Name: Dr. Irène Kilubi
Title: Founder & Managing Director
Organisation: JOINT GENERATIONS
Dr. Irène Kilubi holds a doctorate in industrial engineering and management consultant and has worked for renowned companies such as BMW, Deloitte, Amazon, and Siemens. After many professional stations, she now follows her very personal passion and dedicates herself to the topics of JOINT GENERATIONS, Community Building, and Corporate influencer strategy. She is also an Expert Advisor for the European Innovation Council Accelerator of the European Commission. Dr. Irène Kilubi is a university lecturer in Digital Marketing and Entrepreneurship and a sought-after keynote speaker and anchorwoman at conferences and events.
Dr. Irène Kilubi received the Audience Award at the Impact of Diversity Award in 2023 and was named one of Beyond Gender Agenda's Top 100 Women for Diversity in 2023 and one of w&v's Top 10 Experts for Brand Communities in 2022. She was named "Xing Top Mind 2020" in the Personal Branding and Marketing category and "Xing Top Mind 2022" in the Diversity category and is co-author of the double bestseller (Spiegel and manager magazin) "Future Republic" published in 2021. She has already received the XING NEW WORK Award 2021 twice for her social impact initiative JOINT GENERATIONS, 1st place in the Future Designs category and 2nd place in the Audience Award category, as well as 1st place in the Impact of Diversity Award in the Age Inclusion 2021 category. In addition, the entrepreneur was part of Strive Magazine's TOP 10 FEMALE BUSINESS INFLUENCER with a focus on "NEW WORK" in 2021. She was titled "The woman who brings changemakers together" by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research during the ‘innovation country Germany’ campaign.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Irene's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
There are many things that challenge me about leadership, like the decision-making processes. However, something that I have found most challenging as a leader is finding the right people and keeping them motivated. While there are many people looking for work, finding the perfect people for the job is not a walk in the park. Additionally, you may find the right people but have a hard time keeping them motivated. Not all employees respond the same to similar motivation tactics. My greatest challenge has been discovering tailored ways to motivate my staff and promote productivity.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
My leadership journey began when I established my two companies. Firstly, I launched a marketing agency focuses on employee advocacy, community building, and personal branding. The second company is a social impact initiative that aims to foster intergenerational collaboration. Establishing my companies propelled me up the ranks of leadership as I found myself in a position where I was in charge of all the critical workings of the company and its employees. However, working under incredible leaders formerly helped prepare me for the role. I had a lot of people to look up to. I learned from their success and failure stories.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I wake up at 6.30 am every morning. The first thing I do when I wake up is put on my favorite music. Listening to music motivates me to get up and have a productive day. As the music fills up my room, I get some exercises. Working out helps get me in the right mental state to take on the challenges of the day. I then check my phone or computer for any work-related notifications like emails. Considering the nature of my businesses, I cannot afford to stay away from my electronic devices. Therefore, I always have my devices with me 24/7. After working out, I take a shower before getting into work.
The nature of my companies allows me to work remotely. So, as soon as I complete my morning routine, I sit at my work station and get started with the day’s work. It is hard to predict the kind of day I will have when it comes to work because there are always new things to take on every day. However, a typical day for me at work includes attending meetings, making decisions, reading and signing documents, and putting out “fires.” I also spend a lot of time researching and creating connections that will help me grow and expand my business. I usually have my lunch at noon.
On a regular day, I usually stop working at nine in the evening. However, as a business owner, I am always on alert in case something needs my attention. This means that sometimes I have to work until very late. In the evening, I enjoy home-cooked meals with my friends and spending some quality time with them before retiring to bed at ten. Occasionally, I respond to emails and get in some reading before going to bed. While, running my businesses takes up most of my time, I strive to have a social life and spend time with my loved ones.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
An important lesson I have learned as a leader is that not everyone is a high performer. I have learned that I cannot push people to perform at high levels no matter how much I want because excellence is not for everyone. However, I have also learned to discover people’s strengths and use them to the advantage of the company. I have discovered that the best way to discover people’s strengths is by giving them some degree of freedom to express themselves and get creative in their roles.
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?
A book that has had profound impact on my leadership so far is Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change, by Stacey Abrams. Stacey is one of the most accomplished and influential politicians in the United States. This book is based on her years of experience on harnessing your strengths as an outsider to become a leader and inspire people at the same time. This book has taught me that being an effective leader involves getting outside of my office and my leadership space and interacting with clients and employees in their own space. It leads to a better understanding of the people working for me and the clients I want to serve.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
My advice to a young leader would be “do not be a micromanager.” As a leader, you need to adapt to individuals as not one leadership style suits all employees. Sometimes, allowing your employees to be themselves and resolve issues based on their personal skills and knowledge will help you discover their strengths and weaknesses. It will also help them build their confidence.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
I remember working on a project that stressed out my entire staff. I constantly thought of bringing in other people because I did not think my team could deliver. However, I was pleasantly surprised when they overdelivered despite my doubts. Seeing my team grow and over deliver from time to time is something that always surprises me and motivates me.