pioneers and forefathers

From Henry Ford to Peter F. Drucker
to Tony Hsieh

minds leave
big shoes
to fill

From Henry Ford to Peter F. Drucker to Ricardo Semler, the history of employee-focused corporate governance goes all the way back to the early days of management theory, taking us on an inspiring journey right up to the dazzling visionaries of today's business scene.

Let yourself be inspired!

Henry Ford

Founder of Ford Motor Company

»Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.«


He recognized the need for more emphasis on knowledge work - a thoroughly revolutionary idea for an era that was mainly defined by industrial production.

This is precisely what made Henry Ford unique: He was never satisfied with what was given, and always questioned traditional methods.

That makes him one of the major proponents of the change factor.


Pioneer of modern management theory

»The most important, and indeed the truly unique, contribution of management in the 20th century was the fifty-fold increase in the productivity of the manual worker in manufacturing. The most important contribution management needs to make in the 21st century is similarly to increase the productivity of knowledge work and the knowledge worker.«


He always stressed the increasing importance of knowledge work. If, in his view, the greatest achievement of management in the 20th century was the 50-fold increase in factory workers' productivity, Drucker was convinced that in the 21st century, it is the need to increase the productivity of knowledge workers that will confront managers and organizations with a whole new set of challenges.

Ricardo Semler

CEO and majority shareholder of Semco S/A

»The key to management is to get rid of managers.«


His view is that the key to management success lies in doing away with managers. 
His radical democratization of processes has helped the company to achieve great success: Under Semler's leadership, sales rose from 4 million US dollars in 1982 to 212 million in 2003 (an increase of 21% per annum). The number of employees increased from 90 to 3,000, and the turnover rate has dropped to less than one percent.

Brian Robertson

Developer of Holacracy

»Holacracy is a fundamentally different ‘operating system’ for organizations — it revolutionizes how a company is structured, how decisions are made, and how power is distributed.«


He developed a new organizational structure which differs fundamentally from conventional leadership patterns: Hierarchy and control are largely dispensed with, and the staff takes the bulk of the responsibility.

The Holacracy principle aims to avoid giving power to individual leaders alone, but  rather to distribute it among many autonomous units. This requires a fundamental restructuring of the business organization.

Robert Ehlert

Board of Directors, PackInvest AG

»People want to be treated fairly, they want to realize their ideas, and they want to develop things themselves.«


He is the founder of PackInvest AG - now owned by its employees - and built his corporate culture on a strong foundation: Trust.

Robert Ehlert rejects conventional management practices and traditional control mechanisms. He is known as a strong advocate of "trust contracts": Instead of a complex employment contract, a simple verbal agreement works just as well for him. His company also does without fixed working hours and vacation schedules.

Tony Hsieh

CEO Zappos

»Especially in today’s world, where everything is changing much faster than it was 10 years ago, I think flexibility and adaptability is what’s actually going to be the competitive advantage. And holacracy allows for faster flexibility and adaptability.«


He has transformed the organizational structures of his company Zappos, an online store for fashion and shoes, according to the Holacracy principle. He hopes that this will result in new and innovative initiatives.

When it comes to the development of the corporate organization and the evolution of leadership styles, he looks to Charles Darwin, who argued that it was not the fastest or the strongest who would survive, but those who could adapt best.

Tony Hsieh knows that to remain a leader of the pack, there's no need to move with the times.

Niels Pfläging

President of Consulting, MetaManagement Group

»When companies plan, they end up either wasting their time or even hurting themselves. After all, to be successful today, you actually have to be ready to respond with great flexibility if you want to stay on top of the rapidly changing conditions of the marketplace.«


He is absolutely certain: Companies need to be designed in radically new ways. Because if you direct your team towards hierarchy, whether consciously or unconsciously, the result is always bureaucracy, paralysis and loss of engagement. If you want your business to be faster, and more flexible and robust, your employees must be oriented towards customers, and thus the market.

That's why Niels Pfläging has defined a new approach to management in his book "The 12 New Laws of Leadership". He shows what it means for each individual and for the whole company when responsibility, freedom and community are an everyday reality, and how to achieve it.

Heiko Fischer

CEO Resourceful Humans GmbH

»We don't want 'human resources', but creative people who can express themselves and maximize their potential.«


He advocates giving employees maximum autonomy and creating a network of self-organizing teams. This approachs brings enthusiasm and innovation back to the company.

For Fischer, the role of a good leader is to ensure that employees understand each other and want to move together in the right direction, rather than being required to do so by some hierarchical authority.

Marc Stoffel
& Hermann arnold

CEO & Chairman
Haufe-umantis AG

»Managers are put way up on a pedestal. I can't keep all the responsibility for myself, and then expect my employees to perform at their best. Now, I don't have to give this degree of freedom to everyone. But I need to get rid of obstacles for those who want it.«


Hermann Arnold und Marc Stoffel agree: Leadership is a service provided by managers, and employees are like their customers. As such, they are in the best position to evaluate whether they are satisfied or not with the service that’s provided. As an expression of this conviction, Hermann Arnold put more responsibility in the hands of his employees: When he noticed that an impending growth phase would require different leadership qualities than his own, he stepped down as CEO and let his employees decide on an appropriate successor. Since then, all upper management positions at Haufe-umantis are democratically elected. Marc Stoffel, who became the first democratically elected CEO, is convinced that the majority of employees are much more advanced than most companies think. They want to make a contribution to their company’s success, and share in the responsibility.