We are in an era that is often referred to as’change‘. The automotive industry is in the midst of a transition, in particular electric, which is also the result of another process that changes our lives, the climate one. We try to pollute less, with European laws, with a certain political good will that will have to be evaluated in the long term. We try to reward the virtuous, that is, those who try to obtain the same level of well-being and comfort to which we are used, but emitting fewer harmful substances. Then there are social networks, another big change in terms of communication. There are factions, everywhere, to define right, less right and wrong. But in the end, there will always be someone who will say it was better before: change, in fact, is also nostalgic.
About five years ago (it was August 27, 2016) Sergio Marchionne participated as guest of honor at the award ceremony of the Rotman European Trading Competition, at the Luiss. He was then the president and CEO of Ferrari, as well as the CEO of FCA. Which, in another great change, is no longer there today because it is absorbed by the merger that generated Stellantis. Marchionne’s speech is still valid today. It is a real hymn to the ability to adapt to change and to propose it. Regardless of the results achieved, Marchionne should be recognized as having a notable oratory talent. Here are some excerpts from that speech.
“The strength of the free market in a global economy is beyond question. None of us can slow down or alter the functioning of the markets and I don’t think that is even desirable. This open field is the guarantee for everyone to fight on an equal footing, and it is the only way to have access to things we have never had before. But efficiency is not – and cannot be – the only element that regulates life. There is a limit beyond which profit becomes greed and those who operate in the free market have the duty to deal with their conscience. We must all understand that there can never be rational markets, growth and economic well-being if a large part of our society has nothing to bargain but their own lives. The pursuit of mere profit, devoid of moral responsibility, does not only deprive us of our humanity, but it also jeopardizes our long-term prosperity. This is why I am convinced that we are at a crucial crossroads. Creating the conditions for virtuous change is the real challenge of our time, to rebuild efficient and equitable economies, separate but interconnected. To promote globalization that is truly at the service of humanity“.
“When I started working, I thought I had to imitate my boss: a hard, heartless one, all focused on perfect and fast execution. I thought that was the way to become a leader, and so I did that too for a while. Then, one day, I walked into the HR chief’s office and told him I wanted to be a finance director. He looked at me and replied: “It will never, ever happen.” And he explained to me why not. Basically, he told me that I lacked the human qualities to relate to people. I walked out of that practically devastated office. Until then, I had emulated the CFO and, in all honesty, I thought I did a good job too. That conversation led me to an introspective search. I started asking myself a lot of questions, wondering who I wanted to become. I realized that I had behaved against my own nature and felt the need to change. I began to understand that a command-and-control approach works in the short term, because people do what you say out of fear. But it’s a huge limitation on how long they’ll follow you and how well they’ll do their job. Now I don’t try to emulate anyone anymore“.
“The era of the lone man who succeeds in imposing his will on an entire organization is dead and gone. My evaluations focus on two qualities that I believe are essential for a successful leader. The first is the ability to lead a change program. Change is inevitable, and it occurs at an accelerating pace in an age of globalization and rapid technological advances. You cannot afford to blindly stick to the old ways of doing things, even if they have worked in the past. However, every time you try to initiate real change, a chorus of cynics will tell you it can’t work, or that things just don’t get done that way.. Cynicism is easy. Instead, it takes vision and courage to believe in improvement. So I want to surround myself with people who are able to be leaders in a world without certainty, who know how to operate well in a world that is constantly changing. People who can see things as they could become, instead of as they always have been. People willing to risk the disappointment of bankruptcy. People who ask questions and question longstanding theses. The second essential trait of a leader is his or her ability to lead people. I continually remind our leaders that one of their core tasks is to provide guidance and support to their employees to help them develop their professional skills and human qualities. Ultimately, a leader’s true worth is not measured by what he has achieved over the course of his career, but rather by what he has given. Not on what he has achieved today, but on the legacy he leaves behind“.