It was a typical October day in Orlando, Fla., sunny, warm, and crowded with tourists from all over the world (at least it seemed so during my time at the Orlando airport October 26). I flew in to attend the Laser Institute of America's annual awards luncheon, at which Dr. Berthold Leibinger received the 2011 Arthur L. Schawlow Award "in recognition of his achievements in building TRUMPF into a premier worldwide manufacturing company, a leader in the field of industrial lasers and systems, and his creation of the Berthold Leibinger Stiftung, which awards the Innovation Prize and the Research Prize for applied laser technology."
I listened to the accolades during the award presentation and was impressed by Dr. Leibinger's accomplishments, not the least of which was serving at TRUMPF's helm and adding industrial lasers and medical technology to its product lines. Under his leadership, the company became a leading company worldwide.
You can learn about TRUMPF's evolution from a manufacturer of flexible shafts for attachable tools to the introduction of shears, nibblers, punching machines, and lasers by viewing this timeline. And you can learn more about the history of lasers and how Dr. Leibinger returned from an information-gathering trip in the U.S. in 1978 with a special piece of luggage—a 1kW CO2 laser—here. In 1979, TRUMPF introduced the first combined punching-laser machine with lasers from the U.S. as beam sources.
Dr. Leibinger's achievements and the company's success are very impressive. But I have to say that I was as impressed, if not more so, by the award winner himself. Here’s why.
At the private reception following the awards ceremony, Dr. Leibinger made it a point to greet and speak with all individuals in attendance. He paid me a personal compliment that I will always cherish, and then asked what I most wanted to know besides the technical and company information he presented in his acceptance speech.
Knowing that he had been in China just two days before the Orlando visit, and how tired I was from getting up very early to fly the short distance from Atlanta to Orlando that morning, I most wanted to know how he survived all the travel. The soft-spoken, unassuming, octogenarian laughed and then told me his secrets—not drinking too much on the plane and sticking to German time instead of changing his body clock to suit the present location. He said that he would be returning to Germany that evening and was looking forward to being home.
From there, the conversation proceeded to Dr. Leibinger asking questions about me—some personal and some about whether his company was providing all the information I needed to cover their products and news events.
He also told me how important the 9,000 TRUMPF employees are, and how the corporate culture encourages and supports family life and activities. He spoke about how such a culture inspires loyalty and productivity, giving credit for the company's success to its workers.
We had the customary business card exchange, and he told me that if I needed anything to e-mail him. I think he meant it.
In this day and age in which corporations and corporate leaders can seem devoid of human qualities and are generally loathed by the masses, it was refreshing to meet a leader who appears to be the antithesis of those who are the objects of much contempt.
I also learned that Dr. Leibinger shares a birth month with me. A birthday card will be winging its way toward Germany soon!
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