We had the pleasure of sitting down with a very special team member, Kolja A. Rafferty.
Kolja serves as our Practice Lead Strategy at Leverage Experts and brings extensive experience as a CEO. Kolja is also a certified director and a recognized turnaround expert (CTP) with an impressive track record of delivering significant value creation and successful closings during periods of rapid transformation (SRC). He plays a pivotal role in the success of our organization, and his professionalism is driven by a relentless pursuit of excellence, a keen sense of speed and adaptability, and a commitment to consistent quality.
We believe he is a remarkable professional and a true leader. Let’s see what he has to say.
LE: How is Kolja A. Rafferty outside of the office?
Kolja: While I have a passion for my profession, I am also seeking to find a balance between office hours and private life. To disconnect from professional duties, I still need some challenges. I enjoy travelling “off the beaten track,” including long-range desert tours through the Sahara and trips to Nepal or Mumbai. Challenging my views in executive education or through (modern) art opens windows to other perspectives of reality. I also enjoy scuba diving and kite surfing, attend boxing lessons, and am passionate about tango. Pushing physical limits allows me to disconnect from the business realities and build up stamina for the challenges ahead. When going out, I am attracted to authentic places. I admit, the glamour of high-end restaurants does very little for me. One would rather find me walking the streets and enjoying local food than in a 5-star restaurant testing bespoke creations. It’s not that I don’t like champagne, but in private, I drink my beer from the bottle.
LE: What have been your most important academic achievements?
Kolja: Continuous education is a critical element of my executive journey. Starting with a legal education, it was the MBA that connected the dots and advanced management education that put things into perspective. Various executive programs, mostly at INSEAD, helped round out my understanding of different managerial disciplines. The certification as a Turnaround Practitioner (CTP) opened a different horizon on critical moments in the corporate life cycle. The INSEAD training as a Non-Executive Director (IDP-C) challenged me to improve on stakeholder communication and inclusion.
Ultimately, to understand management dynamics throughout periods of critical transformation, I am in the process of earning my PhD at IE University in Madrid. This has been a dive into the rabbit hole, using the analogy from Alice in Wonderland. Applying data-based statistics to soft-skill-driven disciplines like management made me revisit several of my previous beliefs and allowed me to obtain a much more holistic understanding of management in special investment situations. This helps me reflect, guide decision processes, and create much more comprehensive options for companies facing difficult times.
LE: Why do you think corporate governance is so important?
Kolja: Corporate Governance defines the “Rules of Engagement” within the company. Through the governance model, decision rights and responsibilities are delegated within the organization, establishing a model for driving decisions on different levels of the organization. The delegation of authority is crucial to empower employees, dealing with critical subject matters, hence, with the highest competence, to come up with the best decisions in due time. Corporate governance also establishes feedback channels, hence, the right procedures for employees to collect feedback on their decisions within the organization.
As we are challenged for increased agility, swift decision processes, without compromising accountability, are crucial for an organization’s resilience and adaptability. In parallel, sound governance can create a climate of trust and empowerment. This helps unlock employees’ true full potential, create a “can-do” environment, and also attract talent.
The benefits of corporate governance stretch far beyond the observation of compliance. Financial performance is a result of adaptability, resilience, and superior competitiveness. These result from engaged and empowered employees under a clear vision and corporate leadership. Thus, a sound layout of corporate governance.
LE: Do you think that your time in the military contributed to your personal and professional growth?
Kolja: Often, a military background is misunderstood as a mindset of “command and obedience.” In fact, this is wrong. The military is one of the few organizations training its personnel early on, rigorously in various elements of leadership. Specifically operating under time pressure and resource constraints is a large aspect of Commissioned Officers’ training. Alike first responders as paramedics, firefighters, and others, the military operates in the face of real threats and danger. Decisions are executed immediately and prove their value without delay. Weak decisions are not limited to financial losses; responsibilities cannot be passed on.
As a paratrooper officer, I assumed the responsibility for the health and lives of my subordinates. To win the trust of my platoon, listening to others, regardless of the lower ranks, being thorough on situational awareness and assessment, leading by example, and facing full accountability have been vital every day. Being ultimately dependent on each other, trust runs both ways. This taught me to trust my team to the left and to the right, yet, also to thoroughly align before moving to action.
Compared to the corporate world, in the military, stakes are high, and accountability is absolute; for corporate executives, these are traits that can be bypassed if too inconvenient. Complementary to sound sophisticated technical education in finance and management, military leadership training and operational exposure are an important layer of my executive profile, operating in critical and complex situations of crisis and transformation, where the stakes are high.
LE: What do you like the most about being part of Leverage Experts?
Kolja: I like to compare our services to playing football (or any other team sport). If you are passionate about your skills, playing in the Champions League is the aspiration. LE operates without “company political burdens.” We enjoy the luxury of focusing entirely on the level of our performance. Within the team, we fill different roles, with individuals that are very much hand-picked. We do not tolerate mediocrity. We commit to solving the challenges of our clients.
Together with a team of like-minded individuals who share this passion and values, I am committed to delivering excellence to our clients when they are facing critical and complex challenges. Getting the client’s appreciation when we deliver and also experiencing the client’s trust in critical moments of their business cycle is a high reward for our service.
It’s clear that Kolja strives to be his best version and a brilliant professional so he can provide successful results to his clients. If you want to contact Kolja or keep up with him, connect with him on LinkedIn.