Karin Zastrow, Founder and CEO of Zastrow, Creator of Direct Leadership

Episode #062: Direct Leadership: The 7 Roles & 4 Styles of Successful Team Leaders

Join host Dr. Krister Lowe and today’s featured guest Karin Zastrow–an innovator in the field of leadership and management development–for this week’s episode of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast! Karin Zastrow is the Founder and CEO of the Zastrow company based in Copenhagen Denmark. She is the author of the book and training program “Direct Leadership: The New Narrative of Every Day Leadership.”

In this episode of the podcast, Karin shares her personal journey from conducting staff satisfaction surveys to conducting leadership training programs to creating the Direct Leadership program. Themes explored in the podcast include: the gap that Karin perceived in the leadership development field that led to creating Direct Leadership; 7 essential roles for leader-managers (Strategy Developer, Organization Development, Knowledge Management, Teambuilding, Decision Enabler, Career Developer, Performance Generator); 4 behavior styles that help enact the roles (Catcher, Initiator, Coach, Referee); the leader-manager as team coach; how many leadership development programs focus on the human dimension yet fail to equip leaders with the every day practical skills that actually lead to results; the problem of promoting leader-managers who have not been equipped properly and more. Karin shares some stories of team leaders and organizations that have applied the Direct Leadership approach. She also discusses some of the resources and training programs she offers that team coaches may find useful to explore.

Leadership and team coaches looking for practical tools and frameworks that can help team leaders succeed will find this episode right up their alley! This is yet another episode that you will surely not want to miss!

Listen Now

Resources Mentioned

  1. Book and Training Program by Karin Zastrow: Direct Leadership: The New Narrative of Everyday Leadership
  2. The Human Element
  3. Radical Collaboration

Listen to the Episode:






Part 1 – Getting to know the Guest: Karin Zastrow


  • Based Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Founder and CEO of Zastrow
  • MBA from INSEAD in France
  • Has worked in organizations and leadership development since 1983 as a training manger, management consultant, freelance trainer, business college manager, coach
  • Certified as a LHEP Human Element Trainer in 1999
  • Developed Direct Leadership in 2002
  • 2010 Authored the book Author of the book and training program: Direct Leadership: The New Narrative of Everyday Leadership
  • Co-Authored the book The Human Element at Work
  • Member of a number of business schools in China, in Mexico and Sweden
  • Began journey 30+ years ago
  • After 2008 financial crisis, she got interested in China and moved to China.  Returned to Denmark in 2014.
  • Curious about people and people’s motives
  • Also worked in Mexico
  • Connection with the Human Element:
  • Her first work in the mid-80’s doing employee satisfaction surveys

Part 2 – Journey to Direct Leadership


  • Began working doing employee satisfaction surveys in the 1980’s
  • Theme about leaders being sufficiently “hands-on”
  • Corporate culture theme became a hot topic
  • Leadership development by endow the 1990’s began to focus on personality, people skills and making human connections
  • Became the head of learning and development for a company working in 20 countries with 400 managers: globalization was putting a lot of pressure; had to help the company learn how to collaborate with clients across the globe in a new way
  • Discovered The Human Element by the Schutz Company and Radical Collaboration by Jim Tamm and took her company through these processes
  • Despite doing The Human Element and Radical Collaboration, discovered that managers in the company were still hesitant and there still were some complaints about them: this led to an insight to Karin about a missing piece involving leadership
  • Have to move beyond the important work of connecting humans to the pragmatic work on leadership that is very practical

Direct Leadership

  • Has taken one bullet on a standard typical job description for any manager: “…and leads your team”
  • Put a magnifying glass on “leads your team” to identify the sub components
  • It gets at the specific requirements in leading others
  • Found some typical approaches out there for teaching leaders/managers: 1) lists of lessons learned from experienced managers; 2) focus on competencies  which she found led to a fragmented approach
  • Direct Leadership Components – cuts to the chase of what managers actually do
    • Roles = a theme or a set of responsibilities, an area of responsibilities that a manager needs to be aware of and monitoring
    • Styles = a behavioral approach
    • Matrix model with 7 Roles/themes and 4 Styles
    • 7 Roles:
      • 1) Strategy Deployer – everyone must be involved in deploying strategy; paying attention with your team on a day-to-day basis if you work is aligned with the larger organization
      • 2) Organization Developer – not as a staff function; part of a manger’s job
      • 3) Knowledge Management – responsible to ensure that information, knowledge gets into the team and shared among team members and other stakeholders
      • 4) Team Building – coaching a team to collaborate and is the manager’s job; externals can be brought in to accelerate but managers need to take up this role
      • 5) Decision Maker
      • 6) Career Developer
      • 7) Performance Generator
    • Leadership is very situational so managers need to flow through these
    • Styles – first understand which of the 7 themes is in play and that needs to be addressed then decide how to respond to that.
    • 4 Styles:
      • 1) Catcher
      • 2) Initiator
      • 3) Coach
      • 4) Referee
  • Results in having a “map of the territory” as a manager

Stories Applying Direct Leadership

  • Two leaders come to mind: one transformed his leadership by beginning to give routine feedback which employees responded well to and that eventually led to him become CEO; a second developed a common language among his team as a result of Direct Leadership – helped a leadership team come together with a common language to lead the organization collectively
  • Observation: we throw people into leadership and managerial roles and don’t give them any tools, roadmaps or frameworks and then yet hold them accountable for results
  • When working cross-culturally these issues become magnified and so having a common framework becomes even more important
  • Managers are often seeking coaching vs. training programs – however they often need both
  • Training plus support through coaching
  • The most successful of her trainers are the ones who can do training followed by coaching
  • Key message: whatever you title is, that part of their job of leading people cannot be taken for granted; they need a pragmatic model of leadership that they can be measured against; this will give them security and feeling less vulnerable; a chance to be judged on delivering leadership results based on clear criteria; have to define the jobs of leaders clearly; give people something to resist or prevent the blame game

Part 3 – Resources, Parting Words, and Contacting Karin

 Resources for Coaches

  • Direct Leadership – www.directleadership.com or http://zastrow.dk
    • Book
    • Certification Programs – web based program alongside an online training
    • Test Instruments

Parting Advice/Words of Wisdom

  • Coaching managers is such important work and anyone who puts their efforts into that is doing wonderful work for the individuals and for the world
  • We need to help people to haver a richer picture of what it means to lead others

Contacting Karin

  • karin@zastrow.dk

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