Where does the pressure to address the issue of the character of top leaders come from? Thomas Middelhoff will continue to be invited to talk shows, and Mr. Tönnies would have continued like this if the Corona outbreak hadn’t come. There was also good news at VW:Despite the diesel crisis, the Group has increased in almost all key figures. So are top managers unassentable?

Apparently not. Let’s look at the following examples: The current generation of top managers suffers from an image problem. Only recently will the trial against AUDI manager Ruppert Stadler start with the point: fraud, indirect false information and criminal advertising in Munich. Ex-Bertelsmann manager Thomas Middelhoff is also currently in prison for tax evasion and infidelity, similar to Renault-Nissan BOSS Carlos Ghosn.

Do managers have a free ticket?

The Stadler case in particular shows that even top managers, who are often perceived as inviolable, do not have a free ticket. These, too, are bound by the laws and norms of society. In the end, ex-Bertelsmann board members also ask themselves: How could it happen that a recognised and extremely well-paid top manager can no longer distinguish right from wrong? In such cases, trying to rationally explain is always far too easy. The causes are deeper. It is no longer just about money and power.

Change of personality

The trigger is a deformation of character, triggered by the transfer of almost unlimited power in the company. The named managers came from a normal family home and were brought up differently. Over time, however, they have lost a sense of limitations and the distinction between right and wrong in their own behavior.

Such crimes can often only be explained by the fact that a feeling of inviolability has arguably aset among the top managers. One example is that top managers can pursue violations of corporate policies, but even violate these processes. Double standards are applied here. Top managers must always be aware of their role model function. It is a presumption: one can violate the company rules with impunity, simply because one has risen to the very top of the company hierarchy.


Being at the top of the corporate hierarchy is no reason to disregard company rules. Fortunately, this is not a mass phenomenon, because most top managers do a very good job.

A recent study by the Haniel Group examines the age structure in German boardrooms. The number of board members under the age of 50 is already 23%. Especially in startups, young managers such as Daniel Kraus (Flixbus), Valentin Stalf (N26), Dominik Richter (HelloFresh) and Anna Alex (Outfittery) conquer the media with special character, authenticity, a pinch of audacity and casual clothing. It seems important for top managers to score with character. To this end, I am currently carrying out a study, which will soon be evaluated on the blog. To this end, I am currently carrying out a study, which will soon be evaluated on the blog. The survey runs from May to August and can be found here.

Update: This is currently available before publication in the journal for organizational development. I think it will be released in September about.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/de/photos/konzert-menge-publikum-menschen-768722/


I blog about the impact of digitalization on our working environment. For this purpose, I present content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday work. I am a manager in an SME myself and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the chair of IT Management.

Durch die weitere Nutzung der Seite stimmen Sie der Verwendung von Cookies zu. Weitere Informationen

Die Cookie-Einstellungen auf dieser Website sind auf "Cookies zulassen" eingestellt, um das beste Surferlebnis zu ermöglichen. Wenn du diese Website ohne Änderung der Cookie-Einstellungen verwendest oder auf "Akzeptieren" klickst, erklärst du sich damit einverstanden.