Margot Klestil-Löffler: “Life teaches you to be a good boss”

The Austrian ambassador in the Czech Republic is an experienced leader with a long running career in diplomacy. She has a simple recipe for team management: work a lot and laugh a lot.

You started your diplomatic mission in the Czech Republic in March this year. Can you explain your main task, and what you would like to achieve during your tenure?
It is a great honor for me to work as Austrian Ambassador to the Czech Republic. The relations between our two countries are good, but there exist possibilities for intensification, in the European Union, in regional transborder cooperation. I want to see our relations become more future-oriented, full of dynamism and optimism.

The American Ambassador in Prague, Mr. Cabaniss, once said that managing an embassy is similar to managing a company – you have to set the rules and show results. Do you agree with that?
Diplomacy has changed very much. All the electronic means, the manifold possibilities of information require a new method of working. You have to be very quick and rather unbureaucratic as a modern diplomat. You have to be the “sales manager” of your country. If one does it with professionalism and charm, all the better.

Margot Klestil-Löffler

Not too many people can imagine the day-to-day routine of an ambassador. What does your typical working day look like?
Fortunately there is not too much routine in an ambassador’s work. Politics, economics, bilateral visits, consular work, and cultural work. It’s a colorful bouquet of various tasks, which require a lot of flexibility.

How do you manage your time? Do you suffer from a lack of it?
I think there is nobody who would not like to have more time. But I get along quite well, thank you for asking.

You have long experience with team management – you were a cultural attachée at Austrian Embassy in Russia, the head of the Office of the Secretary General for Foreign Affairs and a campaign manager for Thomas Klestil at the Austrian presidential elections – to name just a few of your posts. What qualities should an ideal team leader have?
A good manager has to be a quick thinker, to give clear guidelines and make the right decisions at the right time. In addition, a good boss should have natural authority and charisma.

How can a diplomat learn to be a good leader? Does a Diplomatic Academy teach you that or does it take something extra?
Life-long experience is the prerequisite of a good leader, a good manager. In other words, life teaches you to be a good boss.

Do you think that you still have some reservations (as a leader) or are you satisfied with yourself?
It would be very sad if I were satisfied with myself (laughs).

Career highlights
1978-82 cultural attachée at Austrian Embassy, Moscow
1985-88 deputy head of mission, Austrian Embassy, Bangkok
1988-92 office of the Secretary General for Foreign Affairs, Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs
1992 campaign manager for Dr. T. Klestil at the Austrian presidential elections
1992-94 office of the Federal President
1994-2002 head of office, Secretary General for Foreign Affairs
2003-2005 head of the department for the Americas
2005 since March, Austrian Ambassador in Prague

Did you make any mistakes in your career? What have you learned from them?
Tell me, do you know a single person who has not made any mistakes? But I believe that it is important to be honest, to remain a human being, and to show social intelligence – which helps you to be respected as a caring personality.

What qualities should your employees have?
I like my collaborators to be loyal, flexible, and to have a lot of humor. It’s important to be able to laugh together.

Are you a liberal boss, who prefers discussion with the team, or do you stick to the official way and give commands?
I like to rely on my team, and give my colleagues freedom to be creative. In Prague I have an excellent team, Austrians and Czechs work together very well. Efficiency is one of my most important working principles.

What would you never tolerate?
I do not accept intrigues.

What motivating technique or principle do you use?
Work a lot and laugh a lot.

Do you encounter stressful or critical situations?
Yes. A diplomat nowadays is also a crisis manager. Look around the world – terrorism, environmental catastrophes – where our embassies are involved in helping.

What do you find most difficult about being an ambassador?
You can’t always say what you think.

What do you enjoy most about the job?
Everything.


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