Dr. Viktoria Leonhard hat für das Buch "99+1 Warm-ups für den digitalen Raum" zwei Ideen beigesteuert und stellt sie vor.

June 2022


For the career podcast of TU Munich, my academic home, I gave an interview about how to master your own first leadership role. I myself led employees for the first time at a relatively young age, which was of course a very exciting experience for me. For even more insights and some useful tips, check out this article.

An inner compass

A comparison that I find very apt: From my point of view and personal experience, one’s own claim to leadership is definitely something like an inner compass. However, I do not understand leadership as micromanaging others. Rather, it is the opportunity to shape things that I associate with a leadership function.

It was probably this inner compass that led me to my first management position in a DAX 40 company. I took up this position at the age of 30 and made my way to Frankfurt, where I had to supervise 14 life insurance specialists.

It can be learned: Leadership does not have to be innate

It is a well-known fact that opinions differ as to whether you are born a leader or whether you can acquire the tools of the trade through training and experience. From my personal experience, I can confirm in the best sense that leadership can be learned. At a large corporation like my employer, there is a systematic process that prepares you for leadership tasks. Important elements are seminars, reflection sessions with other managers and guided self-reflection. So I wasn’t alone in my ambitions, but could rely on a proven process that helped me make the most of my opportunities.

My most important tools

If I had to name two things that I consider the most important in leading a team to success they would be communication skills and recognition. The necessary foundation for this is having a positive view of people and being friendly to others. Otherwise, even the greatest leadership role can quickly become a torment, because there’s no getting around conversations and contact. And that’s a good thing. For my part, I’m actually in constant conversation; I want to know what’s on my team’s mind. At the same time, I communicate my expectations openly.

Tip to go

My best tip for mastering a leadership role – and especially the first one – is to simply pick up the phone and call employees. Not to give them work orders, but to ask them frankly how they are feeling. Of course, this question should be sincere and the appropriate amount of time should be allotted for the answer. In such conversations, I ask a lot of questions myself and take notes. I want to know what motivates my team members, because private as well as professional issues can have an impact on the work. Every detail can be important.

In employee interviews, an open-ended question has also proven effective; for example, at the beginning I ask, “We now have 30 minutes. How do you want to use this time? What thoughts do you want to share with me?” Such a conversation is about the employees – not about me. I want to show them that I value them, both humanly and professionally, and that I am genuinely interested in them.

You can find the podcast  in German here: