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Interview with Markus Päivärinta: What is great leadership?

Markus Päivärinta, Head of ITS, Konica Minolta Business Solutions Finland Oy, was named Leader of the Year in our Nordic organization. Here he shares his insights into the discipline of leadership, including what it takes to be a leader in a world of flexible and remote working.

1. What is great leadership to you?

 “Many things. The courage to take responsibility, the ability to make decisions, having a clear vision and the skills to communicate it to the team. It is also to care for the well-being of the team members and to show compassion and empathy. The discipline of leadership is not a one size fits all formular. We are all different, and you need to take that into account when you manage a team. At the same time, it is crucial that you ensure that the individuals in your team run in the same direction and understand where we are heading, not only as a team but also company-wise. You must establish a shared identity linking people to business to bring context and purpose to the work we do. I believe that you do that with clear goals, a strong vision, and transparent and regular communication.”

2. Remote leadership – how do you see that?

“My team is truly remote, and we all work in a hybrid setting. We have 900 kilometers between us, so we do not have that many opportunities to meet face to face. To ensure that we connect frequently, which is key to me, I make sure that we have virtual meetings where we discuss tasks and business updates. Then there are meetings that are just about getting together on a personal level. We also meet for one-on-ones. Remote working can be challenging for some people because there is no direct contact with colleagues. Other people enjoy that they can dive into their tasks without disturbances and prefer to work that way. We are all different. But the team that we work in brings us all together – sharing the same goals and visions, wins and losses.”

3. What can you do to make a great team spirit?

“It is built into us all that we want to be part of something, a team or a group of people, that is meaningful to us. That is why it is important for me to build a shared identity in my team. When working remote, you open your laptop in the morning, reply to emails, answer the phone and attend video calls all alone in your home. You are really not alone but part of a team or community – and it is my obligation to make every team member feel this way. As a team, we all care about each other and what we do, and we are proud of each other and our achievements. We have the same purpose, and we work together to achieve our common goals. My job is to enable this collaboration and communicate goals and our direction clearly.”

4. How do you set directions?

“We operate in a business that is constantly changing and evolving. New opportunities, innovations and technologies are surfacing every year and every month. While all this is exciting and motivating, it also challenges direction-setting to me as a leader and to team members. My way of handling this is by helping my team seeing the big picture. Customer centricity as one of our core values is a great tool for painting the big picture and setting directions. We exist for our customers and their success is our success. So, if we aim for what is best for the customer, we are going in the right direction.

5. Why did you choose to become a leader?

“To be honest it was more like a path opening to me instead of me choosing a leader role. I have always wanted to do my best as an employee, and I got an opportunity to grow into being a leader. One of the greatest features of Konica Minolta is that we offer this kind of opportunities to our employees. I am very grateful for this chance. 
I have always enjoyed working with different kinds of people. Thinking about what I can do and how I can enable my team members to grow, show and use their personality and strengths at work makes me proud. The people are definitely the best part of being a leader. It makes me so happy to see their development, taking responsibility and wanting to achieve great things alone and together.”

6. What is your leadership style?

“Basically, I have two ground rules that I follow. They are not rocket science, but they keep me tuned in on what is important. The first rule is: Trust by default. We often hear that you should earn trust. This is not how I see it. I believe that when you are part of a team or a workplace – when you have been hired for a job – you should be trusted from day one.
The second rule is: Do not assume that you are the smartest person in your team, even if you are the team leader. I believe that this goes hand in hand with the trust part. I need to be able to trust the people and the expertise and knowledge that the team and its members have, so that I can ask their advice if needed. In my opinion smart leadership makes use of the wide range of expertise, knowledge, and ideas that the team has. So be humble. Listen. Ask questions. Learn.
I am the manager who wants to walk the extra mile for my team and our company, but at the same time I do not take myself too seriously. I hope that others also perceive me that way.”

7. What is it like to be a leader at Konica Minolta?

“We have so many skilled people at Konica Minolta. I really enjoy learning something new – almost on a daily basis – from my team and from my leadership colleagues. Customer centricity and a “can do” attitude play a huge part in the company´s success. In my opinion, success is formed by collaborating with others, so that you get everyone’s competencies into play. I also like Konica Minolta’s focus on people development. To me it is what I would call a corporate human right to be given the opportunity to improve your skills. Having skilled people who develop themselves and keep up to date with the newest knowledge and tendencies really makes my job as a leader easy.”

8. Markus’ 3 leadership advises:

  1. Trust by default: Trust your people that they are trying their hardest and that they have the knowledge and experience required to do their job.
  2. Respect others: Respect the people around you, their personalities, and skills. Smile and be friendly. And communicate to avoid misperceptions.
  3. Ask for help and listen: You do not know and cannot do everything yourself. Reach out to your colleagues, and be prepared to take their advice, even if it is different from what you would do.

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