Season 1, Ep. 7: An Interview with Martin Daum

Are you curious how the leader of one of the largest global organizations in the world views leadership now—in comparison to a pre-pandemic reality? Listen in to hear from Martin Daum, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler Truck AG. Learn why Martin considers humility to be the most important leadership trait—and discover the behaviors that follow his guiding belief that all humans are equal. Join Daniel as he and Martin question what it means to lead in 2021 and learn valuable insights from a global leader that you can employ in your own leadership as you seek to positively impact those you lead.

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(We use an audio transcription service so please disregard any errors below.)

Daniel Harkavy (00:02):

I’m Daniel Harkavy and welcome to the Questioning Leadership podcast produced by Building Champions. For the past 25 plus years, I and my team have been helping top business leaders to improve the way they lead and live. The purpose of this podcast is to be curious, and to really unpack what it means to be a great leader in today’s times. And if you’ve been listening in, you know, we’re learning from some of the best, leaders in diverse industries from all over the world. In this episode, I get to speak with my long-time client and friend Martin Daum, who serves as the Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler Truck AG. As you’re going to hear, Martin unpacks a ton of leadership insights that I think are going to be valuable for you, whether you’re leading a large global matrix organization, or whether you’re leading a startup or whether you’re new to management and leadership, and you’re looking for insights that will help you to become more effective. So enjoy our conversation, take some good notes and join me as we now get to learn from Martin Daum.

Daniel Harkavy (01:18):

Well, as I said, I am here today with my long-time client and very dear friend Martin Daum, we’ve just finished a coaching session out in my backyard. So you might hear some outdoor noise as we have this Questioning Leadership conversation, but I am confident it is going to be one that you will absolutely enjoy. Martin, it is great to have you with me today.

Martin Daum (01:38):

Thank you. And it’s great that you allow me to speak about leadership cause I really love that topic.

Daniel Harkavy (01:44):

Well, you should. You’ve devoted your whole life to it, and you’re truly one of the most amazing leaders I’ve ever spent time with. So I think that’s a requirement for greatness. You need to love what it is that you do if you’re going to get to the levels of mastery that you’ve you’ve enjoyed. So I’m going to ask you about your professional career and all of that. But before I do, you know, at Building Champions, we, we always say better humans make for better leaders. So tell my listeners, maybe two or three things about you, Martin Daum, as a man outside of Daimler, who are you?

Martin Daum (02:17):

Who am I outside Daimler? So sometimes I tell people when they ask me, why ask me in the past what are my hobbies? What I, my friends say always I had my career and I had my family and that, that didn’t allow much hobbies and much friends, which sounds sometimes a little bit sad. But if you do something real, then it takes time away. And I have two things. I have my business and I have my family. I have a wonderful wife. I have three great kids and I have three grandkids. And the grandkids taught me one thing. The only reason to have kids is to have grandkids because grandkids are the fun without the responsibility. And you can have the fun of your life. It’s your grandkids. So that is one part of my life, you know, my family. I love to travel.

Martin Daum (03:02):

I like the world. I, I think it’s amazing what our world offer us. You know, it’s amazing the different cultures. It’s amazing how people can live in with how little they need to be happy. And sometimes it humbles me how much we have and are not happy. So to see the word and to see this different styles and to see that our life problems are pretty similar, you know, what, what, what, what frustrates us and what energizes us? It’s similar. Whether I live in a, in a very small village in Latin America, or whether I live in Asia or whether I’m here, a CEO in a, in a Western company, there’s not so much difference. It’s respect, it’s love, it’s to be heard and to, to hear it’s to learn and to flourish and have dreams and sees the dreams fulfilled regardless what the dreams are. So I love to travel. I love to see the world and I love to read, you know, and I love to discuss things. And then I have friends. So it’s not that bad man to, to have this. The typical German discussion is that just show you a intellectual greatness and you disagree about a topic, and then you fight the entire evening and then you drink a glass of wine and be best friends again.

Daniel Harkavy (04:19):

I’ve seen that with you guys. I’ve seen that with you guys. Well, it is it’s been a real privilege to journey with you and to see you with your family. What many listeners may not know is that you have resided here in North America for several years, and now you’re back in Germany. That’s been a big move for you.

