Longevity and leadership: an Angela Merkel masterclass

Image of German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Businesspeople can learn from Angela Merkel’s approach to leadership, says Chris Niarchos. (Image: 360b / Shutterstock.com)

Angela Merkel was elected to her record fourth term as Chancellor of Germany last month, making it evermore clear that this woman knows what makes a great leader.

Of course, there are many “right” ways to lead – different styles bring different qualities to the table – but there’s no doubt that the business world can learn a whole lot from Merkel’s approach and staying power.

Calculate your risks

Merkel once described how, as a child, it took her an hour of standing on a diving board before she was able to jump off. “That’s how I am; not particularly courageous. I always need time to weigh up the risks,” she says.

She’s been given flak for being overly cautious, but Merkel’s ability to weigh up risks has kept her leadership steady.

In business, accurately assessing potential risk to reward is critical. You can’t always play it safe, but making sure you know what is on the line is the best way to avoid taking a poor gamble.

Be pragmatic

Perhaps because of her science background, Merkel usually takes a methodical and pragmatic approach in dealing with issues of the day.

She once said: “For me, it is always important that I go through all the possible options for a decision.”

Such an approach can be hugely beneficial in business as well as politics. Rather than acting on impulse, giving yourself space to make a decision will often prevent you from reacting to a situation emotionally.

There are times when it pays to go with your gut, but you should make sure your head gets a say too.

Stand apart from the crowd

Merkel entered politics with no political background. She’s a divorced Protestant woman in a Catholic party. Nothing wrong with any of that, of course, but it does highlight that she’s clearly used to being a member of the minority!

But far from letting that hold her back, she’s used it to her advantage and built a reputation of courage by never being afraid to be a lone voice.

Following the crowd can only take you so far; to reach the top you need to be willing to make bold moves alone.

Having confidence in yourself is such an important part of business. If anyone’s going to believe in your ability to succeed, it should be you!

Chris Niarchos is a lifelong entrepreneur and founder of The Cobra Group of Companies, which specialises in incubating, developing and managing a portfolio of start-up enterprises and successful companies.


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