Carlos Ghosn On His Life ,Identity And Globalization


The first I heard of Carlos Ghosn was a decade ago. My friend Damien was his head of automotive-train research and boy did he hero-worship the man! Even in those days, I was mostly put off by this man’s philosophy of life though I could hardly have articulated why. But a decade on, I can bluntly state our differences:

1.I’m of the ” work is a part of life” school not the “work-life balance” school. So with me, its find personally meaningful work, work that feels like play and indulge in doing something joyful everyday. Family and friends, according to their capacity and interests, are welcome to join me in my work.

2.I’m cosmopolitan, but at the same time deeply rooted in my primordial identities. I have no interest in changing my stand to pander to either Nationalists or Internationalists.

3.Family is central to my life. The only reason I’m bothered about wealth is for the good life it can secure for family and the larger community, in that order. Sacrificing family and social life to make more money is not a compromise I’m willing to make.

That said, its not to say that it not worthwhile reading what Carlos Ghosn has to say. He is right in saying that where we are born need not limit what we become. And for a person who shares more in common with Carlos, perhaps he is a good role model. Damien has an Algerian father, a French mother, a French citizenship and education and practices Kendo , a Japanese style sword-fighting. He identifies as French because as he says,he believes in French secularism. An approach I can’t really quite wrap my mind round, but obviously it works for some people!

So onwards to what Carlos Goshn has to say:

“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 globalization.

Globalization 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.

Both trends are certainly at play at Nissan. Globalization is what makes it possible for us to sell our cars in more than 160 countries and attract diverse talent. But our identity remains deeply embedded in our Japanese DNA.

As I said, I also run Renault, a French automaker. For the last 17 years, Renault and Nissan have engaged in a unique alliance to generate synergies for both companies. These two companies have shared goals, but distinct cultures and identities. The Renault-Nissan Alliance is an example of how, despite differences in language, regions and traditions, two companies can be stronger together. In this way, the alliance also embraces both the opportunities of globalization and the benefits of individualism.

Just as globalization and identity describe Nissan, they also perfectly express my life. My grandfather was a Lebanese man who moved to Brazil, where I was born. But I spent my youth and high school days in Lebanon before attending college in France, where I acquired French citizenship. I also lived in the U.S. for many years, and I have children who live there still.

But I feel Brazilian when I’m in Brazil, so you can imagine my pride when I was able to carry the Olympic torch in my home country at the start of the 2016 Rio Olympics last summer. Some people tell me, “You’re like a different person when you’re going back to Rio.” Maybe that’s because I’m returning to my roots.

My children also grew up with many cultural influences. They were born in Brazil and the U.S., and they received their education in France, Japan and the U.S. Everywhere they have lived, they have picked up pieces of the culture: They have adopted the graciousness and scrupulousness of the Japanese people, while also embodying a uniquely French way of thinking. I believe that one day the world will be filled with people like them, those who retain their identities while embracing globalization.

Where a person is born no longer determines their destiny. Twenty years ago, it was normal for people to work in their home country, but from now on, more people will live and work far away from their birthplace. This opens up new opportunities but also exposes individuals to new risks. For example, globalization requires more people to work in an unfamiliar country for extended periods of time. In addition to adapting to new environments, they will have to deal with things like jet lag, and many may even lose friends along the way. The sacrifices they will make will be great, and they will need plenty of resolve and resources to overcome the challenges. My life has not been without these sacrifices. However, globalization can also expand one’s horizons, allowing people to realize their potential and achieve success.

People around the world, particularly in Japan, are opening up to the idea of a global lifestyle. It is in this context that I share my own story, with the hope that it may provide some inspiration.”- Carlos Ghosn

About Keerthika Singaravel

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