German managers rarely boast spectacular career tracks or look back onto an elite university education. Instead, their slow but steady ascent to the top is fueled by the relentless loyalty to their very first employer. Today, they sit in the executive chairs of some of the world’s most successful companies.
Take Werner Baumann, the head of chemicals giant Bayer; Dieter Zetsche, the chief executive of world-renown carmaker Daimler; or Harald Krüger, the CEO of famous German auto brand BMW.
Mr. Baumann, born the son of a baker in 1962, studied economics in Aachen and Cologne and has been working for the pharmaceuticals group since 1988. Mr. Zetsche, born in Turkey in 1953 while his father was working on a dam there, studied electrical engineering in Karlsruhe before he was hired by Daimler in 1976. And Mr. Krüger, born in 1965, studied mechanical engineering in Braunschweig und Aachen before joining BMW as a trainee in 1992.
None of these three short biographies necessarily suggest a steep career path – and yet they represent precisely what a typical German executive’s career looks like. The three CEOs smoothly, and according to plan, took over from their predecessors – without any indiscretions or scandals.