At HEC Paris, mvlti svnt vocati, pavci vero electi!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Truly a Leadership Day...and that too an enjoyable one!

As I mentioned before, this week, which is the first week of Core 2, is all about leadership and all the activities come under the umbrella of 'Visions of Leadership'. So, yesterday we were split into multiple groups working on three separate 'live' cases. These cases, handed to us before we went away on holiday, comprised of a brief synopsis of the target company plus a lot of reports from various analysts. Our role yesterday was to synthesise the information and give recommendations for 'the way forward' for the companies. And, today, we had the CEOs of these companies come in and talk to us about their own strategies and we were given an opportunity to see how well we matched the actual course of progress. My group and I got the Kingfisher case - Kingfisher, as you may know, is the parent company of DIY stores like B&Q in the UK and Castorama in France. Having already undertaken a property development project in the UK and currently pursuing one in France, I really did enjoy learning about these companies.

The day kicked off with the CEO of Alcatel-Lucent, Patricia Russo, giving us an insight into what leadership is about with her own experience of running this giant cross-cultural merger. Her answer to a question about being a woman and a CEO was most striking. She answered, "I am a CEO who happened to be a woman" and not the other way round. Her message for us was to communicate as clearly as possible and to set optimistically demanding targets. The CEO of Kingfisher, the Irish mediator in an Anglo-French guerre, Gerry Murphy, also spent more than an hour talking to us about his vision for the company and answering many of our questions. I found him to be a really down-to-earth Irish bloke who is passionate about his retail business. His key advice for us was to focus on a career in an industry that is close to our heart. Finally, the day came to a close following a presentation by Alain Juppe, the former French prime minister and current mayor of Bordeaux, who explained to us what leadership, especially in a political field, means. Now, note that he has a rather colourful past which made it all the more interesting to hear him speak and answer questions on leadership, leading people, and on a wide range of topics such as trust, ethics, and transparency. This reminds me of an article on Jaques Chirac, which discusses how he has managed to survive at the helm of French politics for so long and it seems to boil down to one thing at the end - being a nice guy!

So, here are some things key to being a strong leader, which I have digested from the three different talks we had today:


And, yes, leaders can be made not just made...any comments?

Alain Juppe at HEC Paris



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