Martin Daum (04:39):

Yeah, but we, we did that several times. We were here in the 90’s in Portland, in Ohio, we moved back to Germany for eight years, came back to the United States. Then I left back in 2017 to Germany. Now my wife followed me now. So now we are really back in Germany. We still have our house here. We still have kids here. We still have grandkids here. So it’s really great to have both parts and never asked me which one is the better one. There you go. I have the feeling, you, you, you, you, you see the benefits of the other place if you have another place to compare this and both places have their greatness. So it’s really good to have those places and call them home.

Daniel Harkavy (05:15):

Right. That’s great. That’s great. All right. So people are picking up on the fact that you’re definitely from Germany. So let’s talk about your professional career. Give us the highlight reel of your career from the beginning to where you’re at now.

Martin Daum (05:31):

I mean, I’ve worked really my entire life for Daimler. Daimler is the home of the has two big divisions. One is passenger car known as Mercedes Benz passenger cars. And I think I know, but I don’t have to explain anyone what a Mercedes Benz passenger car is. It’s really, for me, the greatest cars you can drive for your private car pike, it’s the car to dream for. And then there’s a second big division in Daimler. It’s a largest truck manufacturer of the world. We sell a Mercedes Benz trucks in Europe and Latin America. We sell it as fuso trucks in Japan as Kamaz trucks in Russia is [inaudible] in China as Benz trucks in India and North America is Freightliner or Thomas Built school buses or Western Star trucks, or Detroit diesel engines, all a part of that huge Daimler trucks and buses a company in the world.

Daniel Harkavy (06:30):

Yeah, yeah. And some of the roles that you have had the privilege of serving in.

Martin Daum (06:35):

I’ve worked my entire life for that part. And I worked actually my entire life for the truck division. So when you enter Daimler, you normally apply for a job at Daimler in Germany even because of the passenger car side. And I did that tool. Now, you wanted to be with the best car manufacturer in the world, but I figured out fairly fast in the first year that the far more interesting business is the trucking business. I like it because it’s a very rational business. Nobody buys a truck because he wants to buy a truck, he has to, and he wants to make money, this, this truck. So it’s a very, very rational business. And I always had my difficulties with the glitzy about passenger cars and Lady Gaga drives the car. Then that’s no reason to buy one. So, so I was always more trucking guy. And I, and I’ve worked in, in, in sales global sales network. That’s was my very first position. I, I I’ve worked in finance positions. I, I was leader in project. I was head of strategy. I was CFO of a large division. I was chief operating officer of a large division. And then since 2009, I was the CEO of Daimler Trucks, North America, the home of Freightliner and Western Star. And then in 2017, they appointed me to run the whole global thing. Now I am Daimler Trucks and Buses. Yep.

Daniel Harkavy (07:54):

So running the entire thing with experiences really at all levels within Daimler over your, your very wonderful career. Let’s, let’s talk about leadership because here on Questioning Leadership, I think the real value of our conversation is for those that are listening to us to learn from you, absolute beliefs and truths about leadership from your perspective, especially as it pertains to leading today. And I’ve had the privilege of serving as coach and working with you and your leadership teams back when you were here in North America, starting at the end of I think 2014, and then making the, the journey with you across the pond over to, to Europe in 2017, 2018. And I’ve watched you change as a leader. So why don’t you tell the listeners from your vantage point, how are you seeing leadership today being different than it was pre-pandemic, pre, more than a year ago? What are the big changes for you as you’ve seen leadership?

Martin Daum (08:56):

What I see this pandemic is that you accumulated prior to the pandemic, credits with teams with your coworkers, the pandemic ate of that credit. Yeah. So we have to refill it because the personal relationship needs personal interaction. For me, the whole virtual one is a very efficient tool, but it’s more for transactional things. It’s more for, for alignment talks. But if you have controversial strategic discussions building up a team structure, you need the personal interaction. So what I would say yes, in those times when you don’t see the people, when you don’t have that open conversation. This, I would say unintentional exchange. When you see reactions, you know, where your emotional intelligence is questions, you see the reaction and you’d say, Hey, why, why are stepping back? Why are you compete? Don’t you like them? You like what I just said, you know, those things go get lost if you just meet in the virtual world. So I would say this is the extra strain on leadership makes, makes leaders gives the extra responsibility to see the difficulties, but pre or post pandemic, the key question is always, how can I motivate people working for me? And how can I form out of diverse opinions, diverse characters, diverse histories, a great performing team where the sum of the team is bigger than the individual elements of the team.

