Armin Leonard Rau

My Full Story

Finding the right way to lead people and an organisation was the riddle of my life. How to find the right balance between being on one hand close to my employees and on the other hand being respected. That was the central question for me.

Finally, in 2008, I was taught a lesson in my role as Managing Director of a consulting company. I hit rock bottom due to inadequate leadership. Since then, I’ve been changing my leadership style completely, managed to make a €25m organization profitable and finally built my own company being free, independent, and relaxed. I am leading a virtual team of marketing, accounting, and sales professionals who are loyal and high-performing.

In 2018, after successfully coaching a start-up leading to an ROI of 70%, I decided to create a coaching programme to share with entrepreneurs and business owners globally how to change from founder/owner to leader/manager.

With that decision, LIFE (Leadership Insights For Entrepreneurs) was born. It will be the first global community of entrepreneurial leaders.

But my leadership experience goes back a long way.

Sometimes, I am asking myself why I like leading and managing others so much. As I say in the video on my home page, I am not from an entrepreneurial family. My father was a clerk and later a salesman in pharmaceutical wholesale companies. My mum was a housewife after I was born and was fully committed to her household, her husband, and the children.

And still, I learned a lot about leadership and management in early life.

First, there was my mum who came from a very well-situated family with her father running an established building company. She told me a lot of stories about my grandfather whom I never got to know (he died in a motorcycle accident when my mum was 12 years old).

My grandfather must have been a natural leader whose main strengths were to motivate people and build strong human relationships. In addition, he understood his business. These three ingredients must have made him a great leader.

Unfortunately, the business went bust after his death. That was a dreadful event for my mum and I believe that she suffered from it her whole life. But there you go, life is not fair and we have to look into the future.

Unconsciously, I must have decided to make up for this piece of bad luck and become successful myself. And I did!

First, for some 20 years as a manager within big corporates and Managing Director of smaller companies and start-ups, as an investor, and finally as a self-employed trainer and coach teaching entrepreneurs how to become better leaders.

My second big inspiration was my father who, even though not in a top management or entrepreneurial position himself, had the gift of leadership without authority. That is how he organised and managed a whole department in one of his previous firms without an official mandate.

In addition, he successfully managed a sports club as voluntary president with voluntary people helping him. You can’t really force people in voluntary jobs to do what you want them to do.

So, I learnt a lot about persuasion from my father. A very important trait of great leaders.

There are two more things that I learnt from my father: listening to others and finding good compromises. And he also taught me that firm principles are the basis for great leadership.

He would listen a lot, seek the best solution, but… when boundaries were overstepped, he would not hesitate to act. I will never forget when he, in accordance with his leadership team threw a person out of the club after he had insulted him and the complete board various times instead of applying constructive criticism.

Later on, during professional life, I had the pleasure of learning good (and bad) leadership habits from my bosses.

The bad ones would be too close to their teams, hesitate to make decisions in reasonable time, treat employees disrespectfully and build up emotional pressure that had nothing to do with the facts.

The bad ones would also pretend to be big enough for the job despite being out of their depth. They would not lead by competence and example. The bad ones would be micro-controllers or autocrats (some of them pretending to apply a participative leadership style).

The bad ones would go their own way without taking their team’s opinion on board, some of them pretending to do so by creating huge “debating circles” instead of a small and effective management team. The bad ones would also intimidate their team members and abuse their own position of hierarchical power.

So, I learnt my lessons from the bad ones and decided to do the following:

  • keep a good personal distance to your teams
  • decide and act as fast as possible, but think as long as necessary
  • lead by example
  • learn from your employees
  • understand what they are telling you and give constructive feedback
  • challenge and support them
  • be clear in your statements
  • draw consequences of your employees’ behaviour. Good and bad ones
  • separate fact from feeling
  • accept your leadership responsibility
  • accept that you can’t please everybody.

Everybody’s darling, is everybody’s dunce!

And there you go, these are some of the principles that I learnt from the good ones and my own mistakes.

So, I became a leader after all (I believe)!

It is hard work and constant self-observation as well as asking for open feedback from your confidants.

The thing of which I am proudest after all these years of leadership and management is when former team members of mine give me praise for the way I treated them, the way they got groomed, and the motivation they felt when working with me.

This is my greatest satisfaction. Not the numbers, not the cost control, not the deadlines.

Today, I have the pleasure of sharing my experience with leaders and managers who are at the beginning of this journey.

I would be pleased to help you, too!

If you want to improve your leadership behaviour and develop some opportunities to improve, click on the button below this video and book a private and confidential planning session with me. It’s 100% free.

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