EXPATRIATE LEADERS OF THE TURKISH BUSINESS WORLD

Where does Turkey belong amidst globalization? Is Turkey a European compared to the EU and the new members of the expanding Europe? Or a bridge to former Soviet Republics (maybe to Turkic ones) or to the ever-boiling Middle East?

Location wise Turkey does not belong to one region but many. Turkey is a real multicultural environment. The world’s leading, companies do not know where to list Turkey. They have been facing the question, “Which regional Vice President should run our investments in Turkey?” Some says Europe, some says Eurasia and some Central Europe-South Europe-Middle East situating it in the center. Turkish economy and its business world is another story of its own. Inflation cannot be reduced for decades plus there is a huge off-record, off-tax economy. Turkey has a slow and ineffective bureaucracy, and an incomprehensive legal system.   

The Turkish people have become used to developing unique methods against this complex system. Many Turkish managers came strong out of this ambiguity. What about foreign investors then? How are they supposed to know what skills and traits their CEO needs to have to manage their business in Turkey? In my opinion they need to take the country as one big market. A manager in Turkey should also have extended responsibilities in surrounding regional markets. That’s why a CEO in Turkey needs to be highly skilled experienced and adopt to different cultures.

FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENTS AND THEIR MANAGERS

Turkey has been receiving foreign investment for many years. Of course it could have been better. One thing these investments bring, aside from capital, is the management/manager know-how. Managers with proven success in world’s leading markets are teaching their companies in Turkey, their own organizational culture and management and leadership. Expatriates in Turkey are being evaluated by their management methods in Turkey. Because there is a belief that if they make it in Turkey, they will make it anywhere. The ones that succeed in Turkey climb up the ladder to move important positions, of course there are those who continue to work in Turkey. These are the ones that keep the business running without changes or innovations. Then they go to an easier country as an expatriate.

 The famous conglomerate Pirelli family had sent their future leader to Turkey for a while. The reason behind the move was that the person in question could get a priceless experience/education by fighting inflation under different conditions.

 Well-know appliance manufacturer Merloni’s current CEO was the GM of their operations in Turkey before becoming the CEO. This success in Turkey carried him to the top. For expatriates Turkey is an experiment to survive and grow as well as a platform for personal improvement. These managers first gather macro information (environment, economic, bureaucratic, legal, etc.) on their arrival in Turkey. Then they form their management teams. They give this team a vision and teach their own business cultures. Then they start carving leaders out of these teams to replace themselves. Like some international soccer coaches did in the eighties, these leaders are training new CEO candidates.

WHAT KIND OF CEO FOR TURKEY?

 When we look at successful international companies in Turkey, we can see legendary leaders behind this success. These leaders bring a sense of institution and professionalism with them. They increase the contribution of their staff to the company. They do not tolerate personal demands. They run their companies according to their needs.

 The biggest sign of success for them is the added value and synergy that their team is going to create for the company. In order to achieve this, they bring abroad the necessary talent either from their offices around the world or from other companies in Turkey. Then they make their teams run along the framework of their vision. The result is generally a success beyond expectations. 

LEADERSHIP STYLES ARE DIFFERENT BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE DIFFERENT

Mohsen Noohi has been the GM of Sony Eurasia Turkey for a year. In this short period, he reorganized the company, increased sales and profits thus adding to their staff despite an economic crisis. He has used his previous experience to do all this. He has been assigned to a various duties, in different countries with Sony for 24 years. Noohi shared his leadership secrets with us.

Yeşim Toduk Akiş (YTA) : How do you define Leadership?
Mohsen Noohi (MN): My basic assumption; in life, organisations and individuals need to achieve results and to make progress. Leadership is about achieving progress and results through people. Leadership styles are different because people are different. Both those leading and those being led. I asked a few of my team members what they understand by leadership.  One said, it is about having “vision”; another said, the leader and his vision must be “believable “; another person I spoke with said “charisma “ helps. In my experience, leadership is a mixture of many ingredients and also the result of many experiences. Just as you have different soft drinks or café blends to match local tastes- leader must have the ingredients to match the culture of his team, his company or the industry.  For example, the leader must decide to behave like the director of an orchestra or be a bandleader in a jazz band with much individual freedom within an agreed frame.

