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7 Questions on Leadership with Birkan Atlamaz

Name: Birkan Atlamaz

Title: R&D Manager-Electrical Electronics Systems & Cybersecurity Manager for Vehicles

Organisation: Anadolu Isuzu Otomotiv Sanayi ve Ticaret A.S.

Birkan Atlamaz is an individual with approximately 17 years of engineering experience. After graduating from Ege University with a degree in Electrical-Electronics Engineering in 2006, he began his career in commercial Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). Currently, he works at Anadolu Isuzu, which is also a commercial OEM, in the Research and Development department as a part of the R&D Electronics Systems team. He holds a managerial position as the R&D Electrical Electronics Systems Manager and the Vehicle Cybersecurity Manager, overseeing the entire organization.

Furthermore, Birkan Atlamaz has completed a Master's program in Engineering Management at Izmir Institute of Technology in 2012.

Additionally, he possesses certifications in Scrum Master, Product Owner, Cyber Security, Six-Sigma, software, and project management.

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Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Birkan's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

As a leader, one of the most challenging aspects I have encountered is striking the right balance between maintaining authority and fostering a collaborative environment. On one hand, as a leader, it is essential to provide clear direction, make decisive decisions, and ensure the team stays focused on achieving objectives. This often requires asserting authority and setting boundaries to keep everyone aligned.

However, on the other hand, I have come to realize that a truly effective leadership approach also involves empowering team members and encouraging their active participation. Encouraging open communication, soliciting diverse perspectives, and valuing the contributions of each team member are critical to fostering a collaborative and innovative work environment.

Finding the right balance between these two facets of leadership can be a delicate process. Being too authoritative may stifle creativity and hinder team morale, while being too lenient might lead to a lack of direction and accountability. Consequently, it requires continuous self-assessment, adaptability, and the ability to recognize the unique strengths and weaknesses of each team member.

Moreover, dealing with conflicts and differing opinions within the team can be another challenging aspect of leadership. Conflicts are natural in any collaborative setting, but as a leader, it is my responsibility to address and resolve these issues constructively. Navigating through these challenges often demands patience, empathy, and the willingness to mediate conflicts with fairness and objectivity.

In conclusion, while being a leader is a rewarding experience, it also comes with its set of challenges. The ability to strike a balance between assertiveness and collaboration, along with effectively managing conflicts, are key components to being a successful leader. Continuous self-improvement, open communication, and a commitment to building a cohesive team are essential in overcoming these challenges and achieving positive outcomes in a leadership role.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

Becoming a leader is a journey that often involves a combination of personal growth, experiences, and opportunities. In my case, my path to leadership was a gradual and transformative process.

It all began during my early years when I was involved in various extracurricular activities and school projects. I naturally found myself taking on leadership roles, whether it was organizing events, leading group discussions, or coordinating team efforts. These experiences ignited my passion for guiding and inspiring others towards common goals.

As I entered higher education, I sought opportunities to further develop my leadership skills. I actively participated in student organizations, where I held positions of responsibility, such as club president and project coordinator. These roles allowed me to learn valuable lessons in decision-making, teamwork, and problem-solving.

As my education continued, I also sought out mentorship and learning opportunities from established leaders in my field. Their guidance and insights offered invaluable perspectives on effective leadership styles and strategies. I absorbed their advice, learning the importance of empathy, active listening, and empowering others.

Beyond academics, I seized chances to engage in community service and volunteer work. These experiences exposed me to a diverse range of people and challenges, sharpening my adaptability and communication skills. It also instilled in me a sense of responsibility and the desire to make a positive impact on others' lives.

Upon entering the professional world, I actively sought leadership roles within my workplace. I was determined to contribute to the organization's growth and success while fostering a collaborative and inclusive culture. My dedication and consistent efforts caught the attention of higher-ups, leading to opportunities to lead small teams and projects.

Throughout my career, I continued to invest in self-improvement, attending leadership development programs and workshops. I learned about various leadership styles, conflict resolution techniques, and ways to motivate and mentor team members effectively. Over time, the accumulation of experiences, learning, and personal growth allowed me to evolve into a leader capable of guiding and inspiring others.

