By Fati Gorezi
Anders Eklund is the co-founder and Managing Director of “Geneswiss Consultancy”, an international Coaching and Consulting firm headquartered in Zurich Switzerland. They develop, improve and empower organisations by using their own S.P.E.A.K.™ methodology (Systems, Purpose, Excellence, Analysis, Knowledge).
What started as a burning interest to anything engineered, made Anders a successful leader, whose purpose today is to improve the world through excellent leaders. As team leader, Anders was recognied as very trustworthy and target-oriented with the ability to co-operate smoothly with people from different cultures. His great leadership qualities include strong team building and change management skills. Tools, which he has used to build up his wide and global network for optimising and delivering results.
Can you tell us more about your entrepreneurial journey?
My entrepreneurial journey started in my childhood. In the village where I grew up, my late father was a shop owner and it was the only grocery store in the area. I can vaguely remember when I was with him in the shop, how he was jotting down prices on paper and counting the final sum together for the client. By the time he passed away the store was closed. I was then seven years old – a lively first-grader. As the youngest, still living at home, I had to step up the game and help my mother with everything around the house. The following years taught me responsibility and gratitude. Early on, I was the ‘man in the house’. If I wanted something, I had to work for it. Today I can appreciate this; it drove me into many entrepreneurial endeavours very naturally and sculpted me into an action-taker.
In my teenage years, I had a very clear vision about one day becoming a schooled, mechanical engineer. By that time, I had already taken apart and assembled probably every machine and engine in the house. Even our old ‘Telefunken’ television and other apparatus were often spread out on the floor for “improvements”. It was simply my “thing” – a talent of mine. A decade later I finally had my university diploma of ‘Mechanical Engineering’ in my pocket, which yielded me a 25 year-long successful and rewarding global career in the corporate world.
One could say that two years ago my circle had become full. I had returned to my entrepreneurial early roots and was finally ready to start my own Company – ‘Geneswiss Consultancy’. I love Coaching people around the world to become successful leaders. It is very rewarding.
Did you always aspire to reach a leadership role in your career?
Early in my career, becoming a leader was not my target. My focus was on becoming a very good Design Engineer, to learn all the tricks and to be an ‘improver’. In early 1993 my career took a swift turn, when I was promoted to the position of ‘Design Manager’ for one of the most important projects, at that time, in a Finnish Company called ‘Wärtsilä’ – world leader in the Energy and Shipping sector. Looking back, I think I landed this, my first leader position, because of my impeccable engineering skills combined with good people skills, my integrity my willingness to learn more. In addition, I was also striving for good results and wanting to help others succeed.
What are the biggest challenges that you have faced in life?
We all face challenges in life. It is a part of living, “growing”, if you will. If I had to pick one big challenge, it would be the one when we moved from Finland to Switzerland in 2008. Our daughters were 8 and 12 years old. Coming from a Finnish school system and with no or very little English language knowledge, it really was a tough move for our girls. As I was working and often travelling, my wife spent long nights and all weekends helping them with English, homework and to simply adapt to the school requirements. We almost gave up and were seriously considering returning back to Finland after one year. Those were tough times for the whole family. But fortunately, we managed to push through and we are all very happy that we stayed on course. This episode in our lives gave me an indelible understanding of the challenges which expats meet. What their families go through, how everyone is affected, how challenging it is to create balance between work-related travelling and home-time. Without life-balance one can’t reach his/her highest potential. There simply has to be balance. We all are in the ‘people-business’.
What defines a great leader?
To describe a great leader, I want to quote Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut who was the first Canadian to walk in space: “Ultimately, leadership is not about glorious crowning acts. It’s about keeping your team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it, especially when the stakes are high, and the consequences really matter. It is about laying the groundwork for others’ success, and then standing back and letting them shine.”
In other words, great leadership is about serving others before oneself. This, one must whole- heartedly understand and live by. You see, it is like this: Great leaders act with others in mind. Great leaders give. Great leaders “live on” and leave a legacy. In my “Leadership 2 Success” Coaching programme, I focus on three core-elements which cover all the above traits and qualities: Purpose, Life-Values and Communication. Successful leadership always starts from within.
What is keeping people from living their best life?
This is one of the most important questions one can ask. There are so many on this Earth who are not living their fullest lives. I think that people are not listening to their inner voices and what their hearts are telling them – their true purpose in life. So many are stuck with what they somehow “landed on” mostly due to circumstances or pressure from the “outside world”. Whether it derives from parents, siblings, peers or friends. Even when people feel and know that a change is a must in their lives, in order to feel happier, in order to be fulfilled and enjoy life, they don’t make changes.
Why is this?
I am a trained Coach and I utilise the latest knowledge of neuro-science for helping in leadership, management and organisational transformation. Meeting with teams and people, I see from close up how difficult it is to change and how a great deal of effort needs to take place in order for it to happen. Normally, only when it is an evident “must”, a “forced” change takes place. Why wait so long? 95% of our time is guided by our earlier habits and behaviours and our learned attitudes. This means that change doesn’t come naturally to most people. We prefer to stay in our comfort zones. We ourselves are our worst limitations. That’s why it is so difficult for us humans to seek, find and embrace our best lives.
Why are you in business?
