Boardroom Master Class on Transcultural Leadership with Carlos Ghosn (CEO of Renault-Nissan)

In this edition of Leadership Zenergy, I have chosen to put Carlos Ghosn-CEO of Renault and Nissan under the Leadership Zenergy microscope. I believe that he’s the epitomy of transcultural leadership and one of the most successful transnational CEO, shaped by his experiences of being raised in different countries – not by choice, but by coincidence because of his family circumstances – had helped him in life and business.  According to Carlos, basics of transcultural leadership is empathy. He’s someone that all those aspiring future boardroom leaders should study and learn from.

Birth of  a Leader in Automobile Industry;

  • Carlos Ghosn- a Brazilian-Lebanese-French.

Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, the strategic partnership overseeing the two companies through a unique cross-shareholding agreement. Carlos Ghosn has become known as one of the automobile industry’s great turnaround masterminds. Also known as “le cost killer” and “the destroyer” by those on the receiving end of his streamlining, he also had a more positive and affectionate nickname: “Mr. Fix-It.” 

Family of Immigrants;

Carlos Ghosn was born in Porto Velho, Brazil, on March 9, 1954. His father, Jorge, worked for an airline and had a job involving lots of travel, something that would later seem very familiar to Ghosn, who has logged up to 150,000 travel miles in a single year. Ghosn’s parents had immigrated from Lebanon, and when Carlos was six he and his mother returned to live there. Ghosn learned to speak four languages fluently, and he later began working on several others, including Japanese.He graduated from Paris Polytechnique in 1974, and 1978, with degrees in engineering.

Career begins at Michelin;

Upon graduation, he began working for French tire firm Michelin, and became a plant manager in Le Puy, France, in 1981.  Carlos Ghosn rose from the humble position of Michelin plant manager to become the head of the research and development department of earthmover and agricultural tires at the company’s factory in Ladoux, France, during the mid-1980s and finally became the CEO of it’s Latin American business.

Joining Renault;

In October 1996, Ghosn was hired by French automobile firm Renault. In the same year, he was named executive vice president of the Renault Group. He soon came to be known by the affectionate nickname of “Le Cost Killer” after a string of cutbacks and plant closures helped restore the firm’s profitability.In May 2005, Ghosn was named president and chief executive officer of Renault. When he assumed the CEO roles at both Renault and Nissan, Ghosn became the world’s first person to run two companies on the Fortune Global 500 simultaneously.However, he is not the first person to be CEO of two high-profile companies at once. Steve Jobs, who was CEO of Apple and Pixar simultaneously, was one of several technology entrepreneurs to be at the helm of two companies at the same time. Sergio Marcchione, who is CEO of Italy’s Fiat, took over the troubled American carmaker Chrysler in June 2009 and is heading the attempted turnaround of Detroit’s smallest carmaker.

Business Thought Leader;

Mr.Ghosn wrote a best-selling business book called “Shift: Inside Nissan’s Historic Revival. He was the subject of another business book called “Turnaround: How Carlos Ghosn Rescued Nissan” by David Magee. He also provided strategic business commentary and on-the-job lessons to aspiring managers in a book called “The Ghosn Factor: 24 Inspiring Lessons From Carlos Ghosn, the Most Successful Transnational CEO” by Miguel Rivas-Micoud.

Super Hero in Japan;

Ghosn’s life story was turned into a superhero comic book series in Japan, titled The True Story of Carlos Ghosn after his success in transforming Nissan Motor company. He also has Japanese “bento box” named after him on the menus at some Tokyo restaurants.Bento boxes are popular with businessmen, students and others who want a quick lunch. The Financial Times called the “Carlos Ghosn Bento” a “measure of the extraordinary rise of Mr. Ghosn in Japan that he should be deemed worthy enough to eat. The Japanese take their food seriously and do not welcome foreign intrusions.

Carlos Ghosn

"Love the country and love the culture in which you are in. And try to learn about it's strengths,don't focus on the weaknesses, and make sure that all the people you are transferring with you are of the same opinion".- Carlos Ghosn on Transcultural Leadership

Foods for thought from Carlos Ghosn’s boardroom master class;

  • Meet all people at all levels to make your picture about the company precise as possible.
  • Create cross functional teams to break the barriers between departments
  • You cannot have globalisation with out the respect for local cultures and local identities
  • Assess the size of the opportunity before you put in effort and hard work
  • Main wealth of the company is motivated people within the company
  • There’s no “if’s” or “but”s, you have to take the full responsibility for your actions
  • Creating a culture of taking risks in your company is paramount for the growth of your company
  • Essence of leadership is about rebounding, reenergising and the ability to “come back” over and over again

I have throughly enjoyed learning and studying about “Maverick” CEO- Carlos Ghosn and expect more lessons and stories in the years to come.

Thanks you Mr. Carlos Ghosn for your exemplary example of Transcultural Leadership!

