpose that relates to the good of the community on Earth. In this regard, I would like to contribute to a public reframing and rethinking of the concept of leadership, illuminating that it is more than just holding a certain position, and not synonymous with being the boss of a team of ten people.
“Leadership means taking responsibility also towards the planet and humanity, and to act out of the instinct or awareness that we are all connected.”
I would like to support those people who share this ambition, who have this demeanour and this mindset, so that they become stronger and more effective in implementing their goals.
What is your personal commitment to the 2030 path? What do you need for this?
Julia Juergens: My commitment is to stick to the issue, not let myself be distracted, and to remain true to myself. I can combine it very well with my Purpose, by continuing to support particularly those people to become more conscious, effective and successful, who sense our global interconnectedness, and who would like to leverage those connections in a sustainable way. Those people who also feel the need to tackle important concerns of our communities with positive action. And by encouraging them to recognize their own leadership. In practice, as we regularly do with our managers in large companies, I can give them means and methods that help them to clearly see themselves, to better understand their own motivations and the motivations of others, and hence to become more conscious. There are already so many proven ways to help a person in their individual growth process, in order to become stronger internally, to communicate better, and to move forward more decidedly. To let all these helpful approaches to personal development, with which I am familiar, to benefit the right people — those who serve a higher purpose — that is my commitment.
What I need are like-minded partners in crime from all directions: within the company, within society, within my circle of friends and family. I need support for my activities. Perhaps from time to time I need someone who broadens my horizon, by sharing his or her own prudent thoughts. Or people who have practical knowledge and skills and help me with the concrete implementation, for example, who can handle business matters, who know how to put such a vision into practice. Or people who can write, to carry this idea further out into the world. And maybe, at some point, financial support, to implement my intention in a wider context. I need even more contact with like-minded people, no matter what they do, no matter what their background is.
Which Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) does your work contribute to?
Julia Juergens: Indirectly, my work pays into achieving all the goals, but probably most directly into SDG 17 — the partnerships to achieve the goals, which are brought to life through a new leadership awareness.
“I believe that we need a new SDG, namely an ‘SDG ZERO’ — for the consciousness that, when developed, can establish an inner connection to the actual 17 goals.”
Global awareness is an enormously important prerequisite for achieving the 17 SDGs. Without inner, personal transformation, there will be no external, systemic transformation.
Who inspires you? Why?
Julia Juergens: I am inspired by various people — for example, how Steve Jobs brought his vision into the world, or Leonardo Di Caprio, who offers his vigor to the topic of climate protection. The strength of Martin Luther King to stand up for his principles and values.
As a fictional character, I was particularly touched by the role of the playwright Georg Dreyman in the movie “The Life of Others“. Someone who, out of his conviction, puts everything at risk in order to serve a larger cause — here to make known the truth about the GDR system in the West, in order to achieve a system change through external pressure. A person who determinedly serves the greater whole with his own life. Although he was in a very secure position, the author decided to do something about the oppression and injustice. At the same time, he remains very kindly and without judgement, given the weaknesses and mistakes of his fellow human beings. He manages to keep an appreciative attitude, even for his girlfriend, who cannot withstand the pressure of the system. He stays firmly rooted and does not drop his affectionate relationships with the people close to him. His embodiment of courage, clarity, love and compassion inspires me deeply.
Which book or podcast episode do you recommend to others who are also interested in leadership, sustainability and consciousness?
Julia Juergens: A great book touching upon all three topics: “Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies” by Otto Scharmer, founder of the Presencing Institute, and Katrin Kaeufer.
My favourite English language podcast is Oprah Winfrey’s “Oprah’s Super-Soul Conversations”.
Dear Julia, thank you very much for sharing your inspiring perspective and your personal insights with us!
Julia’s picture by André Wagenzik