2019 - Global Smart Energy Elites

News, Technology


Thorsten Heller | Chief Executive Officer | Greenbird

Who was your role model during the pivotal stages of your life?

Peter Habeler, the first man (together with Reinhold Messner) on Mount Everest without oxygen. Peter was my first skiing instructor when I was only 3-4 years old. He would always set aside time to teach me before his long daily training for his Mount Everest climb. But he taught me more than just skiing; he demonstrated that you need to work hard to achieve something. You have to dare to achieve big targets while still remaining human.

This interview first appeared in the Global Smart Energy Elites 2019. Read the full interview and access the digital magazine here.

What do you think makes a successful leader?

Many people don’t understand the difference between a leader and a manager. In my view, a leader has a strong vision and the emotional intelligence to get people to follow them. A manager will dictate and shout orders, whereas a leader will motivate and talk to the team’s heart and soul.

What tips do you have for keeping a team motivated?

It’s always about the vision. I often tell this story: If you are a young boy or girl playing soccer in the street with your friends and you don’t think about playing Champions League if you don’t dream about playing for Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich, for example, you are never going to make it. As long as we as the team share the same vision, it is easy to motivate people.

Another important point is to see your team as individuals with individual strengths and values and not see them as a number. By achieving a balance between the vision and showing empathy towards your team members, it is easy to motivate – if you care about them, you are going to make it.

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson – I am still reading it. It’s an amazing book looking at all technical innovations from a machine point of view, and on the other hand, it looks at what the crowds and society are doing and how the two are integrating together – I think it is a genius book.

What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned and how has it proven invaluable?

It’s all about bets. Big bets. Little bets.

“You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” – Wayne Gretzky.

What trend in the global energy space do you see becoming intrinsic to the overall power network?

More and more utilities have understood the concept of a ‘platformed utility’. Therefore utilities – from an infrastructure and IT perspective – must become a platform operator instead of an operator of a commoditised infrastructure. They have to be able to get local production into the network, completely new assets and devices into the platform; they have to manage assets they don’t own anymore, and that means from an infrastructure point of view they have to be a platformed utility. And from an IT point of view too, as not all of their systems and services will be provided by the utility for the entire value chain. On the other hand, one trend I believe to be completely overhyped is blockchain.

Blockchain is simply an underlying technology infrastructure; so at the moment I feel that way too many organisations are providing solutions to a real, albeit unidentified problem.

This interview first appeared in the Global Smart Energy Elites 2019. Read the full interview and access the digital magazine here.