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