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School News

November 29, 2006

Wisdom from Le Cost Killer Ghosn: Lukewarm Results Incompatible with Good Management

When Carlos Ghosn became CEO of Nissan in 1999, he vowed to return the Japanese manufacturer to profitable status within two years or resign. Within months, Ghosn cut thousands of jobs and began to reorganize the company’s product lineup.

Topics: Leadership

Silfen Leadership Series speaker Carlos Ghosn, president and CEO of Renault and Nissan who led Nissan from near-bankruptcy to global profitability, shared his thoughts on effective management with students and faculty members on Monday.

“There’s no such thing as good management with lukewarm results,” said Ghosn. “It’s essential to have both measurable and high results. You have to have a strategy put into words — a vision — but you also have to find a way to show quantifiable results.”

When Ghosn became CEO of Nissan in 1999, he vowed to return the Japanese manufacturer to profitable status within two years or resign. Within months, Ghosn cut thousands of jobs and began to reorganize the company’s product lineup. Today, Nissan is Japan’s second-largest carmaker. Ghosn — nicknamed “le Cost Killer” and voted 2003 Man of the Year by the Asian edition of Fortune magazine — is a household name in Japan, where there is even a popular comic book series based on his life.

Ghosn made another radical move in 2005, when he became CEO of Renault, Nissan’s largest shareholder, without leaving his position at Nissan. His dual-CEO status is an industry first. “Renault and Nissan are two separate companies that share strategic information,” explained Ghosn. As head of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, Ghosn is responsible for combined annual global sales of 6.1 million vehicles and $83 billion in revenue.

More than 120 students and faculty members attended the early-morning event, which included a broad Q&A session with Ghosn and a gourmet breakfast in Uris Hall. “It was immensely rewarding to have that sort of live feedback,” said Natasha Skripnichenko ’07, who helped arrange for Ghosn to speak at the School. “To see Mr. Ghosn think on his feet and give frank opinions on issues raised by students and professors was fascinating.”

Organized entirely by students, the David and Lyn Silfen Leadership Series brings some of the most influential people in business to campus for candid discussions on leadership. Recent speakers include Kenneth Chenault, CEO of American Express, Ian Davis, managing partner of McKinsey & Company, Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, and Anne Moore, CEO of Time. On Wednesday, the series hosts Dick Fuld, chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers.