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7 Questions on Leadership with Mikael Karlsson

Name: Mikael Karlsson

Title: Head of Business Development

Organisation: Northern Marine Group

Mikael Karlsson began his business journey by studying economics in the United States through a soccer scholarship at Walsh University, earning his bachelor’s in economics…and a national soccer championship.

And in 2021 he gained a certification specialising in business strategy at Harvard Business School.

Looking to put this knowledge to good commercial, but also environmental effect, and influenced by a documentary he viewed on plastic ocean, he established IMPAsave in 2020, an organization aiming influence and support the marine and offshore industry to reduce single use plastic on ships.

Today IMPAsave have more than 10,000 ships committed to their pledge, and his team has started more initiatives to improve the supply chain and waste management involving ships.

Mikael has also undertaken several speaking events and webinars with the purpose of reaching out to the entire marine and offshore community.

Alongside IMPAsave Mikael is Head of Business Development at Northern Marine Group…also an IMPAsave supporter.

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

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


Jonno White

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

Change management as there are a lot of aspects in that. People who are the most important asset to join any change that sometimes might be 360. When mentioning people it is leadership management, employees and board. I say this as I have found myself seeing into the future been and being convinced of changes in the market and our offers.

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

I have always taken responsibility in sports and other events as I came out of my youth. I have always wanted to show direction, having people around me joining what ever journey I embark on. I have always been defined as “sales man” and have started in sales being responsible for a product, service area. I entered into the marine Market in 2006 responsible for an area, an area I grew with success, and shortly led m,e to be responsible for a larger area with two people reporting to me and then Europe with 6 people, then global with 17 direct reports but in reality 200 people. I left that organization in 2018 as I could not see the path of our CEO. I joined a smaller company part of a larger group, to help them increase sales, only to leave after 3 successful years, to return to te group the year after, and where I currently am supporting several business streams.

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

Work is in my head 24/7/365 so my head is always spinning. I have actually worked from home since 2014, having head offices in Oslo, Dubai, Singapore, Glasgow. I am result driven and a networker so I just need to know the goal and then a build to win. I enjoy delivering and see work as a hobby. I wake up in the morning, check emails, maybe a quick call and work towards my goals. I do what ever is required.

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

I am responsible, and if i need enablers, I must create them. It is always about looking into the mirror and if you dont like what you see change either at work if you feel you can or leave and make space for someone else to do the job.

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?

Covey, 7 habits. There are many good points in that, but what impacted med most is a section where Covey describe a father with his sons on a subway train and his kids are noisy and running around, irritating some passengers. When the father is asked to keep them quiet he’s explains that he and the kids returned from the hospital and their mother and his wife just died. The story is from then this passenger became compassionate and did not mind the noise no more. To me in leadership is about a 360 view in anything you do so people you lead understand what path they are on…

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

Trust in your values, listen and ask question, and try what you believe in.

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

I was in a four team leadership in 2014, and we were basically out of money in a +500 million dollar business. I remember we discussed it was up to us, and we made a plan to be more visible to the organization and lead by example and we turned the business around in 7 months.

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