I am really glad that you asked this. As I see it, great leadership is a dying form of art. What do I mean? Today’s business environment doesn’t properly recognise the imminent fact that leadership skills must be learned, trained and most of all, practiced with dedication and with one’s fullest heart. Being a great leader is a ‘calling’, not a job. Great leaders inspire us all to be better humans and propel us to reach our highest potential. As the best versions of ourselves this world will be a better place to live for everyone.I am passionate about my programme, “Leadership 2 Success”. Not only business-wise but also personally. Through my own hard work and gained experience, I know that great leadership inevitably leads to success stories. That is why I love to share my experience and teach this important art to as many as I can around the world. I say to my students “Leadership is simple, but it is hard work”. Good leadership always starts from the man, or the woman, in the mirror. This is why I am in the noble business of creating great leaders.
What inspires you most?
I am very inspired by the fact that I can start and establish positive improvements in people’s lives. To see when the “light bulb” goes on and someone really gets, when I am explaining, what great leadership truly entails. Great leaders in business, and in life in general, inspire us to find our strengths and missions and help us to go through challenges. Witnessing this happen is great and it inspires me the most. During my long career, I have also had the great privilege to work with different kinds of people from all parts of the world. Together we have created many success stories, and leading such driven and multi-cultural teams consisting of the smartest people I know is awesome! What can I say!? Achieving outstanding results is my passion!
What are the secrets behind your success?
Can we even call them secrets? I am very privileged and lucky, too, to be where I am today. There are many people I have to thank for my success. First of all, my Mother. I can truly thank her for the words she always used to say to me: “If you lie, you will always fail. If you tell the truth, whatever the situation, you will succeed beyond belief”. Those words of hers have truly guided me throughout the years.
Another person who has greatly influenced me on my path to success is my wife Marja. Today she also is an entrepreneur (@ marjaK). She is a remarkable woman and she has always supported and believed in me – ever since I started my career as a young engineer. Even when I did not fully believe in myself, she always did. Without her unwavering help and insight, I would not be the leader I am today.
I also need to mention Berit. She is a Norwegian Leadership Coach. I will never forget that two-hour coaching session with her; it truly turned ‘my lights onto full beam’. Berit made me fully understand the importance and the amazing power of “Life-Work-Balance”. How it can create great leadership, and how the lack of it can ruin everything – everything! Looking back, it is a perfect example of the power of Coaching and how crucial it is to be coached by the right person at the right time.
People behind the concepts of “Behavioral Theories” claim that people can become leaders through the process of teaching, learning and observation. According to them leadership is a set of skills that can be learned by training, perception, practice and experience over time. Learning Leadership skills is a life-long project. I have never believed in the saying that “Leaders are born.” All leaders are made! Hence, it is crucial to surround yourself with the right kind of supportive people. People who genuinely and wholeheartedly want to help you grow and become a better person – a better leader.
However, that is not enough. One must also want to become a better person by their own will. There are way too many people in managerial positions who unfortunately will never reach a leadership level. Why is this? It is because they don’t like (even want!) to listen to other people’s advice and recommendations. Their ego just doesn’t allow it. They spend their days living in their own “bubble”: and it prevents them from exploring and reaching their truest and highest potential as leaders. Also as human beings, to be honest.
I have always worked hard to learn from my mistakes and I have always kept an eye on how good leaders behave and how they do things in order to make their teams successful beyond expectations. Such leaders are wonderful role models and offer valuable “coaching” sessions in real-life-situations – for free!
How can more women become successful and start their own businesses? Can you share some advice?
To me it seems that, one of the biggest challenges many women struggle with is to believe in their own strengths, skills and capacities. I am convinced that this has much to do with the past. We don’t need to go far back in time when it was men who went to work, and women were expected to run the homes. When in truth, running a home is an extremely great entrepreneurial achievement and a lot of hard work.
I think that women are really great leaders and very creative thinkers – fantastic problem solvers! We men are “one target at a time” people, but women are able to juggle many things at the same time, staying focused, handling a crisis and still staying calm until the desired results are achieved. As an entrepreneur and business leader these capacities are priceless.
If I am to share my advice, it would be that all women who want to start their own businesses should simply trust their instincts, their skill sets and “just do it”. At the same time, we men must support all the women out there! It is rewarding to help someone overcome their fears in order to become a business owner. The secret is: “togetherness”.
What do you love most about Speaking and Coaching?
It very inspiring to contribute to others to help them grow and achieve their goals in becoming better leaders and happy human beings. It makes me feel good. My purpose is to create great Leaders so that we can all strive and thrive. It is that simple.
Do you have projects that you are currently working on?
Yes, I have. Through my “Leadership 2 Success” Coaching program I meet and work with people from different occupations and circumstances. It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about a CEO, a VP or a start-up business owner or a “private” person, they all need a Coach. Mind you, even a Coach needs a Coach!
Currently I work with two senior leaders who want to make changes in their lives; not only in business, but also on a personal level. My Coaching is always holistic and tailor-made; be it 1 on -1- Coaching or team Coaching. Creating a sustainable and purposeful change always starts from the personal level. To be a successful Coach one must be “all-in”, to give his/her fullest heart and attention to the client. How else can one understand the other person, his/her situation and what is hindering him/her from achieving the desired changes? This is my niche; this is how I differentiate myself from big Coaching firms and their programs. And this approach of mine has gained me many wonderful testimonials; the very best feed-back and reward one can ask for. I am truly working in the right business! I love my work as I’m sure you can see!
Photo credits to “MarjaK.me / Marja Katajisto-Eklund’’