It wasn't a single defining moment but rather a continuous process of growth and refinement. Embracing challenges, learning from failures, and staying open to feedback were integral to my development as a leader. In conclusion, my journey to becoming a leader involved a blend of early exposure to leadership opportunities, seeking mentorship, engaging in community service, and proactively pursuing professional development.

Each step of the way contributed to shaping my leadership style and equipping me with the skills necessary to lead and empower others. The path to leadership is an ongoing adventure, and I am committed to embracing every opportunity for growth and making a positive impact on those around me.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

My daily work routine follows a structured schedule from the moment I wake up to the time I go to sleep. I begin my day by waking up early with a positive attitude, which sets the tone for the rest of the day. Starting the day on a positive note helps me stay motivated and focused on my tasks.

After waking up, I engage in a morning routine that includes some form of exercise or stretching to energize my body and mind. This helps me feel refreshed and ready to take on the challenges of the day. Following the physical activity, I take some time for mindfulness exercises or meditation, which helps me clear my mind and enhances my overall productivity.

Once I am mentally and physically prepared, I proceed to plan and prioritize my tasks for the day. I review my to-do list, which I have prepared the night before, and make any necessary adjustments based on the urgency and importance of each task. This planning allows me to have a clear roadmap for the day, making it easier to stay focused and organized. Throughout the workday, I adhere to time blocks dedicated to specific tasks.

By allocating time for different activities, such as focused work, meetings, breaks, and creative thinking, I can maintain a sense of structure and prevent distractions from derailing my productivity. During the day, I make a conscious effort to take short breaks in between tasks. These breaks are essential for recharging my energy and preventing burnout. I might use these breaks to stretch, take a short walk, or engage in a brief conversation with colleagues, which also fosters a sense of camaraderie within the team.

As the workday progresses, I regularly review my progress against the to-do list and make adjustments if needed. This helps me stay on track and ensures that I meet my deadlines and commitments effectively. Towards the end of the workday, I take some time to reflect on the achievements and challenges of the day. This self-reflection enables me to learn from my experiences and identify areas for improvement.

I also use this time to plan ahead for the next day, preparing my to-do list and setting priorities, so I can start the following day with a clear plan in mind. Finally, as the day comes to a close, I wind down by engaging in relaxing activities, such as reading or spending quality time with family and friends. This helps me transition from work mode to a state of rest and relaxation, ensuring that I get a good night's sleep, ready to wake up refreshed and motivated for another productive day.

In summary, structuring my workdays involves waking up early with a positive attitude, engaging in a morning routine, planning and prioritizing tasks, using time blocks effectively, taking regular breaks, and reflecting on my progress. This structured approach not only enhances my productivity but also contributes to a better work-life balance and overall well-being.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

Recently, I had the opportunity to experience a valuable leadership lesson that served as a powerful reminder of the importance of empathy and active listening in effective leadership.

During a team meeting, a team member shared a personal challenge they were facing, which was affecting their performance and overall well-being. As a leader, my initial reaction was to offer quick solutions and advice to help them overcome the issue. However, as the team member continued to speak, I noticed that my attempts to problem-solve were not having the desired effect.

It was then that I realized the significance of simply being present and actively listening without immediately jumping to solutions. Instead of focusing on providing answers, I shifted my approach and created a safe space for the team member to express themselves fully. I empathetically acknowledged their feelings and concerns, showing genuine understanding and compassion.

Through this experience, I learned that sometimes, as a leader, the most impactful action is to listen attentively and allow team members to express themselves openly. People often seek empathy and validation before seeking solutions. By actively listening, I fostered trust and encouraged open communication, allowing the team member to feel supported and understood.

As a leader, it's essential to recognize that team members may have various personal and professional challenges that can influence their performance and morale. Demonstrating empathy and active listening not only strengthens the bond between a leader and their team but also enhances the team's overall well-being and productivity. Furthermore, this leadership lesson reinforced the idea that leadership is not solely about possessing all the answers, but about fostering an environment where team members feel valued and encouraged to share their thoughts and concerns openly.