Daniel Harkavy (10:40):

And you, you have a unique perspective because the organization you lead is an absolute matrix. You know, there’s so many shared services and shared assets. You look at what the business went through in the last year, year and a half. I like just your take on, you built up an, a bank of trust, a bank of relationship, and now it is time to rebuild, you and I were just together last week in Iceland with your team. And that’s exactly what you were doing. What do you walk away from those four days with your team? What do you walk away feeling as a result of that being the first and really since we were together March of 2020?

Martin Daum (11:27):

Yeah. And we’ve had a very special situation because with organizational changes in our company we had a board of 10 people two years ago, and now going into the future out of many, meanwhile, we are all about the same age. So a couple of the guys retired, we had some reorganizations, we put in some more businesses, which had been outside in the big Daimler organization. So cut a long story from the ten guys, 18 months. And I think we met in January 2020 in Japan in Sapporo in Northern Japan. That was January 2020 from the 10 guys in January 2020, only three are left. And five news are there. This is even for a big company, very unusual, but it’s, it’s the circumstances. You know, it’s, it’s, it’s a mix out of out of the H structure. It’s a mix out of organizational changes, but now we have all the eight guys who lead the company from now on, at least for the next two years together.

Martin Daum (12:24):

And it was a yearly, a very important meeting. And that we, as I say, guys, is gender neutral. We have in restroom. Some woman from Sweden, we have a female executive or board members where we have people from Brazil, from the US, Germans on the board. We have engineers, we have we have controllers. We have sales people on the board. And when we do the disc assessment, we have different characters, which is new for, for, for my world, because sometimes we had disc assessments inside Daimler, and we were all in the same categories a strong D you know, we are the decision-making guys. Now we are far more diverse groups of us, extremely interesting to get together for the very first time. But what I really liked is this was this unique desire from everyone here and said, let’s form a great team.

Martin Daum (13:14):

We have no past, but we have a future. And we have no past that pulls us back. And everyone has his war stories and his wounds. We can write a new book, we have empty pages in front of us, and let’s make that the greatest book you can think of in team history. And I think this was the spirit of Iceland, and this was really great. And thanks Daniel for leading us through that. And it was really great conversations, great getting to know each other, learning from each other debating things. And I remember there was one, one day when we were talking about one sentence is, I was a little bit annoyed because if you had eight grade guys speaking in one sentence, you get only math. I would interpret by at the end of the day, you know, but then I realized, and you helped us with that. It’s not important, what the sentence says at the end of the day, it’s the discussions around. Then you explain what you mean with excellence. When you explain what you mean with listening, you know what that sentence, why you don’t like it, what it creates inside you. And then yes, you change a word and then you will be satisfied because now it creates something else inside you. And I think you learn so much about each other and the sensitivities and the emotional IQ. So, so it was really good, good session.

Daniel Harkavy (14:28):

Yeah, it was great. I’m very optimistic about what you and this team are going to do. I’ve got a question as I think back on the process that you’ve gone through of, of picking teammates to stand on the shoulders of the giants, the wonderful, you know, leaders that you had in the previous team, all with such great skills. What were you really looking for in these new board members? What were some of the attributes that you would say were non-negotiable?

Martin Daum (14:58):

I mean, there’s always a necessary base. You have to understand your business. You have to be great in your business. Yeah. So it’s not just the average John or Jane Doe. You can pull from the street in. Yeah. You have to understand the business, but this is for me more, the foundational ones is necessarily, but not sufficient. On top, I was looking for people who have a sense for leadership who know that the, the crucial point in an organization, and I learned that sentence from you, Daniel, it’s not the decisions you make. It’s the influence you have. And we look in management far more about the quality of the decisions you make. Yes, it’s very bad if you do wrong decisions, but just to have someone who makes good decisions is not enough, right? If no, one’s listened to your decisions, if your decisions create adversity, creates frustrated people, that’s not have followers. Yeah. Then you need other instruments. You need solid lines. You need bonus systems. You need penalties, you need fear, but that does not help at all. You need, you need really people who are going excited in the same direction you are going, and that is leadership. So going, coming back, that was something I was looking in every single guy. I want people who understand those principles, who see to become great leaders. And I found them, and this is good. And then what makes us special? We are a global company. We work in Japan, in India and in Indonesia and Brazil, you know, there’s not a single country in the world where we are not present. And we have 15 countries in the world where we have factories or big facilities. And that means I want people who understand that global responsibility.

