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CEO Spotlight: Wilm Uhlenbecker of Brose North America, Inc.

Wilm Uhlenbecker is the president of Brose North America, Inc. MICHauto had the opportunity to talk with Uhlenbecker about his perspective on leadership and how he motivates his team when faced with even the most unpredictable obstacles.

When is it okay to encourage risk among your team?

Brose is currently undergoing a corporate culture change, which increasingly promotes entrepreneurship at all levels of the organization and encourages a failure culture. Our industry’s business model is evolving and is requiring us to be faster in everything we do. It’s also hungry for innovation. Speed and innovation require risk taking. The one thing I ask from our people is that they think a few steps ahead. What happens if we take the risk and what happens if we do not? I trust them to take that educated risk.

How do you keep your team motivated in the face of conflicts or obstacles?

I have had to reflect on this topic more than ever over the past year as we faced unprecedented challenges. My leadership philosophy remains the same – transparency with a forward-thinking outlook. I acknowledge challenges openly while also providing a clear vision and path to tackle them and turn them into opportunities. I am also very much part of the team on the ground and strive to lead by example. I cannot get buried into too many details and I trust my team to manage their business, but from time to time, I will dig deeper into bigger challenges if needed. I do want to understand and feel the challenges our people experience to give better guidance. In the time of COVID-19, when we’ve all felt some levels of disconnection from one another and the workplace, I’ve placed additional emphasis on how much I communicate: more is better. If you do not communicate clearly, broadly, and often, employees do not remain engaged and motivated.

What are the most important attributes of successful leaders today?

As part of the culture change we began at Brose in late 2018, we came up with a list of leadership principles to enable our employees to be successful leaders in their respective sphere of influence. All our managers are now assessed against these principles to ensure, measure, and manage the change. At Brose, a successful leader is encouraged and enabled to promote teamwork and transparency, always looks for more efficient and faster ways to reach goals, challenges and empowers their team, and keeps the big picture in mind while also leading by example and remaining down to earth.

What is your favorite car and why?

I am very fond of the BMW 507, a classic BMW roadster from the 1950s, which to me is the perfect combination of high performance, state-of-the-art technologies – especially for the time period – and beautiful design. It’s very rare and prohibitively expensive unfortunately. By extension, I also love the BMW Z8, which is a more recent take on the 507. It came out in the early 2000s and is also distinctively unique and retro in design, especially for a BMW. They only made 5000 of them so it’s also a collector item.