Decoding Leadership: 5 Questions with CEO Dorette Segschneider

Story by Sandra Kwong Göldi

Dorette Segschneider, with her extensive 20-year tenure as a TV anchorwoman for a financial program, has cultivated a profound understanding of economic intricacies and market structures. Beyond her impactful television career, this business administration graduate is a seasoned entrepreneur and executive advisor, making her a formidable sparring partner in numerous boardrooms.

An accomplished author with six non-fiction books and a producer of TV business documentaries, Segschneider also imparts her knowledge as a lecturer at Mainz University of Applied Sciences. She also guides succession issues and leads personality-oriented transformation processes in medium-sized and family businesses.

Her commitment in a world marked by complexity and limited resources is to facilitate decisions that positively impact clients' success, as well as the company's bottom line and long-term direction. Her role emphasises utmost discretion, catering to prestigious family businesses, law firms, and accomplished public figures. We were honoured to get the chance to chat with her during our Family Forum in Zurich. 

Please share some key points that you discussed during your presentation about finding your role as a NextGen.

One crucial aspect is ensuring that individuals comprehend the long-term nature of this process. I consistently advise my clients that it's not merely a sprint, it is more of a marathon, perhaps even longer. To achieve true success, a genuine commitment to the process and a recognition of its extended duration are essential.

You have authored six non-fiction books and produced TV business documentaries. Could you highlight a particular project or book that you believe has had the most significant impact on your work?

My latest book, though not yet published, has reached its final version in PDF format. This book provides an insightful look into the inner workings of my professional journey over the past decades. The process of creating this book involved deep reflection on my work throughout the years; it will be immensely beneficial for my clients and in influencing my current projects.

With your background, you have a unique perspective on economic and market structures. How has this contributed to your approach as an executive advisor?

My advisory work is significantly influenced by my comprehensive 360-degree perspective from my previous work. This perspective encompasses various strategies and factors that impact entrepreneurs, involving understanding both the economic aspects and recognizing the human dimension. The crucial aspect of my work is bringing these two elements together to provide a holistic approach to my clients.

Succession issues and leadership challenges are prevalent in many organisations, particularly in family businesses. Could you share some strategies or approaches you employ to navigate succession planning and leadership transitions?

I always begin with an individual's personality because my guiding principle is to "lead yourself, lead your team, lead your company." Without the ability to lead oneself, leading a team or a company becomes challenging. Understanding one's personality is crucial, and there are numerous avenues for personal development. Each character trait is linked to specific behaviours, providing ample opportunities for improvement. Therefore, enhancing behaviour is a fundamental aspect of my approach and serves as the cornerstone of my work.

Additionally, a practical tip I often emphasise is the importance of active listening. It goes beyond mere hearing; it involves genuinely comprehending the person in front of you, a transformative practice that has proven to be a significant game-changer for my clients.

Can you provide an example of a particularly challenging problem you've helped a client solve?

I recall an encounter with a young entrepreneur, now 32, who posed what initially seemed like a simple question. She expressed her desire to be a respected member of her family. Upon delving into her personality traits, we discovered she had low dominance, high indulgence, and a tendency to procrastinate on challenging tasks. This easy going demeanour, while comfortable for her, proved somewhat frustrating for her father and other stakeholders. Through targeted efforts to enhance her dominance and communication skills, she ultimately earned the respect of all stakeholders, including her father — a remarkable and rewarding outcome.