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Péter Iszak from onTarget Consulting is revealing all you need to know about the Leadership Academy Program that his company is delivering at CGM Software Romania

October 16, 2022

The biggest asset in a company are the people. And people can form strong communities and become brand ambassadors if they are led by the right people into the right direction.  

And because we care about the people, their career path, and the relations between them, we started an amazing Leadership Academy Program with Péter Iszak and Judit Urbanics, from onTarget Consulting. It is a long-term process meant to establish a common language around leadership and to help CGM Software Romania to continue to be a fun place to work, consistently grow, and meet future client needs.

So, we talked about the program with Péter Iszak, the founder of onTarget, who was more than happy to respond to all our questions and to share with us and you, of course, everything that we need to know about leadership in a company.

„Leadership is a personal choice”


What was your first contact with leadership and how it all started?

My first experience with leadership (when I realized what I saw) was with Procter & Gamble in my first year working there, right after I graduated from university where I studied computer science and mathematics. This firsthand experience was about people (not just “bosses”) acting with true ownership of the work they did there.  

Then the calm sense of facing reality, the lack of drama around problems, the problem-solving mentality was another one that hit me. Lastly, the efforts senior people put into developing people’s capability around them, the teaching and mentoring they did was energizing and inspiring.  


What is it that you love so much about leadership and your job?

My personal joy around leadership comes from two aspects: first shaping up an area of the business, creating something that did not exist before. For example, I really loved that I had a chance to create a Business Intelligence Service, building it up from scratch together with a people of fantastic IT professionals. Another example was establishing a more stable regional HR services where before we had lots of complaints from our employees. Two different field but what’s common is the ownership.  

The other aspect of leadership that I love is working with and enabling people around me to reveal their potential, develop and grow, and together being able to reach more than we ever thought we could.


Peter, how can we define a leader?  

The traditional definition of Leadership typically looks at key demonstrated behaviors of the Leader: Envisioning a Future that today does not exist. Enrolling people to this vision, energize them to join into the journey and finally getting them systematically execute a plan, a strategy to reach that vision.

However, I also see a more atomic, more fundamental mindset that is present in all leaders: first they consistently seek and clarify who are the stakeholders of what they do. A “stakeholder” can be their manager, the user of the software they develop, the client that pays for their work, even an important friend or family member. Second, they constantly seeking to understand what those stakeholders’ needs are and what is possible to deliver to them.  


„Leadership is an endless journey”

What are the main qualities of a leader?  

We can think many but for me it boils down to couple, somewhat maybe unexpected qualities. The first one is to be dissatisfied with the status quo. This is not merely impatience. This roots from the realization that nothing in life is constant and the leader has the role to seek where the future will be and help her/his team to start building that future now.

Also: the best leaders I know have a strong self-awareness. They know their strengths, their weaknesses, their ‘buttons’.

A third one: a strong sense of reality, not biased by wishful thinking; they see reality as it is, based on facts. This leads to what their colleagues perceive as a sense of calmness, a preparedness to accept whatever life brings to them.

By the way, these qualities are of course not just valid in work life, but they are highly applicable in our personal lives as well.


What it takes to be a leader? How can someone become a leader?

Becoming a leader takes a mix of inspiration and a learning journey. In fact, it’s an endless journey. Even senior leaders learn every day in their career.  

At this point it might be useful to clarify an important thing about who is a leader: to be a leader you do not make people to report to you. What you do is you make a choice. “I choose to act as a leader. I choose to be proactive, not to be a victim in my own life.” This thought is a seed from which individual leadership starts growing and becomes leading other people.


Do we born leaders, or do we learn it with time?

There are people born with charisma, a firm temper, and an outgoing personality, many see these as leadership qualities. This does not equal leadership though. In my view, leadership can be learnt, but before that should be positively experienced. I wish all people have a leader in their early career where they get inspiration from, where they say: “Hey, I want to be a person like him or her.” This inspiration, this experience will drive them to start on the journey and learn more about leadership.


„Leadership can be learnt, but before that should be positively experienced”


Can you give us some examples of famous leaders?

There are many famous leaders I’m sure everyone can list. The famous leaders are usually recognized by their strong sense of vision, this is what typically makes them ‘famous’. For example, Steve Jobs is known for his amazing vision and extraordinary stubbornness to drive people around him towards his vision.  

When it comes to other qualities than strong vision I would bring a maybe less knows example: a person called Ted Lasso (interestingly, from an Apple TV show). This fictitious character is an American football coach who in this comedy show coaches an English Premier league football (i.e. soccer) team. His relentless belief in people’s ability to grow and that deep down most people are good, makes him able to bring the best out of people around him.  

I encourage all of you to seek for the “unsung heroes”, the hidden leaders around you: those who are discontent with the status quo, who form an inspiring vision, enroll their friends, colleagues and together reach real results.


Does the best leadership style exist?

In my view there are leadership skills and attitudes that are common in most leaders. However, there’s a great variety in style, how those leaders bring these skills to life. Some are more introverts; some are more vocal. Some are highly passionate, others are calm.

