Last week, Michelin Group CEO Florent Menegaux graced the stage at Bellon Auditorium along with a small panel that included representatives of each of the two HEC Paris MBA programs and EMBA Adjunct Professor Piers Cumberlege.
Menegaux, a 25-year veteran of one the automotive industry’s most iconic firms, delivered a gripping treatise on steering the multifaceted, 130,000-employee organization into the future. Then, the 120-plus HEC Paris students and participants in attendance were given the opportunity to ask questions, followed by a casual networking cocktail with Menegaux and other Michelin representatives.
Andrea Masini, Dean of HEC Paris MBA Programs, provided a brief background look at the Leadership Beyond Business series, a program launched in 2012 by MBA students.
A series on leadership
“We are expected to train leaders [at HEC Paris],” he began. “Academics are important. So are practical activities. But equally important is inspiration from exceptional leaders who can share their successes, failures, and experiences.”
Dean Masini explained that Leadership Beyond Business began in 2012 with the express purpose of inviting consequential senior leaders to deliver talks.
“A leader has a vision,” he reasoned. “They need to be able to adapt their leadership style to different situations and to balance being tough with being empathetic. You don’t have many people with those characteristics; we do tonight.”
Florent Menegaux: the Michelin Star
Florent Menegaux is, by any definition, an exceptional leader.
You have to be when handed the keys to a group present in 174 countries with a portfolio of 25 different types of businesses. Most famous among them, of course, is its tire manufacturing division, the world’s second largest, it of the world-famous Michelin Man (“Le Bibendum” in French).
“…the main trap of being a manager is thinking that you have all the answers and are indispensable.”
“My role is to help others exercise their talents,” Menegaux explained. “I am surrounded by very competent people. My job is to make sure they are in the position to succeed.”
Professor Cumberlege called the talk “a journey starting with corporate architecture, back down to people, and then back to architecture.”
Menegaux stressed that “the main trap of being a manager is thinking that you have all the answers and are indispensable.”
A lesson, he says candidly, that he learned the hard way.
“I have had a lot of failures. I’ve failed a lot, and massively,” he says.
“Even today. It took me 35 years to be ok with that. it’s a long journey to be ok with failing. Human beings learn more from their mistakes than from things that go well. It’s ok to make mistakes. The issue is when the same mistake recurs.”
A candid chat with the CEO
After looking back and reminiscing on lessons learned, he peeked ahead, facilitated by a question from co-moderator and MBA student Myrtil Mitanga, J. 22, who asked how Menegaux envisions sustainability in the mobility industry of the future.
“People, profit, planet are all deeply connected,” he responded. “In the short, medium, and long term, we must divide each set of indicators we use into these three dimensions.”
After Professor Cumberlege opened the floor for an open Q&A session to conclude the talk, Menegaux mingled with an assortment of MBA students and EMBA participants, enjoying cocktails and informal discussion.
“Behind each of us there is a story of hard work, of failures and successes,” remarked co-moderator Anatoly Solovyov, EMBA ’22, himself a manager at Michelin.
“During my journey at the EMBA, I have been able to learn from not only academic and practical materials, but from the stories of my peers, professors, and from leaders like M. Menegaux.”
More CEOs of Fortune Global 500 companies have graduated from HEC Paris than any other university in Europe. Nearly 4,000 graduates are currently CEOs, CFOs, or have founded their own companies. According to the Financial Times, the HEC Paris offers the best EMBA program in the world; click here to learn more.
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