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Nicole Heimann is an award-winning executive and team coach. Along with her partner Marina Cvetkovic, she runs the Zürich-based advisory firm Heimann Cvetkovic & Partners AG, of which she is the founder.
She is the author of “How to Develop the Authentic Leader in You – Integrating the Seven Dimensions of Leadership Intelligence”, a successful book on leadership, and has given international keynote speeches on Authentic Leadership and Elevating Consciousness.
Heimann Cvetkovic & Partners AG is a boutique executive coaching and advisory firm based in Zurich. It specializes in authentic leadership, and focuses on transforming organizations by building strong and genuine leadership alliances among executives. The firm was founded in 2003.
Seeing Beyond the Self
Heimann’s signature program, The Leadership Alliance Culture Program, is designed to create a purposeful culture in order to support a given organization’s purpose, vision, and business strategy.
“Our vision is to contribute to a better world. We believe that the purpose of authentic leadership is about elevating consciousness,” Heimann says, explaining that decisions made at a higher level of consciousness tend to have a greater degree of integrity, ethics, and a better sense of responsibility. She believes that responsibility is directly linked to authenticity. So when decisions are taken in a state of elevated consciousness, they will have an impact on the environment, ecosystems, and eventually on future generations.
The duo believe that, if leaders connect to themselves and each other in an authentic way, they will understand the larger impact of their internal change in perception. “Once leaders realize that everything is connected, leadership itself will shift to benefit society at large, and in turn, our planet,” Heimann says. “On the other hand, if leaders are detached from themselves, they become disconnected from others and thus unable to lead a sustainable and purposeful environment,” she explains. For example, if a leader leads with an attitude of “what can I get out of this”, chances are this will translate into a larger company culture of each person for themselves. If they lead with “what can I give”, a culture of mutual aid and caretaking can be instilled within the work environment.
At the core of all this is trust. “Trust is directly related to integrity, and integrity is directly related to authenticity,” Heimann says. She believes that the higher a person’s authenticity, the higher their integrity and therefore the easier it is for people to trust them.
Leadership Alliances and Driving Forces
Heimann and Cvetkovic work with boards, CEOs, and executive teams to build strong and authentic Leadership Alliances, setting them apart from traditional top-to-bottom coaching programs. They encourage each of their clients’ boards, CEOs and executive teams to work together by forming an authentic, intentional, and committed relationship.
In order to do so, they urge leaders to connect five driving forces: A compelling vision, a shared purpose, a shared mindset, Leadership Alliance behaviors and how they work together. “In order to create a healthy and safe culture, it’s important that the Leadership Alliance connects these five forces, constantly checking them and reinforcing them if necessary,” Heimann says.
So in order to transform an organization for the better, it’s imperative to have the aforementioned shift in behavior along with a strong Leadership Alliance. Whether or not this transformation is successful is determined by a company’s stakeholders, Heimann believes. “Perception is reality and your stakeholders decide whether a change is successful, or an outcome has been achieved,” she explains. This is why Heimann and her partner listen closely to other senior executives, the Boards of Directors, direct reports and peers, as their testimonies and perception are most valuable.
Q. How to Lead Differently?
When it comes to the firm’s coaching methodology, Heimann tends to focus on the ‘how’ of forming a Leadership Alliance. “If we know that the behavior of the top teams has a direct impact on the culture, and therefore success, of the company,” Heimann says, “Then why don’t these teams decide to establish a strong and authentic Leadership Alliance? The answer is: because the ‘how’ hasn't been clearly established yet.”
They focus on development in three different dimensions: the personal, the collective and organisational leadership as a whole. The personal involves developing one’s authenticity, for example, but this is just one part of the process. “Building authentic relationships at the top levels in organizations goes beyond personal development,” Heimann says.
Heimann and Cvetkovic also work on integrating the seven dimensions of leadership: physical intelligence, emotional intelligence, pragmatic, communication, heart intelligence, neuroscience, and consciousness intelligence. “Developing one’s authenticity is a process of integrating the seven dimensions of leadership intelligence, and the Leadership Alliance is all about connecting the five driving forces to work on collective leadership,” she explains. “Working with awareness, consciousness and intention with the five driving forces provides a strong alignment, transparency, and clarity.” Most often, leaders still look at these elements separately, missing how they are connected. Heimann believes that one weak link can put the whole range of elements at risk. When the driving force is weak, for example, executing an organisation’s vision may be tricky. “Everything and everyone impacts the system as a whole,” she says.
Then comes accountability, especially in relationships with other stakeholders. It’s important that each leading team works on itself individually, but also on a collective level. Hence why in our work, we also include the board, as the relationship between an organisation’s board and its CEO is quite influential. All important strategic decisions need approval, so this relationship can mistakenly be underestimated. “To exceed at the board level, a CEO needs to understand the dynamics, create a strategic partnership with them collectively, build trust with its members and show up at meetings,” Heimann believes.
Looking Inwards and to the Future
Heimann’s own leadership style is what she describes as “synergistic” and visionary. She believes it’s important to have a vision because “it inspires, it connects to purpose, and it’s what gets me out of bed in the morning”. The synergistic outcome of our work is a result of walking our talk and living a strong leadership alliance in our own business. “As Co-CEOs, we are focused on co-creating greater outcomes together and our own philosophy – our alliance – has become the key to our success”, she says.
Faced with the rapid digitization and a reduced need for humans to meet requirements, Heimann Cvetkovic & Partners AG is standing its ground. They, as a team, believe in “humanness”. So while she sees the benefits of exploring AI or new technologies to innovate, Heimann believes it’s important not to try and compete with the speed that these new technologies will instill. “It will require leaders to consciously slow down,” she says. “Leadership in the age of digitization means staying connected to our humanness and authenticity, and exploring new expressions where each human has the capacity to create value and contribute to the betterment of the world.”
In 2019, Nicole Heimann was granted the ‘Leading Global Coach Award’ by Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, and was his official biographer in the full-feature documentary “The Earned Life”. In 2020, she was nominated as one of the ‘Top 20 Professionals by the IFLD’ for the Global Excellence Award as well as a ‘Top25 Thought Leader’ by Thinkers 360. In 2021, she was nominated one of ‘15 World Class Mentors by the International Federation of Learning and Development’ and became part of the IFLD Hall of Fame.
Heimann is also a member of the 100Coaches Group, as well as a board member of the Bullens Heimann & Friends Foundation, which helps children in need through education. She is an Advisory Council Member to the Organizational Leadership and Development Network (OLDN).