Interview with Petra Sorge Dos Santos, Global Leadership Coach and Transformation Synergist

An Expert Interview by Sara Micacchioni

Interviewee's headshot
Petra

Petra lives in Hamburg and if you meet her in person, you’ll probably notice one of her eighteen shades of blue. Born and raised in Germany, one of her qualities is working in-time, which means to take care of customer’s leadership needs as much as possible in the Here and Now – also and especially when it’s complex and challenging.  She is a Global Leadership Coach and with decades of experience across international Business, NGOs and engagement for Women and Black issues, she has become a specialised Transformation Synergist.


Petra’s mission now is to support GLOBAL WOMEN IN/TO LEADERSHIP. 

But how she got there is a very unconventional story. 

In Africa they say, you know people by their name. And yes, Petra’s name already tells a story.  The german part, her father’s name Sorge, had been widely seen as ‘worry’. When starting to work globally Petra used its second meaning ‘taking care of’. Because that’s what she’s used to doing i.e. taking care of others professionals’ success. After her late marriage with an Afrobrazilian she decided to make her surname a bridge between cultures and became Sorge dos Santos, ‘care of the Saints’.

Petra was a pioneer in her field and  throughout her life she developed a certain focus on learning and teaching. At 21, while she was still studying Adult’s Education she also started her career. Funnily enough, she began teaching a class made up by male ex-soldiers only. Coming from the last only female class of a girls’ high school, at university she early noticed the lack of female professors and the absence of awareness about women’s issues.

She felt tremendously the urge to fill this gap and became one of the founders of  the NGO ‘Hamburg Women’s Week’ – where 260 female experts taught 9000 women in just six days, while the only men inside the university building took care of their children. Subsequently, she founded another NGO, ‘Denk-t-räume’, a women’s center for learning and research. Since then she’s never stopped doing what she loves which is empowering women and  changing the narrative around them. Let’s remember that for as much as the gap in gender equality is still a big issue today, addressing this topic thirty years ago must have been a totally different story. 

After finishing her diploma, she went into the field of professional career training. One of her innovations was to implement coaching sessions, at a time (the late 80s) when coaching was nearly unknown in Germany.

In 1992, she had the luck to meet Michael Grinder, NLP founder John Grinder’s brother. Since he specialised in applying Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) into teaching,  she was highly motivated to deepen her understanding of Neurolearning and two years later obtained a master’s degree in NLP.

In 1986, Brazil came in and changed her life.
She travelled solo for three months which felt like diving into a fascinating new world. A world which fascinated her with her tradition of music and dance but which also challenged her ‘Germanness’.

When she went back to Germany, she became a member of the first women’s foundation. Having lly get to know in person the power and competence of purposeful female leaders from the Global South. Coming back to her country that typically only saw them as needy migrants and that still considered even German women as inferior was quite a challenge. All this finally turned into her today’s identity of Globalista and it fueled her decision to become self-employed: in 1995 she founded CL!C – Crossculture Linking and Consulting. 

Global Leaders who deal with international teams and customers especially need to understand others and the cultural differences they bring at the table.  And this is where her expertise came in: for more than fifteen years, she trained international leaders and their teams to acquire more cultural competencies. This job opened her eyes to what the difficulties in leading with diversity often are.  It also made her perceive how the majority of Western leaders, on average male and 55 years old (in Germany), carry a serious deficit of cultural intelligence (CQ). 

At the same time, she also realised that well-qualified women who grew up, studied and worked in two or more  cultures/countries are very different in this sense. They can adapt to and navigate different cultures more easily. This is one of the reasons why Petra now focuses on what she calls Global Women and their different needs in becoming successful leaders.

 
Petra’s professional life was eventful and rich in changes. After her overseas consultancy had taken her to support women not only in Brazil, but also in the Caribbean and Angola, she became inspired to work on the radio. She created Radio Triangula where she focussed on Africa-Brazil-Hamburg, played nice-to-dance music and introduced to the public global men and women engaged across cultures. Later on she also hosted a local TV program called ‘Hamburgisch by Culture’ where she regularly held biographical interviews with her Hamburg guests. Bringing diversity into the media was quite a good way to balance her other job as a trainer of German male executives.
A serious health issue finally forced her to think her career over and – like she always tells her coachees –  to start focusing on what she really wanted. And that is to make leadership become more global, diverse and female both in quantity and quality.

