What drives Carlos Ghosn chapter 8: Personal reflections

24 Februari 2017

  • What's life like as a global CEO? In this special multi-part series, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. CEO Carlos Ghosn shares his life story, offering personal insights and professional lessons on what it takes to succeed.

Gender diversity has also been a focus of my leadership. In 2004, I created a department called the Diversity Development Office, which reported directly to me. This was not a social decision; it was a business one. About 65 percent of car-purchase decisions all over the world are made by women; however, most decision-makers and workers in the car industry are men. This discrepancy doesn't make sense from a competitive sustainability standpoint.

We are making progress to support women entering leadership positions. Women will soon occupy 10 percent of the managerial positions at Nissan in Japan. The global average is 13 percent. In 2008, Nissan was the first Asian company to win the U.S.'s Catalyst Award, given to businesses that contribute the most to the advancement of women in society. We received a similar award in Japan. There are plenty of opportunities for women, and this is just the beginning of it.

I believe that both cultural diversity and gender diversity give Nissan an advantage over other Japanese automakers. It is important to have a workforce that reflects our diverse customers all over the world. It is also a source of strength in times of crisis: After the March 2011 earthquake, for example, Nissan fared better than other companies because we have spent a lot of time focusing on how we communicate ideas and work as cross-functional teams. When crisis hits, we know that we can draw support from many different regions.

In a globalized world, the ability to manage diversity is only going to become more critical for any leader. If you can build a company with different cultures working together, you're going to get the best out of every culture – and deliver the best results for your company. Nissan is proof of this.

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One of my primary goals as a father has been to foster a sense of autonomy among my children. Not just financial autonomy, though they are on their way to promising careers. More so, I wanted to build their "intellectual independence," which is having the will to learn and think on your own, and "emotional independence," or spiritual independence – the ultimate sense of self-reliance. I think it's important for my children to have more than just unconditional love, but also maintain their own identity and make their own decisions. The ideas of discipline and focus that have guided my professional life are also relevant to my family life in this way.

That doesn't mean I won't offer them advice – I do. Today all four of my children work in the U.S., and I speak with them regularly on the phone on weekends. Although I offer advice, I don't expect them to follow it. This is important. They need only to consider my input, and then make their own decisions.

I have written often about my own background and diversity. My children had a similar upbringing, which informs their worldviews. For example, my son speaks English and French, and was educated in the U.S., Japan and France. He also understands Lebanese culture. Therefore, he fully appreciates diversity and believes that a person's identity is not bound by nationality. For him, the country a person is from has nothing to do with who he is.

Although we live far apart, we spend some holidays together. My children come – without significant others – so that we can enjoy each other as a family. Vacations are easier to take in August, but we also try to spend Christmas together. We may not be doing anything special, but the simple act of being together is what matters. We use this time to catch up on our interests and share what we have been thinking and working on. I am proud of who they have become. 

This portion of My Personal History: Carlos Ghosn was originally posted on Nikkei Asian Review.