In this sense leadership does not have “style”. However, I do believe in a communication or collaboration “style” that make leaders effective. I believe that the key here is the ability to adapt the communication style to the audience. This adaptation allows the leader to connect with people around them and make a positive impact.


What is a successful team in your opinion?

A successful team is FIRST able to create alignment together around a shared goal; SECOND agree a common way or “strategy” on how they will reach this goal together; THIRD they execute that plan together to achieve the goal and most importantly FOURTH, they celebrate together when they reach their shared goal. There are many details behind each step but in essence these four steps create a successful team.


Leadership workshop with the Steering Board at CGM Software Romania

„Leaders create culture”


Why is it leadership so important for the companies and how can we spotlight it?

Having strong leadership for an organization is a true competitive advantage. Why? First, because a strong leaders form a unique CULTURE that allows people to reach extraordinary results. Second a strong CULTURE is the difficult to copy by our competitors. It cannot be just “purchased” or quickly acquired.

As you can see you can spot great leadership by the company CULTURE the leaders create. CULTURE here means the shared behaviors you can experience when you enter the office, when you meet people in the corridor or at lunch or in meetings.

Do you experience a sense of trust and people easily connecting with each other? Or do you see high pressure, “busy-being-busy” atmosphere maybe? Or maybe you see no collaboration but rather competition even within the same company? Or, like at CGM Software Romania, you experience underlying friendliness and openness and curiosity, whoever you meet in your company. This is CULTURE that deeply influences what does it take to be successful there. And, of course, has also a critical impact on the success of the company itself.  

Leaders CREATE culture by how they behave every day; they “create” culture by celebrating behaviors they want to see more and by not tolerating behaviors that are not OK for them or for the company.


What are the main mistakes that companies do regarding leadership and how they can be fixed?

Here are couple of mistakes I experienced in the past years:

  • Looking at people as they either “have” or “do not have” leadership capability. Companies with this “fixed mindset” do not invest into developing their own future, their future leaders.
  • Assuming that you can “buy” leadership. Yes, you can hire people with leadership skills, but adapting those skills to the company takes time and most importantly patience. When companies hire experienced leaders, they tend to not have patience.
  • Not investing into culture, just letting culture “to happen”. They sometimes accept behaviors that are causing trouble or not recognizing the winning behaviors around them.  

Fixing is always the same: invest into developing your leadership: skills, attitude, behaviors.


Can you tell us more about the Leadership Academy, the program that we started together within CGM Software Romania?  

It all started by CGM Romania leadership recognizing the need and the opportunity to invest into the organization. The whole Leadership Academy is built around two key principles:

  • Top down: we, at onTarget, believe that any organization development that wants to be impactful needs to start with the Board, the top leadership. As they learn about what leadership means, their personal role modelling will build credit to the program and their own leadership.
  • Inside-out: we start with individual skills, what we call “Lead Yourself”. Before you aim to be a role model for others you want to learn about how to be individually effective and how to collaborate with others. Then we follow this up with “Lead Others”: these are the skills of what many call “people management”. Finally, we tackle the skills of “Lead Leaders”, the skills of strategic leadership.

With these principles in mind, we not only aim to bring practical skills but also help people at CGM Software Romania to establish a COMMON LANGUAGE around leadership. Participants do lot of discussion around leadership topics, and they do exercises. At the end we aim to help CGM Romania to continue to be a fun place to work, consistently grow, and meet future client needs.


„Developing leadership is the ultimate long term competitive advantage” 


You started the program with leadership trainings and coaching workshops for quite a time now. What are your impressions about the people, the company, and the city?

I see CGM Software Romania being a people-focused company. It creates an environment where people enjoy working. It attracts people who like working in a strong friendly community, where they support each other, where there’s trust and flexibility. I also perceive a strong sense of professionalism. People at CGM Software Romania want to deliver quality output, something they can be proud of.  With this, I also sense a strong interest to learn, to grow, to be more and better than I was a year ago.

I applaud this “hunger” to grow and be more and better! It is a truly distinguishing factor vs many Western European organizations I worked with before. In fact, I encourage you all to learn more about how your software is being used, how is it adding value to life of the doctors, nurses, and patients. This will be another differentiating factor for you as a company and for you as an IT professional!

While I had only a couple of visits here, I like Iași very much! I especially enjoy the livable city size, combined with the vibrant atmosphere of the downtown area. It’s great to see so many young people around! I hope I will have chance to learn more about the people here.


Why should more and more companies implement leadership programs for their people?

Because developing leadership is the ultimate long term competitive advantage. Software code, processes can be easily copied or re-created. Culture and how people work cannot be that easily. Investment companies make in developing leadership has a direct impact on their own people and on their business results.


We are already seeing results after the first training sessions in Leadership Academy Program, so we know for sure that Peter and Judit are doing a great work with us and that we are heading to the right direction. Follow us on LinkedIn to see our leadership path and all the leadership activities that we do for the CGMers.