In spite of a profits boost of 35% last year, Kleinfeld has had to contend with an alleged bribery scandal used to win telecommunications contracts (he is not implicated but his image is affected and he may face some tough opposition at the company's shareholder annual meeting on 25 January) and a persistently low margin of 3.5% compared to GE's 12.6%.
Whilst Kleinfeld has become known for tough restructuring and cost-cutting -- a policy that has not endeared him to his staff in Germany -- he has also pursued an ambitious acquisitions policy in areas such as medical diagnostics and wind power to take advantage of what he sees as huge global shifts in populations and wealth. For instance, he wants to supply the wealthy part of the world with CT and MRI scanners and the switching systems for their trains and subways.
His impatient and competitive spirit is often compared with the likes of Jack Welch than a traditional German CEO. Kleinfeld was impressed by the US during his three years running Siemens' business there in the early 2000s. He is the archetypal self-made man.
At the age of 10 his father died and the young Kleinfeld started work in a supermarket at the age of 12. He completed his doctoral work on corporate communications whilst working full time for Siemens.
Some say Kleinfeld's high-energy approach is too much for many of his employees, many of whom also baulk at the tough action he has taken at times (for instance, shutting down a poorly performing division). His effort to get staff to be more customer-focused, for instance, still has some way to go.
Siemens' culture clash
By Jack Ewing
Business Week, January 29 2007
Review by Morice Mendoza