Imperial College London

Banish negativity to become a better leader, says ex-Microsoft Europe boss



Jan Muhlfeit talking about positive leadership at the Business School

CEOs who are positive and encourage staff to be their best selves are most likely to be successful, said a Business School guest speaker.

According to Jan Mühlfeit a global strategist who was previously the Chairman of Microsoft Europe, positivity is still overlooked in today’s corporate world, as leaders spend too much time thinking only in terms of performance and profits, without realising that these are the results, not the causes of excellent leadership.

Mühlfeit was speaking to an audience of staff, students and industry experts at the Business School last night for the launch of his new book, which gives advice on how to become a more inspirational and successful leader. He said that leaders who are true to themselves and know how to motivate and inspire others are better for boosting workplace morale and productivity, which can make the difference between the success or failure of an organisation. Mühlfeit is a Business Advisory Board Member for the Business School’s Global Online MBA and mentors students on this programme.

As a leader you also need to be authentic, and willing to help others to be their best selves.

– Jan Mühlfeit

Former Chairman of Microsoft Europe

In the book, which is co-authored by business writer Melina Costi, there are top tips on how to be a successful leader which include: unlocking your strengths, developing charisma and a vision, creating a positive team culture and tapping into people’s energy by becoming a ‘Chief Energy Officer’.

Mühlfeit said: “Creating an emotional connection is essential to motivating people as people need inspiration to become motivated. As a leader you also need to be authentic, and willing to help others to be their best selves. A successful workplace is not about creating competition between individuals. If you want to get ahead of your competitors you need to tap into the unique strengths of your staff – encouraging them to be more of who they are, rather than trying to change them to improve productivity.”


Jan Muhlfeit (L) with Melina Costi (Centre) and Dr Paolo Taticchi (R)

Sharing his own leadership experiences at Microsoft Europe, he outlined the reasons why leaders often fail to motive and inspire employees such as: targeting weaknesses, not strengths; failing to have a dream; managing time and not energy; and putting success before happiness.  He argued that emotional intelligence is often underestimated and overlooked in the workplace but how business leaders can no longer afford to overlook engaging with staff, despite global pressures to improve performance.

He said that in the 21st century, CEOS faced a huge challenge as research suggests 87 percent of the global workforce is not engaged in their work and 50 percent of workers choose to leave a job to get away from their boss. Only 13 percent of people are actively using their strengths every day at work, which means that many employees are struggling in jobs that are a mismatch for their skills and interests.

He suggested that people get caught in career mistakes when they lose the ability to be true to themselves.  He said: “I believe that everyone can be authentic. When children are young they show their true potential, but this ability quickly gets lost as kids grow up and almost disappears by the time an adult reaches the age of 25. However, you can retrain your brain to get back to your core beliefs and values.”

Melina Costi, co-author of the book, added: “To be a successful leader, you must cultivate self-awareness, before you can help others.”

Dr Paolo Taticchi, Principal Teaching Fellow at Imperial College Business School who organised the event said: “Being a successful leader is one of the biggest challenges people face in business today. Whether you manage a small startup or lead a large corporate company, you need to be able to inspire people and get the best out of them. It was fantastic to hear Jan and Melina’s incredible advice and insights into what makes a great leader, and I was impressed by the dynamic nature of the discussion and audience questions at the end.”


Laura Singleton

Laura Singleton
Communications Division


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