Her personal goal is to bring all her expertise together in one project. For her, this means she will do more than  COACHING. Her virtual learning together with her trainer background calls for what is state of the art: ONLINE LEARNING.  This is also true for her target group: women who feel home in more than one culture, who don’t only live in Hamburg or Germany and who are definitely spending part of their working/learning time online. Starting her project  in English enables her to realise her vision of CONNECTING across cultures. Thirty years ago she already connected with one another female leaders from the Global South. Now, she wants to connect women who belong to the young generations. Finally, integrating her passion for media, she will talk about her global participants and expert role models through her podcast ‘Leadership Lights’ as well as her ‘Petra Global TV’ starting as a Facebook Live. 


So for her as well as for her participants it’s about “Leading with GUTS”

Example of tagline

What are the main obstacles in the work that Petra so passionately does?

“The main problem with Global Leaders is their lack of self-awareness.” This characteristic is, in fact, often overlooked and regarded as a merely private aspect of a leader’s life. But knowing yourself and being able to lead oneself is fundamental when it comes to working with others, especially in a globalized environment. Nowadays, with the digitalization of company culture, employees need leadership with personality more than ever.

Are you also attracted by the topic of Leadership and/or do you want to become an Intercultural Trainer? 

Then Petra’s main piece of advice for you is to widen your open-mindedness and nurture your curiosity. Her personal secret to success is, whatever career you decide to embark on, go for something you really want, do not follow the path someone else paved for you.

If you’re a student, you can choose courses in Cross-Cultural Management / Intercultural Communication led by professionals from the field.
If you’re already in international business you should consider taking a professional qualification on top. Aside from that, Petra believes that only by DOING you become an actual coach and trainer.  

Finally, let’s look at Petra’s recommended books: 

  • ‘Das Rebellische Eigentum’ by Peter Martin –the rebellious property. A Study on enslaved Africans, showing their many facets of rebellion, right from the start. 
  • I love myself when I’m laughing by Zora Neale Hurston – An anthology of the intellectual and spiritual foremother of the next generation of black writers.
  • ‘Dare to Lead’ by Brené Brown – a female reframe of Leadership by a famous TED speaker who pleads for starting from vulnerability.

Petra’s whole life has formed her into the global synergist of transformation that she is today. Her breakthrough program for Global women that she is promoting at the moment is called ‘Leading with GUTS’.
While combining a global mindset-work with understanding and including others and transformation with self-Awareness, it covers three parts of online leadership learning in this sequence: 1. Leading Self 2. Global Competence 3. Leading Others
If you are interested, register for her free challenge ‘Smartly Overcoming Leadership Barriers’. If you want to start on a smaller scale her Leading Self Kickoff might be interesting for you.

Example of an Online Challenge

Do you find Petra’s story as interesting and exciting as I did? Do you want to drop her a personal message? You can contact her via email or you can visit her website or podcast Leadership Lights. Or you can listen to Radio Triangular, live stream every fourth Saturday of the month at 5 PM CET. 


In order to support this  B2C-approach she is looking for partnerships which might also extend to a B2B-trainee program inside companies. The best way to contact her is via  LinkedIn.

 

About Sara Micacchioni

Sara
Sara Micacchioni

Sara Micacchioni is currently working as Academic Intern at Global People Transitions, where she is responsible for research and quality assurance projects. At the beginning of 2020, she graduated from an international English-taught master degree in Intercultural Management at the University of Burgundy, France. In the past, she also carried out several short-term and long-term voluntary work projects in Europe and South America.

Sara lived, studied, and worked in seven European countries and speaks four foreign languages. She considers herself an interculturalist with a real passion for globetrotting. In her mission to travel the world, she has now ticked off 30 countries globally.

Connect with Sara on LinkedIn if you want to talk about Diversity and Inclusion, Intersectionality, Cultural Intelligence (CQ), Bilingualism, Digital Learning, Immigration or Low-Cost Travels.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/sara-micacchioni/

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