Time magazine named Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel its person of the year Wednesday afternoon.
Merkel, who has served as Germany's chancellor since 2005, earned the honor ahead of a short list of finalists including Donald Trump, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, and Caitlyn Jenner. "Her political style was not to have one; no flair, no flourishes, no charisma, just a survivor's sharp sense of power and a scientist's devotion to data," observed Time in its profile.
Though the worlds of politics and business are profoundly different, Merkel's leadership traits offer plenty of pointers for entrepreneurs who are fond of learning lessons from the larger stage of global government. Here's a short list of Merkel's standout attributes from Time's writeup:
She has never been afraid to be a lone voice. In fact, Merkel is accustomed to minority platforms. She is a divorced Protestant in a Catholic party. She is from East Germany, entering politics as "an Ossi in the newly unified Germany of the 1990s where easterners were still aliens," notes Time. Her educational background is not in politics or international relations but in quantum chemistry. And of course, she's a woman, another identifier in which she's had to stand more or less on her own.
She is a master of leading from behind. Time says Merkel has "proudly practiced what Willy Brandt once called Die Politik der kleinen Schritte (the politics of baby steps), or as we call it in the U.S., leading from behind." Reading between the lines, you can ascertain that Merkel has learned a thing or two from Nelson Mandela, widely acknowledged as a champion of leading from behind, which is to say, viewing leadership as a collective activity. Harvard Business School professor Linda Hill, an expert in Mandela's techniques, believes leading from behind is the ultimate form of purpose-based leadership. "Purpose--not the leader, authority, or power--is what creates and animates a community," she writes in her 2014 book Collective Leadership. "It is what makes people wiling to do the hard tasks of innovation together and work through the inevitable conflict and tension."
Her values have helped to reverse and rescue Germany's reputation from the past. "Germany has spent the past 70 years testing antidotes to its toxically nationalist, militarist, genocidal past," reports Time. Merkel's values--humanity, generosity, tolerance--are an antidote. In 2015, there have been several occasions when these values have come into play, whether it was in response to Vladimir Putin's actions in the Ukraine, the Greek financial crisis, or the violence in Paris.
When events like this "revived the reflex to slam doors, build walls, and trust no one," Time writes, she was unafraid to make her stand, even if it meant more time for Merkel as a lone voice. It was nothing she hadn't done before. "Her approval ratings dropped more than 20 points, even as she broadcast her faith in her people: 'Wir schaffen das,' she has said over and over. 'We can do this,'" Time notes.
The magazine concludes: "Leaders are tested only when people don't want to follow. For asking more of her country than most politicians would dare, for standing firm against tyranny as well as expedience, and for providing steadfast moral leadership in a world where it is in short supply, Angela Merkel is Time's Person of the Year."