As leaders, our role is to facilitate growth and development, which can only be achieved by understanding and responding to the needs of our team members with empathy and sensitivity. In conclusion, the recent leadership lesson I learned emphasized the power of empathy and active listening in effective leadership. By providing a supportive and understanding space for team members to share their challenges and concerns, we can build stronger and more cohesive teams.

This experience served as a valuable reminder that leadership is not just about directing and instructing but also about connecting and genuinely caring for the well-being of those we lead. As I continue my leadership journey, I will carry this lesson with me, striving to be a more empathetic and attentive leader for the benefit of my team's success and growth.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

One book that has had a profound impact on my leadership is "Leaders Eat Last" by Simon Sinek. This book explores the concept of selfless leadership and how great leaders prioritize the well-being and success of their team above their own. Before reading this book, I had always believed that being a leader meant taking charge, making tough decisions, and achieving goals at any cost.

However, "Leaders Eat Last" challenged this perspective and opened my eyes to a more human-centric approach to leadership. The book delves into the biology of human behavior and how our brain responds to trust and safety. It highlights the significance of creating a safe and supportive environment for team members, where they feel valued and cared for. In such an environment, individuals are more likely to collaborate, take risks, and contribute their best efforts to achieve shared goals.

One of the most impactful lessons from the book was the idea that leadership is not about being the most dominant or powerful person in the room, but about being the most responsible and caring. As a leader, it is my responsibility to protect and nurture the team, ensuring they have the resources, guidance, and emotional support needed to thrive. After reading "Leaders Eat Last," I made a conscious effort to shift my leadership style.

I focused on building stronger connections with my team members, understanding their aspirations and concerns, and actively showing appreciation for their contributions. I started incorporating more team-building activities and recognition programs to foster a sense of belonging and trust within the team.

Additionally, the book emphasized the importance of leading with integrity and authenticity. I realized that as a leader, I needed to be consistent in my words and actions, being transparent and honest in my communication. This helped establish credibility and instill confidence in my leadership. The impact of "Leaders Eat Last" was reflected in the increased engagement and motivation of my team members.

They started expressing a greater sense of ownership and commitment to the team's goals. I noticed improved collaboration, as team members readily supported each other and shared knowledge and expertise.

Overall, "Leaders Eat Last" reshaped my understanding of leadership, moving it from a top-down authority to a servant-leader model. It taught me the significance of prioritizing the well-being of my team and fostering an environment of trust, safety, and collaboration. This shift in leadership approach has not only enhanced the team's performance but has also created a more fulfilling and meaningful leadership experience for me personally.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

If I could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, it would be this: Always lead with humility and a willingness to learn.

Leadership is not about having all the answers or being the most knowledgeable person in the room. Instead, it's about recognizing that leadership is a journey of continuous growth and improvement. Embrace a humble attitude that allows you to acknowledge your limitations, seek feedback, and learn from others. As a young leader, be open to new ideas and perspectives, and don't be afraid to ask questions.

Surround yourself with a diverse team and value the input of each team member. By fostering an environment of openness and curiosity, you will encourage creativity, collaboration, and innovation. Admitting when you don't have all the answers or making mistakes doesn't weaken your leadership; rather, it strengthens it. Being humble and receptive to learning opportunities will not only earn you the respect of your team but also make you a more effective and approachable leader.

Remember that leadership is a journey of growth, and there is always something new to learn and improve upon. Stay humble, stay curious, and continue to develop your leadership skills throughout your career. Embracing a humble and learning-oriented mindset will set you on the path to becoming an inspiring and influential leader.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

I had a difficulty over one team once for working together with different capabilities and background. Communicating with them seperately and individually to make them realize the big picture and the value of each other.

In the end, our team performed like a symphony, with diverse instruments coming together in harmony to create something extraordinary. By embracing our differences, setting common goals, fostering open communication, and valuing each other's contributions, we transformed diversity from a potential obstacle into our greatest strength.

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