As head of design and research and development at Uth GmbH, a German machine manufacturing firm, Julia Uth prides herself on leading with fairness and responsibility.
That these tenets mimic the overall mission for Uth is no coincidence.
Uth has been out front in the extrusion industry in its use of recycled materials, as well as solar power. The company has applications in tire manufacturing, mechanical rubber goods, silicone compounding, threads for wire and cable goods, and adhesives and sealants.
How would you describe your own leadership style?
I would say that I try to maintain open-minded communication with an agile leadership on the team. I make decisions where it's necessary and focus on priorities. In addition, it is important to solve failures together—and focus on a continuous improvement process within the team. Besides that, in my opinion, a bit of "hands on" mentality is also advantageous.
To whom do you credit your leadership style (directly or from afar, i.e. a person whom you may have emulated) and what, specifically, did you take from that person?
Nowadays it is most important to maintain your integrity, your own character. Empathy also is important in today's world, considering changes in processes and flexible working models—all of which require more empathy from managers. Communication skills and process structures remain important.
What is the one key to getting Uth employees to "buy in" on a new process or change in the status quo?
Communication, communication, communication. Honestly, like so many different businesses and models, you have to include the team in a new change process. In today's fast-paced digital age, we are constantly confronted with change—perhaps even more often than we would like. The job as a manager is to communicate changes to employees and take them along on the journey. There are many different ways in which employees can react to changes. Some simply accept them, and some resist them. For successful change, it is essential that they are viewed as "the normal state." So, it is also important to be a role model.
As a woman in a leadership position, what advice would you impart to other women seeking to move up? What hurdles have you faced in the rubber industry, if any?
It's true, women are under-represented in management levels, especially in traditional sectors such as the rubber industry or in mechanical engineering. Of course, this also is due to the fact that generally fewer women than men take up careers in these sectors. I am convinced that this will change in the next few years, because the traditional role models have long since been broken and there will also be further change in the traditional industries—it will just take a little longer.
In general, I think you can only give similar tips to all young managers (whether female or male); be self-confident, focus on your strengths and take advantage of the opportunities that come your way. Sometimes you just have to jump in at the deep end and try new ways. Of course, sometimes women need a little more perseverance, because there are always situations in which women encounter prejudice, but here in particular you should simply react quickly and confidently instead of getting annoyed.
All women who hear the saying, "A coffee please" in the male world, because they are perceived as a secretary, should not be annoyed ... but simply say "feel free to bring me one."
I think these prejudices are shaped by role models—not meant in a bad way, so you are welcome to govern in a quick-witted manner—but still with respect and humor.
Leadership also is outside of the human resource realm, i.e. the dealings with your own employees and customers. How would you describe your "macro" leadership at Uth in pushing sustainability initiatives?
Based on our corporate values: trust, fairness, innovation and sustainability—we value treating each other respectfully and fairly for long-term partnerships, internally as externally with partners and customers. Our mission is to develop sustainable and excellent technologies for rubber processing. With a focus on this goal, we try to keep on track with all our actions.