Aug 19, 2017

Hans Stråberg is one of the most experienced large cap CEOs in Sweden. After almost ten years as CEO of Electrolux, he knows what it takes to be a good leader. On behalf of Impact Executives, Hans was interviewed by Ulf Skarin about trends in Leadership.

After leaving Electrolux as CEO six years ago, Hans has continued his career as an experienced board member and advisor within the industrial sector. He held, for example, the position as Chairman of the Board at a private equity owned company with a turnover of SEK 400M – a good example of a company that might need support from an Interim Manager. When there was a change in leadership a couple of years ago, the company had an urgent need to fill a key position.

– The larger the company, the better they can cope without, for example, a CEO. There are often persons within the organisation who can step up, at least temporarily. But in smaller companies you must find your resources externally, and in cases where it is crucial to fill a key position quickly, an Interim Manager is a very good alternative.

– To me, it is desirable that the new manager has a trial period to see if it is a good match and preferably it later leads to a recruitment. It is important to work with a partner who truly understands our needs and who is flexible. Impact Executives were open to helping us find candidates who were interested in either an interim or a permanent position.

What is the biggest advantage of hiring an Interim Manager?

– In all situations of change, people ask themselves two questions; “What is happening?” and “What does it mean for me?” The uncertainty creates concern, informal leaders step forward, a gap in communication is created and the whole organisation slows down. Even if we hire an Interim Manager with the primary goal of keeping the business stable, I also want to have a pair of “safe hands” who can quickly take ownership of the situation. Preferably, this person is overqualified and has experience from similar situations.

What trends within Leadership do you see today?

– Above all, the demand for having the right person in the right place is increasing. Today, the average duration of a CEO of a publicly listed company is around four years – I held the position as CEO of Electrolux for almost ten years. The trend of hiring Interim Managers has been around for a long time in the US and is now starting to grow in Sweden as well. Interim management is fully accepted and we are more experienced in it too. If there is anything I have learned, it is that a company can survive with a poorly functioning Board of Directors and a good CEO, but never the other way around. At the same time, it is important for an Interim CEO to think long-term. It takes at least one year to truly understand the business and meet customers and suppliers. And the time aspect is just as important for key positions on a lower level in order not to overburden the CEO. I would never hire a “bad guy” whose only purpose is to make unpleasant decisions and then leave. The one who does this must also dare to stay and take responsibility for implementing the changes.

The 3 most important aspects of Interim Management according to Hans Stråberg:

1.  Think through your expectations: The most important task for an Interim Manager is to ensure that the business is running smoothly, but the person must also be able to take ownership of the situation quickly.
2. Interim management has become an established way of driving change or bridge vacancies, regardless of the reason. Even if a new manager is recruited, there might be a need for an Interim Manager while waiting for the new manager.
3. Don’t forget to take references – also for an Interim Manager.