Martin Daum (16:45):

Yeah. That, that diversity we have in our company and that we don’t will the verb out of one place. So for example, a passenger car, I quite, I was an international business out of the Stuttgart valley in Southwest Germany. We make the world happy with absolute great cars. Truck is different. We are a global company. We are a great American company, a great Japanese company, a great Brazilian company. That means we have these local strongholds, but they can only thrive if they work globally together and solve their problems together. So that was another thing I was looking in those leaders fully Ivana’s of that global responsibility, but have the local making the D locally and then Denver, despite that together. Yeah. Difficult but possible.

Daniel Harkavy (17:33):

Yeah. Well, the leaders that you’ve selected are amazing. You know, you look at just their intelligence and their, their understanding of the business, of their scope of responsibility. You pick the best. And then when you watch them interact with one another around topics where tension was definitely evident, you watch their levels of emotional intelligence. You watch their levels of empathy, their intentional curiosity, and how they wanted to listen to one another and really understand, you saw so many beautiful leadership principles and truths just being played out last week. I’m very optimistic, as I said. So you’re running this organization today, where, like you said, you have tens of thousands of teammates throughout the world…

Martin Daum (18:17):

Actually, a hundred thousand, 105,000 people work for Daimler Trucks and Buses worldwide.

Daniel Harkavy (18:23):

That’s a big community. Yeah. That’s a big community. When you look at your role now, what are a few of the disciplines for you that you believe if you adhere to these disciplines, you’re going to have the highest probability of leading the organization to its next levels of success. In the years ahead, what are your absolute mandates?

Martin Daum (18:48):

I have a system I had as hire, coming to an organization. You need always for the next step things which you need on top, just to be a good guy on one level it does not make you a great guy on the next level. Biggest mistake, by the way you promote people just because they good in one level, the next level has different requirements, and you might be good in one level if you don’t have the requirement for the next level. So I just did today at the talk about it. There’s one senior man…If you go to, from, from junior to senior management, the biggest one is by as tell all these people, you are not allowed to become frustrated anymore. And then they’re easily as why, why don’t, because if you are frustrated, everyone below you is frustrated, your influence is far too big.

Martin Daum (19:30):

Yeah. And, and you will be frustrated. Absolutely. That comes for sure. But why, why shouldn’t you be frustrated? Not because you get up every morning and says, I don’t want to be frustrated. And then I make a happy face and be a good actor. No, you have a senior manager. You have the responsibility to speak up. If you are frustrated, tell the guys and you have access to the guys, high up the food chain. You can tell them I am frustrated. I don’t like that. Yeah. On the other side, you, you have the access. So you will be heard that you can hear, so you have the access to the right people. You can ask, why is this happening? Please tell me, I have the feeling my people get frustrated about that. Please explain. And then it’s your job to translate that in the right language for your people and a North American engineer might need for the same factual thing, a different message than a Brazilian worker.

Martin Daum (20:23):

Yeah. So it’s your job to translate that in the language of your people. And I don’t mean the linguistic language, you know, it’s, it’s what, what gets their feelings. This is for, for a senior manager of the most important one. Now you can up. And then people are always curious and said, and what is what you need to be CEO of a hundred thousand plus people, global company. And I, it took me time to learn it. But today I would say it’s humbleness. It’s a knowledge that I can’t do it myself. Yeah. I still remember when I had my first senior management position, about 200 people reporting to me. I had them for the very first meeting in the same room. And I remember my speech and I still be ashamed for that speech today because I told them I can do every single job of you better than you, but that’s not the reason why I’m here.

Martin Daum (21:18):

I thought this was very modern. Nope. Bad.

Daniel Harkavy:

I’ll bet that went over really well.

Martin Daum:
But I believed it in those days. Yeah. I, I really knew everything. You know, the decisions you make. And I thought, I give them, like, I want you to succeed. And I’m here to mentor you and to guide you. No, no, no. This was not the best speech of my life, but I still remember it. Yeah. Today I would say it’s humbleness the knowledge that I can’t do it all out. By the way, there are hundreds of job below me, which I absolutely can’t do that. I would be the disaster doing the job and I need great people working for me. And I need actually more than a hundred thousand people working for me. And most of them, I don’t even know. Yeah. Yeah.

