Interview in the Magazine “Leadership Matters” of the Institute of Managers and Leaders, edition July 2018, page 38/39, see original article here
AFTER SWISS IT EXPERT GUNNAR HABITZ BECAME A SELF-DESCRIBED “ACCIDENTAL MANAGER” HE CHOSE TO UNDERTAKE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN MANAGEMENT AND LEADERSHIP.
STORY LACHLAN COLQUHOUN // PHOTOGRAPH GIRISH VERMA (Resonate Business Ignition).
THE FIRST TIME Gunnar Habitz CMgr FIML experienced Australia was a picture postcard arrival in Sydney’s Circular Quay on a cruise ship.
“It is one of the most amazing ways to arrive in any city, anywhere in the world,” says the Swiss IT Manager. “I fell in love with the city and from that moment I started to think that it might be somewhere I could consider as my new home. So I decided to give it a try at 40-odd years old, and start this adventure.”
That was two years ago, and since then Habitz has acquired permanent residency and a role as a Channel Sales Manager with the IT provider KeepItSafe, a cloud storage and disaster recovery solutions provider.
“I am passionate about the transformation of modern workplaces to embrace new ways of collaboration,” he says.
“I am convinced that cloud-based tools, mobility and artificial intelligence enable these trends, so I consult and guide my audience as a trusted advisor along the change journey, to prepare them for a connected tomorrow.”
He sees the Australian ICT industry as an ideal test market for innovative technologies and services.
“One of the reasons I moved to Sydney in 2016 was to apply my European experience in the cloud to sunny Australia,” he says.
The move came after two decades working in various roles in the IT industry, and more than a decade at Hewlett-Packard in Switzerland, from where he managed sales teams covering Central Eastern Europe.
“It was not my initial intention to become a leader, it happened after I became an IT expert, so I am what you would call an accidental manager,” says Habitz.
“I also led the team remotely. My team included 32 people but they were spread over 29 countries, and although I spent 90 days a year staying in hotels on the road, most of the communication happened using virtual communication.
“I found I needed a variable skill set to make that happen and use my visionary and participative leadership styles. I never said to people they had to do things the same way we do things in Switzerland, because I realised the market developments were quite different.”
One of Habitz’s goals on moving to Australia was to attend formal management and leadership training, especially as Australia has a reputation for outstanding education programs.
While he had acquired Advanced Business Studies in Zürich on top of his Master of Computer Science and had done in-house leadership trainings at Hewlett-Packard, he felt he lacked formal education in leadership.
Upon his arrival in Australia he finished an Advanced Diploma of Leadership and Management at the Australian Institute of Management and has become a Chartered Manager and Fellow via IML as a commitment to further develop and improve his skills.
In approaching his leadership journey, Habitz is guided by a belief that “the world needs more leaders who are not just managers.”
“At the moment I am in a small team and while I am not the manager from an official point of view, I do try to lead with experience and [by] example,” he says.
“This is something that we don’t see enough of in the world — but we need more of it.
“Companies are reducing management layers and smaller start-ups have very flat structures, so the individuals need leadership skills as well to develop towards sustainable success.”
Habitz is also driven by a personal credo of management which comprises a series of “i” words. They are inspiration, influence, impact, improve, interest … and imperfect.
Why imperfect? He believes leaders need to understand that no one is perfect. Habitz also draws a distinction between management and leadership: “Simply speaking, a manager is managing processes while a leader is leading people,” he says.
It is a view reflected in his approach to the IT industry where he uses a Sydney Harbour analogy, inspired by his arrival in Australia, to explain the difference:
“Like the Sydney Harbour Bridge covers two important parts of the city, I combine the technical with the business side,”
“As International Sales Manager across European countries, I learnt to adopt quickly to different cultures.
“Now it is great for me to apply that learning on the diversity in the Australian marketplace. The people-to-people business culture helped me to further develop myself to become a strategic networker using modern skills like social selling and virtual leadership.”