Kurt Liedtke, who turned 60 on March 23, ponders retirement from Robert Bosch Corp. in two or three years.
Not that he's in a hurry. But it would be nice to have more time with his wife to visit their three children and two grandchildren on three other continents.
The couple lives in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., but has made no decision on where they'll settle after retirement. Liedtke, a German native, has lived away from his homeland for 22 years.
Liedtke would like to play sports, the saxophone and the clarinet more.He also wants to get back to flying helicopters.
Liedtke has been CEO of Robert Bosch GmbH's North American unit for a little more than two
years. The one-time tax attorney started with the German company 29 years ago in legal and foreign affairs.
The North American unit has done well under Liedtke, but his challenge is to stay on the right path.
Then he'll create his own path in the skies. Liedtke has been flying helicopters for about seven years, he says, after obtaining his private international pilot license in Australia. But he hasn't had time to fly since becoming CEO.
He spoke with Staff Reporter Julie Cantwell at Bosch's North American headquarters in Farmington Hills, Mich.
Especially when you fly the first time alone, this overcoming of fear, it's a great challenge.
I like to be adventurous. I like these daredevil things. And the helicopter is perhaps technically a little bit more challenging than fixed wing, because a fixed wing wants to fly.
A helicopter, this thing doesn't want to fly. You really have to force it.
It gives you an unbelievable freedom because you are not as heavily restricted. You can land wherever you want. I mean, I have to ask somebody, "Can I land on your ground?" but you can't do this with a fixed wing. And it's a great feeling, especially if you have a bubble and you look down. You're sitting almost free in the air.
How does your daredevil, adventurous attitude relate to how you do business?
It's like in sports. I found out in sports two things: I was always doing better in a team than alone.
To give you an example: When I was doing athletics, I was always running the 100 or 400 meters much faster in a relay than when I was on my own. I play tennis competitively, and I had been club champion in doubles in three tennis clubs. I never was the club champion in singles. So that means somehow playing in a team brings more out of me.
Another observation I made from sport is I very often was losing the tennis match when I was 5 nil up, and very often I was winning when
I was 5 nil down. So I was the underdog, I was doing always better than when I was the favorite.
I have to be very careful that this characteristic is somehow not negatively affecting my business attitude. When somebody is making a presentation to me and has all the good numbers, I immediately get suspicious. The big mistakes are always made in good times. That's my conviction. In bad times, we are more focused.