YTA: How different is being a leader in Turkey from other countries? What was your start like?

MN: In leadership, there clearly are cultural influences but there are as likely to occur within a country or industries than between countries. But it is all about people, so the person in leadership position must spend time to know his people well.

When I first arrived in Turkey about a year ago, the first steps I took related to knowing people.  So I requested a short CV from everyone and a personal review about what they think about their career needs, their strengths etc. I also created number of small multi disciplined teams with brief to provide solutions to real life challenges the company faced. This allowed me to better evaluate my team not based on their titles but based on their contributions on the job and the team. 

YTA: How could one become an effective leader? What they should pay attention to?

MN: Effective leaders are creating a meaningful and easy to understand vision, identify routes to success, empower people and guide them to the vision through signposts on a road map, share difficulties and learn together, celebrate success together.

Power of team is greater than power of individual. Power of self is greater than power of title. So it is important to allow people to feel they are part of a team, participating, contributing and those they are appreciated. They need to be empowered. Empowerment is more related to meritocracy not democracy or hierarchy. That means the leader must ensure he has quality people around him, give them the right tools and empowerment they will help leader achieve vision even beyond expectations. 

My proposed LEADERSHIP VIRTUOUS CIRCLE is:

“In life, organizations and individuals need to achieve results and to make progress”

PROGRESS is about ACHIEVEMENT

ACHIEVEMENT is about EMPOWERMENT

EMPOWERMENT is about LEADERSHIP

LEADERSHIP is about PEOPLE

PEOPLE is about MOTIVATION

MOTIVATION is about AMBITION

AMBIION is about VISION

VISON is about BELIAVABILITY

BELIEVABILITY is about SIMPLICITY

SIMPLICITY is about CLARITY

CLARITY is about COMMUNICATION

COMMUNICATION is about INFLUENCING

INFLUENCING is about creating DESIRE

DESIRE is about ACTION

ACTION is about PROGRESS 

LEADERSHIP CANNOT BE LEARN BY THE TIME, IT COMES FROM BIRTH

Mercedes-Benz Türk is one of the oldest and biggest companies owned by foreign capital in Turkey. It has been operating in Turkey since 1967. In its factories located in Hoşdere and Davutpaşa it produces intercity and city type buses whereas in its factory located in Aksaray it produces light and heavy duty trucks and semitrailer tractors.

Dr. Till Becker has been the manager of the company in Turkey. He came to Turkey after gaining experience in different countries. He is a member of the Board of Directors of Foreign Investors Association (YASED) and an active member of Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (TUSIAD). He is well known for the speech he delivered in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in 2002 about “Improving the investment environment in Turkey and attracting more foreign capital to Turkey”.

Yeşim Toduk Akiş (YTA) : How do you separate Leadership from Management? Where do you draw  the line between Leadership and Management?

Till Becker (TB): I do not separate Leadership from Management. For me, you cannot do one without another. Leadership is how to bring people behind you, to let them first follow you. As a leader, you have to built up your people’s mindset, get them to gear into objection, and then let them develop their own responsibilities. They have to think for how to solve the task and/or the problem but in order to do that you have to be creative. Whereas management is the “how to get things done in the best and the most efficient way”.

YTA: Do you think Leadership comes from birth or learn it by the time?

TB: Leadership in principle is more in birth than learned. You have to have a certain input so that you can apply. There are some leadership tools that can help develop people’s success like as reading, education, and/or financially. You have to have enthusiasm in leadership, you have to let your people believe to themselves, so that they can come and like to work for you. People have to come to work willingly. As a leader, again you should know how to bring the idea to win, to success. The tools would help only partly.

LEADERSHIP VIRTUOUS CIRCLE

“in life, organisations and individuals need to achieve results and to make progress”