voestalpine CEO talks about "The art of leadership"

April 26, 2017

How leadership works in turbulent times

A capacity audience attended the Alumni Lounge held at the WU Executive Academy on April 20, 2017: Speaking on the topic of “The art of leadership in turbulent times“, Dr. Wolfgang Eder, CEO of voestalpine, shared his expertise and experience in leadership. Some 140 alumni showed up for this unique opportunity to see the Austrian industry pioneer who thinks outside the box and has decades of experience and to network in an exclusive setting.

The fact that no fewer than 140 people gathered in the foyer of the WU Executive Academy building on April 20, 2017 already gave away that the Alumni Lounge would be a real highlight featuring a very special guest: Dr. Wolfgang Eder, Chairman and CEO of the globally active voestalpine group. During a discussion with Prof. Barbara Stöttinger, Dean of the WU Executive Academy, the leading Austrian executive offered very personal insights into his decades-long experience. Having spent almost 40 years at voestalpine, Wolfgang Eder is no stranger to change and to initiating deep-seated transformation processes. He thus had a wealth of valuable input to provide on the topic of “The art of leadership in turbulent times”.

This was how voestalpine has been able to develop from a traditional steel company into a global high-tech group since the 1980s. Under Wolfgang Eder's leadership, the Austrian industry icon has managed to triple its annual turnover to more than 11 billion euro. During his conversation with Prof. Barbara Stöttinger, Wolfgang Eder discussed his personal experience regarding different milestones in his career such as the denationalization of state-owned industries in the 1980s. A large focus at the event was on how leaders can develop clear strategies for their company in turbulent times. Wolfgang Eder does this by developing scenarios that are substantiated through a wealth of data.

Moreover, he talked about current and future change, explaining, among other things, why his employees between the ages of 35 and 50 find coping with the digital revolution particularly challenging, and how president Trump's “America First” approach might affect voestalpine.

An alumni event with many aspects

The audience found the relaxed manner of the voestalpine CEO refreshing: “Dr. Eder had a few very original answers and views to offer that I subscribe to based on my professional experience. In particular, I remember that he urged executives to have a consistent long-term vision and hold fast to it, even in turbulent times,” says Angela Kaipel-Zaffalon in summing up her impressions of the Alumni Lounge. The graduate of the 2009 Global Executive MBA class and Head of Management Contracts at Mondi AG attends events like this, first and foremost, to engage in networking: “It is always interesting to hear from long-time colleagues and new acquaintances about their career development. As far as my HR work is concerned, the Alumni Lounge provides me with a welcome opportunity to look for talent.”

Angela Kaipel-Zaffalon speaks in front of a camera
Angela Kaipel-Zaffalon, an MBA alumna and Head of Management Contracts at Mondi AG, found the inputs from Dr. Eder to be useful.

Wolfgang Eder has also been able to benefit from interacting with the alumni: “What makes this important exchange of views and opinions particularly exciting is the fact that the alumni of the WU Executive Academy still have the dynamism of young professionals and they have this interesting exposure to an academic environment which makes discussions valuable. Even with years of real-world industry experience under my belt, I realize time and again that, professionally speaking, I can make really good use of the input provided by younger colleagues. I hope I can give something back to them, so that we all benefit from one another - because, ultimately, that's what this event is about.”

Inspiration for executives

Prof. Barbara Stöttinger, Dean of the WU Executive Academy, sums up the evening as follows: “I think we have all gained a wealth of inspiration and ideas as to how executives can help their businesses cope with the complex challenges of today and tomorrow. They have to think in diverse scenarios and need the courage to lead the way in navigating these scenarios and pursuing their strategies consistently. Ultimately, they cannot succeed in doing this unless they motivate and constantly encourage their employees and colleagues to follow suit.”

Missed the Alumni Lounge? The full video of the discussion with Dr. Wolfgang Eder is available for streaming at facebook.com/wu.executive.academy. 

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