Daniel Harkavy (22:02):

That’s impossible. You know, you said something that I find it to be really interesting and I hope all of you listening, capture this thought, that point on frustration. When you see something not going well, you have to have the courage and the tenacity to stay with it in order to affect a better tomorrow. And I think about my coaching company, 25 years doing this, and I was just reflecting on how many coaching sessions I’ve had over the years, where a client will come in one session after another session, after another session, frustrated or pissing and moaning about the same thing. And it’s up to us as coaches to say, wait a minute, stop, stop. You’re wasting so much energy. You’re wasting so much energy. And you’re actually infecting negatively those that you serve as a leader, it’s time to come up with options. What are you going to do about it? My friend, Dr. Henry Cloud says, “You’re ridiculously in control.” I used that line with you last week. You know? So what are you going to do about it? And that’s exactly what you’re saying. Great leaders get it done.

Martin Daum (23:08):

But you need to be at a certain level in a company to have that. If you are lower, then you have to look at your options and potentially change the place. You know, if you can’t stand your boss, if he can’t stand you, if, if you can’t talk about your frustration, if he does not understand you, if you’re in a large company, look for a better department where you fit better. If you’re in a small company, you have to jump ship. If you think I can’t do that because I have my mortgage to pay and the kids are hungry every morning. And my credit card is in bad shape. First of all, never get your credit card in a bad shape. That’s the first advice. Then you still have to jump ship because you have your entire life in front of you in it. And if it’s a miserable working place, it’s not making you any better in your life. So sometimes changing jobs, changing is, is, is important. But don’t do that as the first option. Yeah. Look first, what can you change now? There are more people you have to talk to those people who have an influence. You have to be courageous. You have to be positive. You know, give them a way out. Don’t corner them. Like if you, if you have to put them in a corner, Hey, it’s not that healthy bosses can be angry people. So don’t corner them. But if you show them respect, they might even change.

Daniel Harkavy (24:27):

Good. So now what you’re doing is you’re, you’re starting to move into one of the questions that I like to ask every leader which has to do. If you could give advice to a younger, you, if you could look at yourself when you were in your twenties, what advice would you have given yourself?

Martin Daum (24:45):

I would say in hindsight, I would say I always lived my life. I never did a job for the next step. I always did jobs that were fun to me. I always work, like this is the one and only job. And I had the privilege. I got always put out of job before I’d got boring before I thought I was done with that job. And I got a new opportunity in appointment, but I never, I never, you know, refrained from that new opportunity. I always hated it to leave my old job, but I always got so much more in the new job. Hmm. Yeah. So, so do what, what, what’s fun for you. You never do something just because you have the feeling two years from now, there is this golden pot of opportunity at the end of the rainbow. We, I, I just have to get through that misery of two years. Nope. It’s a waste of two years. Your life. If it’s very long, it’s a hundred more likely 80. So it’s a big percentage of your life. Don’t make it misery.

Daniel Harkavy (25:48):

That’s really good advice for those that are in their twenties and their thirties. But I think it’s incredibly relevant for those that are in their fifties, sixties as well, because you’ve got people right now, they’re in positions, holding those positions down, whether it be they’re staying they’re miserable because they’re afraid of what comes next. They don’t know if they have the energy to make that move. So they’re stuck in misery. You know, they’re waiting for the forced retirement stage. Your advice is the same for them, I would assume.

Martin Daum (26:18):

Yeah. And, and what I see sometimes, and this is especially in North America, often the case. And so I don’t want to stereotype here. You have to get your finances in order. Debt is bad. I really learned it from my parents. My mom always taught me the house belongs to us the moment the loan is paid back. Yeah, yeah. Yes. You can’t buy a house just out of pocket cash. So after loan, get your loans down, your credit cards in order, always try to earn a little bit more than you spend. Not just the other way around, which is more human to spend more than I run in always and hope tomorrow it will be better times. The worst part could happen if you’re financially pressured to do something, what you don’t like to do. Yeah.

Daniel Harkavy (27:03):

Yeah. We always say, you know, you spend the majority of your waking hours doing this thing called work. And if you’re miserable at work, well, you’re going to bring that misery everywhere else with you. It’ll follow you into your home, around the dinner table and your interaction with your spouse, partner, kids, your friends. Yeah, it it’s, it’s infectious.

