Speaking in front of around 1,200 invited guests in Leipzig’s Opera House, the Chancellor declared that it was "a great pleasure" for her to accept the honorary doctorate from the Leipzig Graduate School of Management. She also thanked Christine Lagarde for her moving laudatory address. The presentation took place as part of this year’s graduation ceremony.
More than one third of the 200 or so graduates of the Leipzig Graduate School of Management come from outside Germany. The Chancellor asked them, if they weren’t planning to stay in Germany, to be ambassadors – for Germany, for the state of Saxony and for the city of Leipzig. "Let your degree here bring people together".
"Gravity existed even in East Germany "
She looked back to her own student days in Leipzig, and told the audience, "It was fun to enter a research landscape where everyone enjoyed discussion". She decided to study physics because the German Democratic Republic "manged to distort a lot, but not science – gravity existed even in East Germany."
She still remembers a contradiction, she continued. On the one hand, the GDR wanted lively, successful research scientists who were encouraged to think freely in the scientific work. As soon as they left the confines of the university though, the scientists were supposed to stop thinking freely "and just be grateful to the state". "The two didn’t go particularly well together," declared the Chancellor.
Leaders with an inner compass
The Leipzig Graduate School of Management awarded the honorary degree in recognition of the Chancellor’s leadership. Angela Merkel in turn praised the Leipzig leadership model, developed at the School of Management. It doesn’t narrow managers’ view to shareholder value, but aims to produce leaders who have an inner compass "that is based on overarching values".
Value-oriented leadership always focuses on the big picture - "the good of the company, the staff, the clients and society" – not in the short term, but over a longer period.
Search for reconciliation and compromise
Society is called on to recognise entrepreneurs, and trust managers to get things done. But equally, companies must feel "their responsibility towards society as a whole".
Leadership presupposes the ability to "see different interests, and to find a space within which these different interests can be balanced and compromises reached," said the Chancellor, and added, "Don’t despise compromise. Compromise is what keeps society together."