The courage to plunge into the unknown

Member of the Management Team von Rundstedt Switzerland and an Entrepreneur, Carsten Sudhoff, speaks with former BBC interviewer, Nisha Pillai about empowering leaders to be agents of change, and the courage to plunge into the unknown.

Carsten Sudhoff LinkedIn Profile
Carsten Sudhoff
Main Banner The Agenda Podcast Carsten Sudhoff
The Agenda Podcasts

The Agenda brought to you by Sherpany uncovers the journey leaders take from facing challenges to making decisions. In this unique series of podcasts, leaders talk candidly with former BBC World Service interviewer, Nisha Pillai. #Leading together

In this podcast episode, you will hear:

Entrepreneur and Member of the Management Team von Rundstedt Switzerland, Carsten Sudhoff, as he shares his extraordinary journey from being an executive at the World Economic Forum (WEF) to becoming an entrepreneur, working with decision-makers across the world. In Carsten's view, there is an acute need for new models of leadership, and the leaders of today and tomorrow should be quicker to perceive and adapt to change. Here are some of the topics covered in this podcast that will help you shape a new perspective on what it means to be an agent of change, and what can you do to become one: 

  • Developing awareness of the need to challenge the status quo, and building the courage to do it
  • The leadership models of today and tomorrow, and becoming an agent of change 
  • The start of a new journey, its obstacles, and the lessons learnt along the way
  • On the post-COVID period, and the challenges of leading people remotely.


Building up the courage to plunge into the unknown with Carsten Sudhoff

Developing awareness of the need to challenge the status quo

"I had the incredible privilege to run a think tank, or in the forum nomenclature it's called a council, which was called "the new models of leadership". All these councils, there were about 85 in my time, would meet once a year in Dubai for the World Economic Forum. 

In that year, the idea of the three-day period was to also build bridges to other councils and find connections. So, my role was to stay back in our little cubicle and see if anybody from other countries would come and seek connections with us. So I was kind of an ambassador of our council. 

So, I stood there and the door would open and the person would come in and say "Hi, I'm from the Council on Oceans. We have a fantastic idea of how to save the world's oceans but before we start, we need new models of leadership. You come from the council, new models of leadership. I'd like to learn what you do." 

The person sits down, the door opens, a second person comes in. "Hi, I'm from the Council on African Hunger. We have a fantastic idea how to save the African hunger crisis but before we start, we need new models of leadership. The person sits down, the door opens four more times, and people with almost the identical wording come in and sit down. 

I look at myself, and think this can't be true. We have collected and brought together twelve hundred of the biggest minds and brains from around the world on 85 different topics who will come up with all these fantastic ideas, but they can't start because the leadership is wrong. Something needs to be done. And that was my epiphany."


Becoming an agent of change and encouraging leaders to follow

"Leadership still today is taught in school and at university as if one person, mostly a man, was the saviour or is the saviour. When we look at history, it's one King or one general who won the fight or the war. It's one leader who turned the company around. But never has anybody ever done anything successfully by himself or herself. 

So, what I think we need to refocus on is the fact that we fragment our interest groups, that we try to focus on maximising our own benefit, irrespective of what it does to other people. Our short sightedness and short termism is a real problem and companies have started to at least try and break out of it. I think there is a movement that has begun a couple of years ago and the energy behind it is getting more and more strong and more and more visible. And I think this is a fantastic thing to see. [..]

The first five years of my company were rather difficult, and I do have a large network of senior leaders from all over the world. I remember sitting on the sofa of some of these CEOs and I was trying to sell the services and the products of my company to these leaders. They would look at me and say, you know, Carsten, you seem like a pretty cool guy, but what you're trying to do there sounds a lot like holding hands and singing Kumbaya. And I thought to myself, where on earth is Kumbaya in this? But the time wasn't right there. 

I realised today a good idea that is five or eight years ahead of its curve just isn't a good idea. Because what we were trying to do there just didn't fit the needs of the companies today. This has fundamentally changed. [...] Most leaders that I've worked with understand that the times have changed and that they also want to change because they are suffering from the current status quo."

Pursuing your dream because you believe in it. It's not so easy, but it's the right thing to do.

The post-COVID period and the challenges of leading people remotely

"Here are a couple of challenges that I see and that have already materialised, leading people remotely is not the same thing as if you see people physically in the same room day to day. So what this means is a couple of things. 

First of all, it means that you need to be able to be much more diligent in setting targets. And that's one of the big problems of leaders. What is it that I really want to achieve not by tomorrow, but by the end of the year? And how do I then cut this into bits and pieces that my team can then basically work on, even if I don't see them every day?

A second point is reading people's emotional states. How can I detect personal well-being or emotional problems of my employees via the video camera if I don't sit with them in the same room? [...] 

I think there has never been a better time to get going and to do stuff. There are so many opportunities. Technology is helping us and there's so much need. So if I could ask leaders around the world, then I would say do and not talk. Talking is so much easier, doing is considerably more difficult, but that is what is needed, and that's when you call yourself a leader."

Enjoying The Agenda?

Rate and review it now.



Carsten Sudhoff LinkedIn Profile
Carsten Sudhoff
About the author
Over the course of his career, Carsten Sudhoff held several senior leadership roles. During his five years as member of the executive team and CHRO of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Carsten led an international think tank dedicated to the “New Models of Leadership”. Today, Carsten is a serial entrepreneur and Member of the Management Team of von Rundstedt.