Leadership in Transition

The article was published in the employee magazine "inside" (issue 1/2023) of Forschungszentrum Jülich. Author: Hanno Schiffer.

Some 700 people at Forschungszentrum Jülich have management responsibilities. How they fulfil their roles affects all of the approximately 7,200 colleagues in their daily work and is decisive for the overall success of FZJ. But what does good leadership look like? This is what many employees have worked out together in the past years in a project on leadership culture. It is now being filled with life.

Führung im Wandel
Four out of 700: Dr. Dirk Bessau, Dr. Jenna Poonoosamy, Prof. Frank Wilhelm- Mauch and Dr. Katja Schöler (from left) talk about their challenges as managers at Forschungszentrum Jülich.

Führung im Wandel
Julia Dreher, Leadership Developer in the Human Resource Development and Recruiting department
Forschungszentrum Jülich / Ralf-Uwe Limbach

Forschungszentrum Jülich is an expert organization, with the excellent expertise of science at its centre. This can pose problems for leadership culture. “Gaining knowledge is the most important thing for researchers, and rightly so, whereas management responsibility is often more of a side effect than a driving factor in their careers,” says leadership developer Julia Dreher. She and her three part-time colleagues at Human Resource Development and bottom (P-E) support leadership culture. Likewise, the employer has to work continuously on shaping and communicating its corporate culture in the best possible way as well, says Dreher. “For a long time, it had not been outlined clearly what constitutes good leadership at FZJ.”

But times are changing: “Leadership culture is also increasingly coming into focus in scientific organizations,” says Dreher. “For example, it’s a decisive factor for excellent employees to be recruited and retained or for complex cooperation across Forschungszentrum Jülich to work out even better.” To put it another way: “Only with a good and modern leadership culture can FZJ continue to be successful in the future.” Therefore, it was important to tackle the issue comprehensively. The strategy process completed in 2017, too, showed this, in which “many employees expressed their dissatisfaction with the previous management culture. Many managers, in turn, wanted a clear orientation for what is expected of them within the company,” says Dreher. Leadership culture was then classified as one of the three most important strategic issues at FZJ.

Let’s get down to practice!

A lot has happened since then: in the project “Promotion of Leadership Culture”, which involved the entire FZJ, colleagues from research and infrastructure have worked together on what leadership should look like, resulting in a leadership model and a leadership competency model. “These are now increasingly being filled with life in everyday work,” Dreher reports. Together with her colleagues at P-E, for example, the 46-year-old has adapted and expanded the training programmes for managers at Forschungszentrum Jülich. “In many trainings, colleagues now consciously engage in the three dimensions of leadership from our competency model. And, in step with actual practice, they learn how they can better discuss leadership with their employees and successfully shape leadership culture in their own field.”

The topic of leadership skills is now also a decisive factor in recruiting. “Potential managers already learn during the selection process what’s expected of them at FZJ. Jülich’s recruiters are increasingly highlighting which of those skills applicants have and which they don’t yet have – among other things, in professional conversation simulations during the interviews,” says Dreher. “In addition, already in the first few weeks, we systematically help all new managers find the right support so that they can settle well into their new role.” Führungskräften

Experience Reports of Leaders

Support for Leaders at Forschungszentrum

Leadership Feedback
Leadership Competency Model
Leadership Culture Initiative
Personal Advice
Last Modified: 28.03.2024