Yours Sincerely,

Roshan Uggoda


Homage to “The Father of Private Equity in Europe”- Sir Ronald Cohen

Today, I have decided to dedicate my Leadership Zenergy blog page to a true British Entrepreneur – Sir Ronald Cohen, after reading his book “The Second bounce of the ball: Turning Risk into Opportunity”. Not only I was fascinated and energised by his ideas and advice from his 30 years of experience as a successful entrepreneur, but positively inspired by his journey from humble beginnings to an iconic British entrepreneur.

He was born in Cairo, Egypt to a family of Shephardi Jews. Moved to England in 1957 with his family during the suez crisis at the age of 11. Though initially speaking only a few words of English, Sir Ronald went to Orange Hill grammar schools in North London where despite describing as a “school of very doubtful reputation” he excelled.

He won a scholarship to Oxford university, where he went on to become the president of Oxford union, and earned a degree in politics & economics at the Exeter College. He subsequently attended Harvard business school.

After leaving Harvard Business School, he worked at McKinsey & Co as a management consultant for few years before he co-founded Apax partners in 1972, one of Britain’s first venture capital firms. Apax expanded rapidly in 1990’s becoming Britain’s largest venture capital firm which provided start up capital for over 500 companies such as Virgin Radio, Waterstones, AOL etc…..

After nearly a quarter of century at Apax Partners, Sir Ronald surprised everyone by retiring the firm he founded and eventually moved out of his office at Apax. He left Apax as it needed a “clear handover of leadership to a new generation” he says.

According to his long serving colleagues at Apax, “he treated Apax like a family. ‘It was an extension of him”. He was supportive and demands loyalty in return.

My Favourite quote from Sir Ronald Cohen;

There are huge opportunities to be successful now and if you come from humble beginnings you tend to want to do the same for others.

Despite his many lifelong achievements, Sir Ronald consider his greatest strength is his wife and his greatest achievement is making a success of his third marriage.

Here are some quotes from the book-Second Bounce of the Ball by Sir Ronald Cohen;

  • “Start young, think big and STICK WITH IT”
  • “Everybody can see the first bounce of the ball, but uncertainty lie in predicting the second bounce”
  • “Investors back Jockeys not horses, Jockeys are their managers and horses are the opportunities in the market place”
  • “Successful Entrepreneurs seek out uncertainty in order to capitalise upon it”
  • “Risk mask the value of uncertainty”
  • “Vision attracts and excites the talent, the talent achieves the vision”
  • “build a great team of people who are able to adopt to changes that you face”
  • “Do not avoid set backs”
  • “Entrepreneurship does not know social or geographic boundaries”
  • “Private sector should get more involved with the society and connect social sector with the capital markets”

Advice to young Leaders ( during his speech at HBS graduation in 2010);

” Positions of leadership, in the broadest sense of the word, should be your goal. As you go off into the world, i hope you’ll do what you really want to do rather than what you think you should do to keep in step with your classmates.


Thank you Sir Ronald Cohen for your vision, insight and lessons of courage in taking risks and sharing those with us!

May your good work in social enterprise and philanthropy continue for many years to come in the future!

Yours Sincerely,

Roshan Uggoda

Leadership Zenergy

Roshan Uggoda

Welcome to Leadership Zenergy!

Welcome to Leadership Zenergy blog,where i share my thoughts on leadership and experiences as i go through my journey of life long learning. Some of the contents that I share comes from the lessons I learned and observations on some of my most admired business leaders, entrepreneurs, mentors and my colleagues. I’m an avid enthusiast on human collaboration, capacity and capability on performance and growth. I’m grateful for having the opportunity to grow, perform and contribute as a business leader helping, mentoring, guiding and challenging ordinary people to achieve extra ordinary goals in business and life on my everyday life.

I personally believe that great business leaders do not lean toward a singular type of leadership. They are in touch with their own intuition and has a deeper awareness of self, capabilities and understanding of their power of influence on their people they manage.

Leadership Zenergy = Leading people propelled with consiousness to create sustainable flow of growth and a future with joy and enthusiasm for all people involved in the process of performance.

Zenergy = (Zen + Synergy) = Energised Performance

Why do i connect Zen with Leadership?

Zen means many things to various people.  Zen cannot be totally explained in words. Much of your grasp of Zen must necessarily depend on your own intuition.

  • Zen is more of an attitude than a belief.
  • Zen is the peace that comes from being one with an entity other than yourself.
  •  Zen means being aware of your oneness with the world and everything in it.
  • Zen means living in the present and experiencing reality fully.
  •  Zen means being in the flow of the universe.
  • Zen is nothing and yet everything.
  • Zen is both empty and full.
  • Zen encompasses all and is encompassed by all.
  • Zen is the beginning and the end.
Leadership Zenergy does not encourage you to just ‘be peaceful.Quite the opposite: it’s about using the pressure to propel consciousness that create transformational leaders, leaders who create the future with joy and enthusiasm, rather than drive themselves and their people to exhaustion.
I hope you enjoy reading my blog and continue to collaborate with me to the future.
Lead with Passion!
Roshan Uggoda