Martin Daum (27:22):

But keep your inner freedom and debt is the biggest enemy for inner freedom.

Daniel Harkavy (27:28):

Good. That’s good. So Martin, you’ve served as a, a very high level leader with immense responsibility for the last few decades, for sure. And that always comes with a price there’s impact to you, both positive and sometimes negative on the personal side. How has your career impacted you?

Martin Daum (27:48):

First of all, very well phrased what you said. And I tell that when I talked to junior managers a lot, always question, what you ask. Yeah. It comes to surprise every step in the career. For example, brought me more nights of a, from home and my wife that I love and the kids that I had great relationship with, I remembered times and I always looked how many nights I don’t spend at home. And when we talked nights, not vacationing or something. Yeah. And at one part of the time, it was 50 nights a year. And then it counted to a 100 in the next level of responsibility. And then I stopped counting the nights away from home. So, so that is, is not good. Yeah. Why it’s not good for your relationship at home because you know, it’s, it’s, I, I try all these everyday to, to have a phone call with my wife, but then imagine time differences in a global world.

Martin Daum (28:48):

So when you have time, your wife is sleepy. When she’s awake, you are tired and come, come from a 10 hour meeting and just want to go to bed, not that good. So it comes with a price you have to compensate for that you have then to really take your time when you’re at home. I always had the privilege and this, I called it the gift that I can sleep extremely well. I put my worries not into my sleep. I’m a Christian. So I know, I know in God’s good hands, but this is a private thing. If you’re not a Christian, so sorry for you, but there are other things. But if you take, and I know Christians who take their worries to bed and then it, you need the sleep. Yeah? And sometimes I have really the feeling in the morning, things look better than in evening.

Martin Daum (29:41):

So I really, I go to sleep. I wake up. Sometimes I wake up is a great idea. And I don’t know from where it came from and it is there. And I, and I start the next day. Yeah. I can focus. You know, when I am at home, I am totally at home. I’m not at work. My wife always tells a story from the early days when the kids are still young, I was coming home. I entered through the deck, the home, the back door. I had my two suitcases from work, the kids were storming to me. I was starting playing with them, next way, I said, where are my business cases? And they were standing right on the deck there. The kids greeted me the evening before I forgot completely about those cases and the work in those cases. Fortunately, it didn’t rain that night.

Martin Daum (30:23):

Yeah. But this is for me more of a symbol, which I try to keep alive my entire life. If I’m on vacation, I’m on vacation. If I’m home, I’m home. I don’t look to the phone. I don’t. There are times I tell, always make guys, if you don’t want me that I reached you switch off your phone. So put, put it on silent. Yeah. There need to be times when you’re fully at home, this is the price of making career. It costs you in your private life, moving around does not give you a home in a sense that I’m part of a community. Yeah. And that could be a lot of things about, I could be beneficial for the community, but, but people sometimes ask, when do you move on? Yes. And says potentially in one or two years, so you don’t start something which needs a 10 year commitment.

Martin Daum (31:08):

Yeah. There is benefit. I had a mentoring calls with these people working for me in it. And one guy told me, you know, I have that vineyard. My wife has a business here in town. A I’m very active in sports in my town. And I coach the youth team, but I want to make a career. And I said, Hey, if you want to make a career, you have to go. Yeah, you have to do, do in complete different place. Prove it. He said, I don’t want to do that. I said, don’t do that. Think of the price. Are you willing to pay the price or you like your job here? And I said, yes, I like my job. I have so many ideas. I said, then stay is a job. And it really always think if when we get envious to someone who earns more money say, Hey, I have something that that guy does not have. And I value that more. If at one point of time you come to a different decision. Hey, you have, you have the things to change it immediately, but you have to give up something then to get, get. Yeah. And then you have to ask, what do I get more? And therefore never do a career for money. Money is…a divorce always cut it in half. So if you get a 20% to, in a divorce that you actually 40%.

