The text is an extract of the speech Sergio Marchionne gave at LUISS during the Rotman European Trading Competition award ceremony on August 27, 2016. The entire speech may be seen in the video below:
One thing I was asked to do today was talk about the skills and personal qualities that a multinational like ours expects from someone who joins our organization – from a 21st-century leader.
I’ll start by sharing my own experience when I was more or less the same age as you. When I first entered the workplace, I figured that I should emulate my boss — be tough, show no heart, just execute flawlessly and fast. I thought that was the way to be a leader and so I acted like that for a while. One day, I walked into the office of the top HR guy and I told him I wanted to be a CFO. He looked at me and said, “You are never, ever going to be a CFO.” And then he took me to the cleaners about what he thought I was missing, which basically came down to the human skills needed to interface with people. I walked out of his office almost devastated. I had been emulating the CFO, and I thought I was doing a pretty good job.
That conversation led me to some soul-searching.
I realized that I had been doing things that were totally out of character for me, and I accepted the need to change. I began to understand that a command-and-control approach worked only for the short term, because folks do what you say only because they fear you. But it severely limits how long people will follow you and how well they will do their assignments.
I no longer try to emulate others.
The way I am today is completely in character with who I am, and I am absolutely comfortable doing what I do.
Today at FCA, as well as Ferrari and CNH, we have zero interest in people who are individual superstars. The era of a single great man who succeeds by imposing his will on an organization is over. I personally spend the equivalent of about a month every year on about a thousand HR reviews, because I am a fanatical believer in the importance of leadership.