Global leadership is something that is increasingly important in the auto industry, although you don’t often hear a whole lot about it. Consider, for example, the case of Sergio Marchionne, chairman and CEO of Chrysler as well as of Fiat (which owns Chrysler). Marchionne was born in Italy. He attended university in Toronto and Windsor, Canada. He holds dual Italian and Canadian citizenship. He spends a lot of his time in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
Or Johan de Nysschen, president of Infiniti Motor Co. He was born in South Africa, where he eventually joined German company Audi. He eventually became president of Audi of America. From that job he joined Infiniti, the luxury brand of Nissan Motor Co. The headquarters office for Infiniti is in Hong Kong.
Or Carlos Ghosn. He was born in Brazil. Grew up in Lebanon. Received engineering degrees from schools in Paris. Was COO of Michelin South America in Brazil, then chairman and CEO of Michelin North America. Ghosn went to work for French automaker Renault in South America. In 1999 Renault bought 36.8% of Nissan, and Ghosn became the Japanese company’s COO. By 2001 he was CEO of Nissan. In 2005 he was named president and CEO of Renault, as well. So Ghosn runs both companies, which means he has a desk in both Paris and Yokohama, though he probably spends most of his time on a plane.
Global leadership, indeed.
I started thinking about the subject a week after the North American International Auto Show, where the companies based in Asia, Europe and North America all had a substantial footprint. Whereas companies from the first two geographical areas might have once been considered to be “foreign automakers” in Detroit, for the most part, they’re all just “car companies,” all of which have people who make some awfully cool stuff. Remember: companies are based on people, not their products.
This lead to a scholarly paper, “Global Leaders in East & West—Do All Global Leaders Lead in the Same Way?” by Anupam Agrawal and Caroline Rook. It is based on a survey of 1,748 leaders. The short answer to the question posed in that title is “sort of.” That is, depending on where the leader is located, some things require greater emphases than others. Or, as the authors write, “different cultures place different values on certain leadership behaviors and styles.”
But one of the aspects of the work that I find to be of interest and applicability is the Global Executive Leadership Inventory (GELI), which came from another scholarly paper. Essentially, it is a list of 12 behaviors that executives exhibit in varying degrees. These behaviors are things that even those of us who aren’t executives ought to model in our own spheres, regardless of how circumscribed or broad they may be:
• Visioning: Not just having a vision, but articulating it to all relevant entities
• Empowering: Not just letting people have responsibility, but the information necessary to truly be responsible
• Energizing: Leadership needs to provide people with energy
• Designing & aligning: Creating an organization that allows the values and goals to be realized
• Rewarding & feedback: People aren’t just motivated to behave in certain ways due to rewards, they need constructive feedback to develop the behaviors
• Team building: This is not just about getting everyone on the “same team,” but even encouraging constructive conflict
• Outside orientation: Remember the customer—as well as the community that one is a part of
• Global mindset: Before there was “One Ford” there were lots of Fords
• Tenacity: Rome wasn’t built in a day
• Emotional intelligence: Not everyone can or should agree with everyone else; but there must be respect and thoughtfulness
• Life balance: Those who work relentlessly get things done; they also burn out
• Resilience to stress: Without a doubt, stress is part of the job—as well as life off the job; managing it is crucial.
It isn’t just Marchionne, de Nysschen, Ghosn, and their peers at the tops of giant organizations who must manifest these aspects, though it is certainly crucial that they do so. As they must dial their approaches depending on where they’re operating. Agrawal and Rook write, “The idea of visioning, for example, is less important for Russians than for Americans.” In mid-2013 Ghosn also became chairman of Russia’s AVTOVAZ; presumably his approach is somewhat different in Tolyatti than in Nashville.
We are not all executives. But we are, in our own ways, leaders. Those 12 items should be things we are mindful of.