Daniel Harkavy (32:16):

Good points, very good points. As I’m listening to you, Martin, I’m reflecting on so many conversations over the years. And, and February of 2020, I had just left you in Sapporo, you and the team. And I was with my wife. We were with other clients and we were in Aruba and they asked me to address their top performers on a topic that was a difficult topic for me. And the topic was, what do I believe makes for a remarkable life? I was like, wow, that is such a big topic. A remarkable life from my perspective, when I’m with, you know, a few hundred people who are living life to the full. So I, when we were in Sapporo, I woke up at 4:23 in the morning in between our meetings. And I started to, for some reason, think about this remarkable life opportunity that I had. And for about a half an hour, I just penned it all out. And one of the things that I shared was from you and what I shared was how I learned from you, how you see people. And I learned it, I think right after you and I met at the leadership council, you were you were speaking at a university and you, you shared how you see people.

Martin Daum (33:41):

I know exactly what you mean, and this is for me one of my core beliefs, you know, all humans are equal. Yeah. And that means my entire life. I approached everyone on eye-level. And normally people rank people and unfortunate our society normally about, you know, a status. And that means money. And the moment I do that, I look up, but everyone I met in my life who looked up to someone, looked down to someone, the looking up part is fine. Especially if you’re a CEO, but the looking down part is always bad. Yeah. We are all one people and everyone has the same. You get born and you die, everyone. For me, it’s my Christian belief. Yeah. God sees us, everyone the same. He does not look at our passport or our bank account or our status. But I would say this is even in, for someone who does not believe it’s important, everyone is the same.

Martin Daum (34:38):

I sometimes say, I need great board members. And I know lousy board members or drivers and senior executives, whatever. And it’s about the same percentage. There’s people who are dedicated to that job and really try to do a great job. And they are people who try to sneak away and get, get as, as much out with as little input. And I tell you, the board members make bigger damage than a lousy driver. For sure. Yeah. And I thought for me, this is to meet the people, to, to talk to someone who is the receptionist. We have an absolutely great receptionist here in Portland. Yeah. Important. Yeah. I have a great driver in Germany, really great people. And, and you talk to them. I mean, they, they want to be heard and they want to hear you. Yeah. And I know guys like, like Obama or I met Putin and I make no difference out of that. Yeah. It’s, on eye-level, they’re just human beings like I am.

Daniel Harkavy (35:40):

Yeah. Well, I love that. I don’t see the tops of people’s heads and I don’t see the bottoms of their chins. I see their eyes. And that, that made a difference. And I’ve watched you over the years and I know who you’re talking about right now. You’re talking about Lynn at DTNA. And you’re talking about Harold, your driver and they’re awesome people.

Martin Daum (36:00):

They are awesome people. Absolutely. You want to be around them.

Daniel Harkavy (36:04):

Yeah. Yeah. They’re great. They’re great. So shout outs, props to you, Lynn and Harold. So Martin I really do believe you and I could go on and on, but we’ve got dinner reservations. So let’s wrap this up, Questioning Leadership here with Martin Daum, CEO and Chairman of Daimler Truck and Bus worldwide. Is there any one last bit of wisdom that you really think can help leaders, whether they’re in the C-suite or aspiring to climb. Is there one truth that you think, gosh, this is the truth. Is there anything?

Martin Daum (36:41):

Oh, there’s thousands of tools, but for me is try to make a difference and try to make the difference divert you can influence, and you don’t need to be a leader. Everyone has a world where he can make a difference, try to make it and try to make, start tomorrow with it.

Daniel Harkavy (36:55):

Yup. Flip switches up, as I say. Martin, I love you. It’s a privilege to journey with you. I respect the heck out of you. Thanks for making some time to share your thoughts with the Questioning Leadership audience.

Martin Daum (37:06):

Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Daniel Harkavy (37:11):

A special, thanks to my friend, Martin Daum. Martin is one of more than 30 leaders that I had the privilege of interviewing in my book, The 7 Perspectives of Effective Leaders, and Martin adds his insights in a few different areas throughout the book. But if you’re looking to improve your leadership effectiveness, I want to encourage you to pick up a copy of The 7 Perspectives of Effective Leaders. It’s easy to follow. It’s a straightforward, proven framework that Martin himself has implemented. He and many of the CEOs that lead the different business units around the world, into their executive teams and their management frameworks. And I’m confident it will help you to improve your leadership as well. So if you’ve enjoyed this conversation and you want to learn more how to better leverage your leadership effectiveness, pick up a copy wherever you buy your books or download them and let me know what you think. All right, look forward to joining you again next week in our next episode of Questioning Leadership, you take care.

In This Episode

Martin Daum
Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler Truck AG