This type of story isn’t in our traditional wheelhouse, but we found this nifty piece supplied by Nissan, originally published in Japan by business paper Nikkei.
It’s a cool insight into the head of one of the world’s most high-profile auto executives, Carlos Ghosn, the man who runs Nissan and Renault, and is additionally the new chairman of Mitsubishi Motors.
The new three-way alliance between Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi Motors (majority owned by Nissan as of last year) is one of the globe’s biggest auto groups, with immediate potential for 10 million global sales annually. Ghosn rules this empire without rival.
As you’d imagine, and alongside Daimler’s Dieter Zetsche, Ford’s Mark Fields, GM’s Mary Barra, FCA’s Sergio Marchionne and Volkswagen AG’s Matthias Mueller, Ghosn is one of the most recognised voices in the global car business.
He even had a regular comic book written about his doings, in Japan.
Here are some of the more interesting bits, pulled together from Ghosn’s personal writing with background supplied by Nissan and put out in a media release. It’s more or less a puff piece, but kind of interesting at the same time.
Ghosn’s average day? No such thing.
“I’m somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean now, cruising at an altitude of about 14,000 metres,” Ghosn wrote.
“As I fly toward Brazil, my thoughts are in Japan. While it is a tradition for me to spend the New Year holiday with my family in Brazil, a part of me wishes I could also be in Japan, on the most celebrated day of the year.
“As the CEO of both Nissan Motor and Renault, and the chairman of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, I split my time each month between Japan, France and other markets where the companies operate, such as the U.S., Brazil, China and the Middle East.
What does a CEO’s day entail?
“People often ask me what I do from day to day. It’s a difficult question to answer: No one day is like another. It depends on the region where I am working and what decisions need to be made
“… Regardless of where I am in the world, I am an early riser. In Paris, I’m usually at the office by 7:30 a.m. In Japan, I arrive closer to 8 a.m. because of the additional travel time between my home in Tokyo and Nissan’s offices in Yokohama.
“By the time I arrive, I have already been working quietly by myself for many hours. I find these are often my best hours.
“Most of my day is tightly scheduled. Meetings start at 8 a.m. and don’t stop until the day is finished, often around 8 p.m. or later. It is not uncommon for me to leave Tokyo on a Friday night, attend meetings in another country over the weekend, then fly to Paris for a full week of work. It helps that I can sleep well on an airplane.
“This kind of lifestyle can take a toll on you, both physically and socially. It is not without a price to pay, and you have to manage that. But it is what is required of many leaders in the age of globalisation.
“Globalisation is changing how business is done and what it means to be competitive. We are also seeing another societal trend shaping global business: the issue of identity and the resurgence of nationalism. These two trends coexist.
To understand what I mean, consider Brexit. The U.K. voted to leave the European Union, but they still want to work with the region – and trade with the world.”
Ghosn’s patchwork background
“My full name is Carlos Ghosn Bichara, after my grandfather Bichara Ghosn. He was born at the base of Mount Lebanon where there were many Maronite Christians and an abundance of centuries-old Lebanon cedars,” he said.
“… Religious conflicts, as well as extreme poverty, made life in Lebanon difficult during the early 20th century. To escape these challenges, my grandfather, at the age of 13, boarded a boat with just a single suitcase in his hand. It took three months to get from the Lebanese capital of Beirut to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“After working for a short period of time in Rio, he moved to the basin of the Amazon River to seek greater opportunities. He landed in Sao Miguel do Guapore, before it became part of Brazil, and eventually settled in the then-undeveloped lands of Porto Velho, today the state capital of Rondonia.”
Agricultural products including rubber, were harvested there, Ghosn added. The region was quickly becoming a major international hub for rubber production, and there was an intense movement of people and supplies.
“Capitalising on this environment, my grandfather headed several companies,” he wrote, “one of which provided local assistance to aviation companies expanding their routes into the Amazon. My father, along with his brothers, would eventually inherit this business after my grandfather’s death.”
It was common for Lebanese immigrants to travel home to wed, and then return, Ghosn stated. Through an introduction from a friend, his Grandfather his wife-to-be in Beirut. A few years after they were married, and Carlos’ father Jorge Ghosn was born, in Brazil.
“My father also traveled to Lebanon when he came of age. There, he met and married my mother. Her name is Rose, but she goes by Zetta. She was born in Nigeria and later studied in Lebanon,” he wrote.
“My mother also had a tremendous influence on my life. Unlike her mother – and perhaps as a consequence – she wasn’t very strict. Rather, she was filled with love and was very approachable. She was also a devout Francophile.
“She spoke French exquisitely and was even more French than people who had been born there. This would greatly influence my choices when it was time to pursue my studies, and my family and I would live in Paris for many years.
“My mother, who is now 86 years old, resides in Brazil, as does most of my family. Two of my sisters live near my mother in Rio de Janeiro. My father has since passed away. I return a couple of times each year.”
Pictured: Ghosn (left), with Daimler’s Dieter Zetsche and his famous walrus moustache
Brush with death
“From what my mother tells me, I was full of energy as a baby. But when I turned 2, there was an unfortunate incident,” Ghosn wrote.
“Our home was located in the tropical area around the Amazon, which was infested with mosquitoes. It was common practice for all the children to drink only boiled water to avoid disease, but one day I was accidentally served water that hadn’t been boiled.
“I came down with a high fever. As it was described to me, I was on death’s doorstep. The doctor told my parents that if they wanted me to survive, I would need to live in a place where the climate was more favourable, and where the water was safe to drink.”
“… Following the doctor’s recommendation, we moved to Rio de Janeiro, but my condition didn’t improve much. Concerned about my slow recovery, my mother convinced my father that I should continue treatment in a nicer environment with fresher air.
“My father agreed. After a long discussion, my mother, older sister and I moved to Lebanon, while my father remained in Brazil. Despite the move, my bond with Brazil was not broken. We returned to Rio to see my father often.
“The Lebanon where I spent my childhood was much different from the Lebanon my grandfather had left a half-century before. It possessed a spirit of gender and cultural equality. People from various religions lived together harmoniously, and it was often called the “Switzerland of the Middle East,” until civil war erupted in 1975.”
“I was a good student, but I was rebellious. Much to my mother’s disappointment, I had a reputation as a ‘problem child’ at school. I liked history, geography and languages, and I would study diligently at home. But at school I would hang out with friends, goof around and cause harmless trouble,” he wrote.
“I had so much energy inside of me that I was always looking for ways to disperse it all. Looking back now, I know I did some unwise things, but I don’t necessarily regret them. After all, isn’t that what youth is for?
“I was not without positive role models. The person who had the strongest influence on me during this period was a French teacher named Father Lagrovole. He was in charge of French literature. He was stout and hunched over with poor posture, but he performed the most magnificent poetry readings.
“… One thing I learned from him was the importance of expressing my ideas concisely. Father Lagrovole often said, ‘When you make everything complicated, it means that you don’t understand anything’.”
Having interviewed Ghosn, it’s clear this lesson stuck, for he remains relatively plainspoken, though seems across a wide array of subjects. Must be those 16-hour work days…