Károly Hazuga received the MOL Leader of the Year 2020 Award

interview by Balázs Sipos, his SEED mentor

15 December 2021


We are delighted to share that Károly Hazuga, Commercial Director of Downstream at MOL Hungary and proud Member of the SEED Alumni received the MOL Leader of the Year 2020 Award.

Károly started his career at MOL in 2008 in the GROWWW Graduate Programme. Since 2013 he held several management positions and since 2019 he acts in his current position and responsible for the team of more than 120 people.

In this occasion, we talked with Károly about his leadership journey, the transformative experiences and challenges in his career, we also discussed the MOL Leader of the Year Award as the recognition of his personal and his team’s efforts.

Interview by Balázs Sipos (SEED Faculty), Károly’s mentor during the Business Leadership Program in 2018.

First of all, a huge congratulations to you on behalf of the whole SEED Team!

It’s great to see you again Károly, how are you?
And what does this “MOL Leader of the Year” award really mean to you? 

It’s great to talk you again. I am really proud and honored. It’s a great acknowledgement and confirmation that the work I and my team are doing together, the direction I believe in is not just right and important, but it’s also accepted, even from the top executives of the MOL Group.

And of course, this recognition is not just for me, because I could not receive this award without my team. I am very proud of them and the journey we have been on the last 13 years.

What are the most important milestones in your career so far?

Actually, I had many milestones. The first one, what I would like to highlight is my first management position, when I became the Head of Domestic Sales for the Western Hungarian region. That’s when I moved from being an expert to a manager and found myself in a completely new position.

On the one hand I had the opportunity to build a new team, which is always a great thing and a big challenge. But on the other hand, as an introvert I became the manager of 19 extrovert sales people working in home office. It was a great period, with lots of important and useful experiences.

I think in every leader’s life comes a point (typically at the first-ever managerial positions), when you need to let go your expert role and you have to strengthen your leadership role.

But it’s hard, because when you know every little part of your machine, you have to consciously develop yourself that you’re not the one who drives the last screw anymore.

And if you become a manager of managers, this kind of leadership perspective has to be further strengthened.

What was the main challenge for you, when you became the manager of managers, actually the leader of your department?

I think the main challenge is in this position that I lost my direct influence on the people. Suddenly, my job was to convince, transform and create a community from my management team and achieve our results through them.

And I had to recognize this and also digest it… and a consequence of that I also had to change the way of my leadership.

I would call this process the second milestone in my career.

What is interesting here, that I thought a lot about this before: how does it look like, how different is it to manage colleagues and teams and so on. I thought I was prepared, but after my appointment I was confronted with a lot of things I hadn’t even had an insight before.

On top of that, I was promoted from the team. So I became a leader of my former peers, which made it even more challenging regarding the right stakeholder and people management, finding a direct impact on employees, getting leaders on my side and also finding aspiration or inspiring colleagues.

The MOL Leader of the Year 2020 Award (left)
Special Award from his own organisation, that Károly received from his colleagues (right)

What is your motto as a leader? How would you and others in your company or in the department characterize your leadership style? 

I consider myself as a transparent and honest leader, who has the ability and experience to make quick decisions even in complex situations, which is increasingly critical and important in our world today. We have around 30.000 wholesale partner, it requires strong and decisive decision making skills in the daily operation.

I believe in the principle that being a leader does not mean that I am more or different than others, but I am the integral part and member of this team.

If it’s needed, I can be a salesman and negotiate with a key partner; I can be a pricing expert when a decision has to be made in a risky situation.

I am here to transform the external pressure, message and challenges for them.

But I am also preparing them with my management team together for the next challenges ahead of us.

I strongly believe that most people can be developed. And the leaders’ responsibility is to identify the challenges and tasks, and prepare the team for that.

In your opinion, what are the main leadership challenges in the upcoming future?

In our organisation we are committed to create a culture to be more cooperative, more inclusive, more open.

I think the biggest leadership challenge for the next period is, how we should prepare our team for the fact that the constant change is staying with us.

Leaders must be able to perform much better in crisis situations. There is a big difference in the leaders’ behavior between in crisis and in normal mode. But colleagues need to be adaptable as well.

We need to create and build a new culture in our teams. We also need a bit of mindset change, that there is no reason to be afraid of change.

But we have to be open and in certain cases we must be at the forefront of change. We should not suffer from change but we have to take advantage of it. It’s especially true regarding our different efforts in digitization and sustainability too, there are lots of things and projects we can be already proud of. 

How do you support, develop and recognize your colleagues? Could you just share with us some practices or useful experiences?

I strongly believe in mentoring, so we started our own mentoring program in the Wholesale Department. I have 3 mentees currently, one of them is actually from another department and another one is from Slovakia, even from another MOL Group company.

In my career, I benefited a lot from mentoring as a mentee – like in the SEED program.

And now as a mentor, I still benefit from it: I have unique discussions and also get regular, instant feedbacks that really helps me to shape my leadership thinking.

In our organization we have several great types of recognition: we just started an Excellence Award with prestigious committee members (with invited senior executives from the MOL Group companies) and we had great numbers of applications for this year, which is a great success and already proved to be a best practice in the company.

We also have smaller types of recognition like ‘The Leader of the Year’, ‘The Team of the Year’ awards in the department, ‘The Strongest Chain’ initiative and others. I also think that “the many little is more”, it gives much more for the colleagues and for the organisation as well.

As we discussed your successful personal journey so far, what would you say: what added value has SEED brought to your career?

Perhaps the most important thing:

SEED gave me a structure and a lot of insights about the different areas that is a leader’s operating zone.

It highlighted how important it is for every leader to have a plan, to have an aspiration. But that’s not all, because you have to be able to tell this to the people in the most inspiring way.

There are different values and insights, that I use frequently in the selection of people or in decision making, which are also widespread within the organisation.

As I said earlier, the mentoring and coaching had also huge impact on me.

These mentoring and coaching sessions went on for more than a half year. That was really great, because we were able to talk about the practical application of what we learned.

Thank you for the discussion, Károly!